After more than eight months, the termination of the armed conflict of Mosul was declared on July 10th. “Liberation” is a misleading notion, because the hostilities have not stopped, the human suffering has not stopped. There are still victims in the city every day on both sides.
Many refugees have no home to go back to and are suffering from severe mental health problems, especially the children. Everyone wants to celebrate this but the following facts might force you to think otherwise. You might get bored while reading this but must read this in order to know the “Crimes of U.S.” – Following inter alia were destroyed:
· 9 of the 10 major hospitals.
· 76 of the 98 medical centers.
· 6 big bridges across the Tigris.
· three-quarters of Mosul’s roads,
· 400 educational institutions, including schools, universities and education centres.
· 11,000 residential housing units.
· 4 electrical power plants and 65 percent of its electrical network
· 6 water purifying systems and much of the city’s water infrastructure has been booby trapped.
· The pharmaceutical industrial complex.
· All grain stores.
· Two large dairies.
· 212 oil refineries, petrol and fuel stations.
· All public buildings
· All state and private banks.
· 63 religious centers (churches and mosques), most of them valuable historical sites.
· 250 workshops, factories and small factories, including agro-industries.
· 29 hotels
· More than 40,000 civilian casualties
· 38 out of 54 residential areas in West Mosul are destroyed. A staff director in the office of the Nineveh governor, said that “while eastern Mosul is half-destroyed, the devastation in the western half is much greater”. A member of a local volunteer group said that the destruction in west Mosul is close to “99 percent.”
And in the rest of the country, the humanitarian and security remains devastating.
· 11 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, of which 5.1 million children (OCHA, September 2017)
· More than one million people have been displaced since the military operations to recapture the city of Mosul since October 2016, with about three quarters of West Mosul since April. While 1.95 million people have returned to their residences, 3.2 million people remain internally displaced in Iraq and need humanitarian aid.
· Since June 2014 there were 138 attacks on schools and 58 attacks on hospitals
· More than 3 million children attend school irregularly, while 1.2 million children do not go to school at all. How many more lost generations will this war produce?
The extent of civilian casualties, the massive destruction of American bombs, missiles and artillery and the use by the American army of white phosphorus, a weapon that is internationally forbidden for use in populated areas, are all serious US war crimes. Yes, you heard that right; I’m not making this up. You can check the panel discussion of a side event at the 36th UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: “the destruction of Mosul”.
Mosul, one of the world’s largest cemeteries
People are trying to understand why the death toll in Mosul is so high. A solid explanation can be read in a shocking report by Amnesty International (AI): “At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul”.
This report does not provide a precise figure of the number of deaths, but it confirms the terrible damage that was caused by continuous artillery and rocket fire for a period of five months in a closed area with civilians who were unable to escape.
Other reports from Mosul state that the Civil Defense Unit has already removed more than 2.000 bodies from the rubble. Most victims are reportedly women and children. It is believed that more than 4.000 bodies are buried under the rubble in West Mosul. According to the US, the Joint Operations Command, approximately 1,400 bodies were already excavated. The head of the civil defense unit, Lt. Col. Rabia Ibrahim Hassan, told the Washington Post that he had asked the government for more equipment and resources, but that he had not received any response.
During the fighting to recapture Ramadi and Fallujah – the previous military campaigns – most residents fled or evacuated before the fighting. However, many Moslawis (Mosul residents) remained in their homes, making the operation much more complicated. Some stayed because ISIS killed the people who tried to escape, some remained because they refused to leave their homes or relatives, some because they had some kind of work, but many remained because the government asked them to. The army threw leaflets from helicopters asking residents not to flee.
The reason was not only because they feared that the flow of refugees would be unmanageable in a country where already 3.4 million people were displaced by the war. This decision was mainly based on the view of the generals who thought to be able to use the citizens in their favour. If the Iraqi forces were to treat the Moslawis well, people would probably help the troops, give information about ISIS, and it would also give good publicity about “the Salvation efforts of the Iraqi Army.”
Victory against ISIS?
The Iraqi government has achieved a major victory by destroying ISIS as a state-structure with an extensive area. But the terrorist movement has shown that it is able to adapt to new realities. How many weapons and heavy equipment of three Iraqi army divisions ISIS captured when Mosul conquered in June 2014 was never communicated. Much of this weaponry was hidden by ISIS in tunnels, gorges and valleys in areas of western Iraq and eastern Syria. If ISIS loses these areas, it will simply recover as an armed organization returning to unconventional warfare.
The real power of ISIS follows mainly from the political circumstances of Iraq after the occupation. The sharp contradictions in Iraq contribute to instability and can create the same conditions that led to the rise of the ISIS. Sunnis were excluded from the political process of the country. So the future of ISIS in Iraq depends on the success of the political process in an ethnically and religiously divided country.
It is unlikely that the Iraqi government will fulfill its promises to the devastated Sunni provinces, and the confidence crisis between the Sunnis and Shiites will only worsen.
Without a political process that can integrate the Sunnis and realize their fair demands, ISIS will come back in many forms and it can even become more violent.
Instead of calling the ISIS fighters and their supporters “sad murderous losers”, we must first of all try to understand the complex social, economic and political factors that made ISIS a success story. In addition, Iraqi civilian peace initiatives should actively be supported and published by the media. With a fraction of the astronomical sums spent on the war, valuable projects that transcend the sectarian fault lines, should be promoted.
The problem is also this: We must urgently come to terms with our own devastating role in the Middle East and North Africa crisis (MENA). Military interventions from the West in the MENA region have played a decisive role in the radicalization of Muslims in the West. The West has supported the Iraqi government when they were shooting unarmed Sunni demonstrators, bombing Sunni territories and supported Shiite militias that committed large-scale war crimes. Putting all the emphasis on ISIS also has an important political role: the denial of the Western destructive war campaign, which has destroyed the region, hurt the population and caused a major refugee crisis.
Military engagement can potentially weaken the influence of ISIS by demonstrating that they are not invincible. But their eventual eradication will be the result of political processes that may take decades. In the meantime, preventing the destructive fragmentation of multicultural Western societies should be the priority. This requires a clear rejection of the politics of fear, and using the means for prevention at home instead of bombing the Middle East.