Mosul: “Some” US Responsibility for Civilian deaths; but Iraqi PM lashes out at Critics

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

As US commanders begin confessing that it is likely that the US military bears responsibility for last Thursday’s errant airstrike that killed as many as 200-300 innocent civilians, America’s Iraqi partner Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi disagreed, lashing out at critics.

Al-Abadi, from the fundamentalist Shiite Da’wa (Islamic Call Party), alleged that the motive of those raising a hue and cry about the targeting of civilians is to save elements of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), at the last minute, and to halt international support to Iraq in its war on terrorism. He also said initial Iraqi government investigations have yielded results that challenge the current narrative.

He told a select group of journalists earlier this week, “We are fighting on several fronts–military and economic and anti-corruption. We are steadfast and will overcome. We will not turn back, however fierce the smear campaigns become. No one can monopolize that victory for his own benefit.”

He added, “No one is more zealous than we are in protecting civilians, and from the beginning of this liberation struggle we affirmed that we would liberate human beings before territory.”

He said that Iraq has launched a preliminary investigation and that he had sent two committes to look into the circumstance of the explosion in Mosul that killed numbers of citizens. He also warned against attempts to detract from the sacrifices of the troops doing the liberating, by bringing back the people who had surrendered the (Sunni) cities to Daesh.

He also asked where those now so concerned with civilian life wee when Daesh ruled all of Mosul for two years and brutalized its population. Did Daesh, he asked, allow people to live in freedom and security?

He also praised the Shiite militias as national heroes who heeded the call to defend the nation from Daesh issued by top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani in summer of 2014. He said there was no truth to the rumor that he planned to ask them to dissolve (after the Mosul campaign is over).

Last Friday, member of parliament for Ninewah Province (of which Mosul is the capital), Farah al-Siraj, had asked al-Abadi to open an inquiry into the strike that allegedly killed 263 civilians. Minister of Defense Irfan al-Hayali immediately complied, beginning last weekend. Member of parliament Salim al-Juburi, demanded an emergency meeting of a parliamentary committee to discuss the massacre at Mosul.

This is Juan speaking now. First of all, likely what happened was that there were snipers atop some buildings in the al-Jadidah neighborhood of West Mosul, who were killing advancing Iraqi troops. The local commander asked his American colleagues to call in an air strike on the snipers’ position. The US complied, but was surprised to discover that a neighboring building also collapsed, with hundreds of civilians in it. Al-Abadi is suggesting that Daesh had stored explosives in that building full of civilians and that the US air strike on a neighboring edifice unexpectedly set them off. If this finding is that of the initial Iraqi military investigation, it explains why al-Abadi is so angry, since he thinks that the real culprit here is Daesh, and it is being let off the hook. (It is of course also possible that the US hit the wrong building or that the Iraqi army mistakenly thought the snipers were atop an empty building.)

I don’t think the Iraqi government had any choice but to try to dislodge Daesh from Mosul. It is a terrorist organization that has killed thousands, and continues to plot to blow up Baghdad, Istanbul, Brussels, Paris, etc. Plus it was mistreating and massacring Iraqi citizens. I cannot understand why the government launched this military ground campaign agaist the very thickly populated West Mosul without first calling for civilians to leave. (It is true that Daesh did not typically allow people to leave, but some could have escaped and why not encourage that?)

While I understand al-Abadi’s frustration, I have to say his speech was a huge disappointment. He doesn’t seem to understand how unsympathetic to the loss of civilian life he appears. Worse, he is a religious Shiite and most of the victims were Sunni Arabs, and any sign that he is unconcerned with civilian Sunni casualties would raise the hackles of the Sunnis he is trying to rescue.

After Mosul, Iraqi politicians have to start bringing people together. It doesn’t help bring people together to be defensive and accuse human rights activists of being tools of Daesh. It doesn’t help, to keep Shiite militias around indefinitely. These elite attitudes toward ordinary Iraqis are probably more dangerous to the future of the country than a few mere terrorist attacks.

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Related video:

Wochit News: “U.S. Probably Had Role in Deadly Mosul Explosion”

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11 Responses

  1. Juan, we still don’t know what happened, pending Iraqi and coalition investigations.

    We don’t even know for sure if it was a US, other coalition, or IqAF (Iraqi Air Force) airstrike . . . or no airstrike.

