Andrea Germanos is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams. She joined Common Dreams in 2007 after teaching ESL for many years in Chicago. An avid bicycler, gardener and supporter of her local farmers, she tweets about food justice and environmental issues here: @andreagermanos.
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The number of civilian causalities from the U.S.-backed battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State was 10 times higher than previously reported, an Associated Press investigation finds. That figure, says a human rights group, shows a brazen disregard for the need to minimize civilian harm.
“We are horrified, but not surprised, by these new figures,” said Lynn Maalouf, head of research for Amnesty International in the Middle East.
AP says the figure is based on morgue records as well as databases from groups including Airwars, Amnesty International, and Iraq Body Count, as well as a report from the United Nations.
During the military campaign waged from October 2016 to July 2017, AP reports that between 9,000 and 11,000 people were killed; 4,200 were confirmed as civilian dead.
Of the nearly 10,000 deaths the AP found, around a third of the casualties died in bombardments by the U.S.-led coalition or Iraqi forces, the AP analysis found. Another third of the dead were killed in the Islamic State group’s final frenzy of violence. And it could not be determined which side was responsible for the deaths of the remainder, who were cowering in neighborhoods battered by airstrikes, ISIS explosives and mortar rounds from all sides.
Among the chilling details noted in the investigation are that morgue logs indicate many people were killed by being “blown to pieces” in west Mosul, where as ISIS fighters “packed hundreds of families into schools and government buildings,” ostensibly to dissuade airstrikes. That tactic failed.
Many of the dead are still being excavated.
The reporting also notes that the coalition’s “investigators have neither visited the morgue nor requested its data.”
Amnesty’s Maalouf said that the figures from the AP investigation “are directly in line with our previous findings that thousands of civilians were killed during the battle for Mosul—and that these deaths were caused not only by the so-called Islamic State group, but also by Iraqi and coalition forces.”
“The failure of Iraqi and coalition forces to acknowledge and investigate civilian deaths in Mosul is a blatant abdication of responsibility. We are demanding transparency and an honest public account of the true cost to civilians from this war, as well as an immediate investigation by U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces into the violations and unlawful attacks documented by Amnesty International and other independent groups during the battle for Mosul,” she added.
Questioned by AP about the tally, coalition spokesman Col. Thomas Veale said, “It is simply irresponsible to focus criticism on inadvertent casualties caused by the coalition’s war to defeat ISIS.”
Yet as author and commentator Tom Engelhardt has previously observed, “from Afghanistan to Libya, the war on terror has (not to mince words) been murder on civilian populations.”
Top photo: An Iraqi woman cries as she arrives safely with her family to an Iraqi Army position after fleeing the Islamic State controlled Old City of west Mosul where heavy fighting continues on June 23, 2017. (Photo: Martyn Aim/Getty Images)
Scores of leading global economists this week demanded an end to the funding of fossil fuel projects and called for a massive increase to investments in renewables, saying “it will take unprecedented actions to limit the worst consequences of our dependence on oil, coal, and gas.”
The declaration, signed by economists including James Galbraith, Juliet Schor, Jeffrey Sachs, and Yanis Varoufasis, “affirms that it is the urgent responsibility and moral obligation of public and private investors and development institutions to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development.”
The case for “keeping it in the ground” is clear, they write, given that the potential carbon from already developed fossil fuel projects will push the planet to beyond a so-called safe level of warming.
“Thus, not only are new exploration and new production incompatible with limiting global warming to well below 2ºC (and as close to 1.5ºC as possible), but many existing projects will need to be phased-out faster than their natural decline. Simply put: there is no more room for new fossil fuel infrastructure and therefore no case for ongoing investment,” the declaration states.
Instead, they write, “let us all prioritize the tremendous investment opportunities for a 100 percent renewable future that support healthy economies while protecting workers, communities, and the ecological limits of a finite planet.”
“It’s time to stop wasting public money on dirty fossil fuels and invest it instead in a sustainable future.”
—Tim Jackson, University of SurreySuch a future offers a promise of “a new economic paradigm of prosperity and equity,” they write.
The declaration was released ahead of the One Planet summit, convened by French President Emmanuel Macron, taking place two years after the historic Paris climate accord was reached. Trump will not attend, but the global leaders who do will ostensibly energize the push for continued climate action, though it was organized in part by the World Bank Group, which continues to fund dirty energy.
“It is time for European leaders, especially President Macron, who understands the threat posed to our planet by Donald Trump’s climate change denial, to help smash our economies’ reliance on fossil fuel subsidies and investment,” said Varoufakis. “Not one more penny or cent can go to coal, oil, or gas subsidies.”
A mass mobilization with that message is set to take place in Paris on Dec. 12, the day of the summit.
“If our leaders remain hesitant to put their full support behind green investments, despite it making economic sense,” said signatory Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey, “I would like to remind them that they have enormous public support. It’s time to stop wasting public money on dirty fossil fuels and invest it instead in a sustainable future.”
The Pentagon made a decision that “beggars belief,” human rights groups said Friday, when it tossed out its plan to ban certain cluster bombs that leave a large percentage of lethal, unexploded munitions, which pose a significant risk to civilians.
“This is a profoundly retrograde step that puts the U.S. way out of line with the international consensus—cluster munitions are banned by more than 100 countries due to their inherently indiscriminate nature and the risks they pose to civilians,” said Patrick Wilcken, researcher on arms control and human rights at Amnesty International.
The Cluster Munition Coalition also condemned the change, calling the decision “shocking.”
— Ban Cluster Bombs (@banclusterbombs) December 1, 2017
A ban on cluster bombs that leave more than 1 percent unexploded ordnance—a smattering of bomblets that can explode and kill or maim any adult, child, or creature—was set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
But on Thursday, the Trump administration scrapped that deadline, arguing that “the weapons are legitimate, not necessarily a humanitarian hazard, and important for wartime attacks on ‘area targets’ like enemy troop formations.”
The Defense Department memorandum, obtained by CNN states,
The Department will retain cluster munitions currently in active inventories until the capabilities they provide are replaced with enhanced and more reliable munitions,” and calls the weapons “an effective and necessary capability.”
Contrasting the 2008 and 2017 policies, Mary Wareham, advocacy director Human Rights Watch’s arms division, writes that the former “recognized the need to minimize civilian harm from unexploded submunitions while 2017 policy prioritizes ensuring the nation’s security by ensuring the U.S. is ‘ready to fight adversaries now’.”
2008 US cluster munition policy recognized the need to minimize civilian harm from unexploded submunitions while 2017 policy prioritizes ensuring the nation’s security by ensuring the US is “ready to fight adversaries now” pic.twitter.com/xwq8jSktZf
— Mary Wareham (@marywareham) December 1, 2017
According to Amnesty’s Wilcken, “by keeping older types with dud rates of 20 percent or more,” the U.S. is “raising serious questions about its regard for the lives of civilians in war zones.”
An international treaty banning cluster bombs, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, went into force in 2010. The United States is not a signatory. According to (pdf) data complied by the Cluster Munitions Monitor, the U.S. has used cluster munitions in Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Grenada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lao, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Vietnam, Yemen, and the former Yugoslavia.
Top photo | A Houthi rebel man holds a US-made cluster bomb fragment after a Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen’s capital, Monday, April 20, 2015. (AP/Hani Mohammed)