Shifting the blame: The cover-up of U.S. war crimes in Mosul

June 2017 Mosul, Wash. PostBy RALPH SCHOENMAN

The scope of the murderous assault by U.S. imperialism on the Iraqi city of Mosul—with its genocide-scale war crimes—was beginning to filter into the mainstream media. And then—just as Trump, the Democratic Party, the Joint-Chiefs of staff, and the U.S. intelligence apparatus were about to be indicted for these war crimes before world public opinion—came the April 4 chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

Responsibility for launching this attack was immediately placed on Bashar al-Assad, though no evidence was provided to back this claim. No matter. The U.S. government seized upon this tragedy to shift the blame from its war crimes in Mosul to the Syrian government for its alleged sarin-gas assault in Khan Sheikhoun.

Amnesty International published a devastating report on March 28 charging U.S. rulers with war crimes, specifying “disproportionate and indiscriminate” saturation bombing of residential areas of Mosul that slaughtered hundreds of civilian men, women, and children on March 17. Over the course of the following week, the Iraqi Civil Defense Department announced that 531 further bodies were dug out, with more to come.

By March 28, Lt. General Stephen Townsend, U.S. Commander in Iraq and Syria, admitted to Pentagon reporters: “We probably had a role in those casualties.”

Townsend later attempted to blame the victims, claiming that there was no reason for civilians to congregate inside buildings targeted by U.S. war planes, and going on to blame ISIS for using civilians as “human shields.” Independent media outlets, however, told another story, based on interviews with survivors: Entire families had congregated in the basement of neighborhood homes to escape the relentless bombing by U.S.-trained forces. Their personal accounts are devastating.

So horrendous was the carnage that even Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujafi, who is from Mosul and serves as the most senior Sunni official in Iraq, responded to Townsend by designating the U.S. targeting and bombing of Mosul as “a humanitarian catastrophe” resulting “in the martyrdom of hundreds of civilians.” He called for an emergency session of the Iraqi parliament and an official investigation of the slaughter.

Al-Nujafi charged that these ongoing mass civilian casualties were the result of new and “changed rules of engagement” by the U.S.-led coalition that minimized any attempt to protect the lives of unarmed, men, women, and children trapped in Mosul. Iraqi officers cited by the New York Times on March 28 noted that, “the American-led coalition has been quicker to strike urban targets from the air with less time to weigh the risks for civilians, a change reflecting a renewed push by the U.S. military under the Trump administration to speed up the battle for Mosul.”

Reporting from the scene of the devastation, The New York Times account assumed ominous proportions for the Trump administration and U.S. rulers. It described: “A panorama of destruction in the neighborhood of Jadida so vast one resident compared the destruction to that of Hiroshima, Japan, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in World War II. There was a charred arm, wrapped in a piece of red fabric, poking from the rubble; rescue workers in red jumpsuits who wore face masks to avoid the stench, some with rifles slung over their shoulders, searched the wreckage for bodies.”

The Amnesty International report confirms that the war crimes in Jadida are only the bloodiest in a series of attacks carried out by U.S.-led forces.

“‘Evidence gathered on the ground in East Mosul points to an alarming pattern of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside,” reports Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera following field investigations in the war-ravaged city. The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

By March 21, the monitoring group Airwars recorded over 1000 “civilian casualty events” resulting from airstrikes by the United States and its allies in Iraq and Syria.

Not surprisingly, the changed “rules of engagement” enacted by the Pentagon under the Trump administration have not elicited any protests from the leadership of the Democratic Party. This is because the war escalation in Iraq and Syria enjoys full bipartisan support. In fact, as the Amnesty International report documents, the carnage in Mosul was already well under way before Barack Obama left the White House.

Jadida, of course, never became a household word in the United States. Reports were only beginning to make their way into the corporate media about the extent of the U.S.-sponsored carnage in Mosul. The sarin attack in Syria came just at the right moment to enable Trump and his Democratic Party allies to shift the blame for their war crimes in Mosul to the Assad regime, all the better to justify the U.S. missile attacks against the sovereign nation of Syria.

This article appeared originally in the April 2017 issue of The Organizer newspaper and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

Photo: Residents search for victims after U.S. bombing in Mosul. Alice Martins / Washington Post