    The coalition appears to have accepted responsibility for another air strike in recent days that killed civilians . . . but not for this one . . . to my knowledge.

    The Iraqi Prime Minister’s comments were likely popular on the Iraqi street. The large majority of Iraqi voters appear to want more CAS for the ISF, even at the risk of civilian casualties.

    The PM cannot call for disarming and dissolving the PMF until:
    1) ISIS has been fully defeated in all of Iraq including Tal Afar
    2) The ISF has reserve forces capable of defeating ISIS inside Syria.
    3) The ISF has enough forces to fully assume all the internal security functions currently performed by the PMF
    4) The ISF has enough spare force to simultaneously militarily dismantle several PMF units (should they refuse the disarm order).

    The ISF isn’t ready yet.

  2. There can also be an area where responsibility is not quite Iraqi and not quite American, as when an Iraqi on the ground calls for US bombardment support from a distant contact point, which is what happened on March 14 when an Iraqi colonel anxious to get on to his objective 600 meters away called for such support to eliminate a machine gunner holding him up from the roof of a building which contained non combatants 26 of who were blasted away.

    link to juancole.com

  3. Somewhere there is a neocon arrogantly gloating on Fox, “See, none of this would have happened if Obama had not withdrawn US ground troops.”

    Meanwhile W cranks out his juvenile quality paintings.

    • somewhere neocons are laughing about how eight years after the antiwar candidate was elected president, their neverending war is still dropping bombs all over iraq with no end in sight.

  4. The Fertile Crescent wars are not only power and greed game that has been going for centuries but it is also part of the land between the two rivers dream Neil and Euphrates.

    The aftermath of mortared Mosul is far more than the published figure as in this chios no one knows the uncountable

    Caesar ride forth in royal victory.
    Mighty thy name

    when Rome’s lean eagles flew

    From Britain’s isles to far Euphrates blue; [Oscar wilde ]

  5. Dr. Cole,
    I believe that your response to the tragedy has covered all the bases. I can see the paring of the tragedy of civilians with the inhumanity of Daesh during its occupation of Mosul–and all the cities where its barbarism was immediately clear.
    I believe that there are so many loose ends to the finality of causality in this tragedy that accusations of: a) hiding the truth, or b) glossing over human suffering, or c) not learning from this tragedy will only beget more such carelessness or cover-up. The evil of Daesh seems unprecedented in modern times. It must be removed from humanity either one way or another. The country of Iraq must begin recovery.

  6. From Yemen to the Fertile Crescent this recent very pronounced spike in the death of brown-skinned Muslim innocents is merely another loathsome fulfilled campaign promise to his inbred WAL•MART trailer trash supporters.

    Civilian deaths from US-led airstrikes hit record high under Donald Trump … Thousands of Iraqis have been displaced from Mosul. More than 2,500 civilians have been killed by the US-led coalition, which has admitted to killing only roughly 220 civilians. This new maladministration LIES constantly, a FACT!

    link to independent.co.uk

    link to airwars.org

    link to npr.org

    Why is this happening?

    malPOTUS likes it better than the room he didn’t enter in Moscow.

    link to buzzfeed.com

  7. It sounds like the Iraqi government, with its seeming insensitivity towards Sunnis is continuing to make the same mistakes that led to the previous uprisings and some support for ISIS. They just don’t get it and the US president certainly doesn’t. There have been hundreds of books and voluminous research done on counter insurgency. There is even a journal devoted to it. I wish these people would read some of it. Secondly, fighter bombers, even with smart bombs, are not the right tool for urban warfare. If there is a sniper on a roof, a mortar would be much better, or even a small drone. You don’t need 500 pound bombs. Maybe you recall that Trump’s approach is to bomb the sh*t out of them. That attitude must have affected our ground and air commanders. We are back to creating two terrorists for every one we kill.

  8. HE missiles from jets for snipers?
    Yes, expect a lot of collateral damage.
    Were US choppers not used instead due to the higher odds of taking casualties?

  9. Wars are always tragic. That is why they should be avoided if at all possible. That is why war mongers are such detestible creeps. There are always many innocents killed.

    The US policy of pumping arms into Syria and Libya contributed to this tragedy. The lack of substantive public debate before implementing this policy is even more discouraging. Covert operations to over throw governments bypass safeguards and make it easier to slide into brutal endless wars – That is another root cause of this failure.

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