By Darius Shahtahmasebi
(ANTIMEDIA Op-Ed) In June 2014, around the time ISIS was making headlines across the world, the Wall Street Journal reported that the terror group had 4,000 fighters in Iraq. In September 2014, the CIA released an estimate claiming ISIS had between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters combined in both Iraq and Syria, including 15,000 who were foreign fighters.
Almost half were foreign fighters? That’s some organic uprising taking place in Syria.
One month before the CIA’s estimate, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) released an estimate of their own that placed ISIS’ membership at well over 50,000 fighters in Syria, alone (including 20,000 non-Syrians.) But SOHR is run by one man who owns a clothing shop in Coventry, England. He was once quoted as saying “I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad died, and I’ll return when Bashar al-Assad goes.” This bias is rarely reported in the corporate media, which regularly cites SOHR.
Regardless of the exact numbers, the U.S.-led re-intervention into Iraq had already begun in June 2014 (before these estimates had been released.) Understandably, the total number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria has fluctuated somewhat — it has both increased and decreased over time — since the U.S. began a bombing campaign in both countries that was supposedly designed to “degrade and destroy” them. But they left the terrorists’ $50 million a month oil revenue completely intact. That’ll show them. For some reason, the U.S. decided to leave this task to the Russians, who targeted ISIS’ lucrative source of revenue on America’s behalf (only for a NATO member to shoot down their jets in response).
The number of ISIS fighters supposedly killed by the U.S.-led coalition has also been somewhat disputed. At the end of last year, U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon estimated that the coalition had killed a whopping 25,000 fighters during the campaign. However, a senior military official told CNN at around the same time that the Pentagon’s conservative estimate was that the U.S. air campaign had killed a staggering 50,000 ISIS fighters.
In its most recent published numbers, the Pentagon claims to have killed over 70,000 militants since June 2014 while only killing a mere 229 civilians. That’s an alleged hit rate of over 99 percent.
Of course, we know this to be a false estimate. I’m not just referring to the ludicrously low number of civilians killed; the idea that the U.S. killed 70,000 ISIS militants is so outlandish it begs the question: What would actually remain of a terror group that initially had 30,000 fighters, if a total of 70,000 fighters (more than double their estimated membership) were killed just for good measure?
Further, as the LA Times extensively reported, the U.S. refuses to acknowledge the mounting evidence surrounding civilian casualties:
“But Airwars, a nonprofit with a staff of journalists and researchers who keep detailed records and conduct independent research, said its figures showed at least 3,111 civilians have been killed in 552 strikes for which it has significant evidence: Either the coalition has specifically confirmed the strikes, or it has confirmed strikes in the area on that date and Airwars has two or more credible sources.”
As the air campaign intensifies, with direct decision making being delegated to generals on the battlefield with little oversight — courtesy of the Trump era — Iraqi civilians are being massacred by the thousands. In March of this year, an aerial bombardment killed well over 200 civilians in Mosul. Iraqi Vice President Osama Nujaifi called the attack a “humanitarian disaster.”
But it’s not a humanitarian disaster — it’s a blatant war crime.
Latest figures show that in March alone, the U.S. air campaign killed 1,782 civilians in Iraq and Syria (far more civilian deaths than Russia caused.) According to Airwars, the coalition’s death count grew so large that the organization was forced to put a complete halt to vetting casualties caused by the Russian military, as the coalition’s death toll had far surpassed that of the Russians.
According to the LA Times, U.S. Army Col. Joe Scrocca, a Baghdad-based spokesman, admitted its civilian casualty count is conservative. However, the real shamelessness of this is his rationale for not confirming civilian casualties. As reported by the Times:
“Military reports usually do not include accounts from the scene, he said, because many are in enemy territory. They don’t often include interviews with victims and other witnesses because they can be difficult to identify and find, he said.”
Yes – precisely. Yet late last year, the media was sure Russia was committing an absolute massacre upon the civilian population in Aleppo in areas that were held by al-Qaeda affiliates — areas even the New York Times admitted may have only housed tens of thousands of residents to begin with. Who investigated these casualties in Aleppo?
Mosul is an enormous city in Iraq; as many as 650,000 civilians are at direct risk. The fighting is taking place in densely populated areas, and civilians are being buried in the process.
At least Lt. General Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, has admitted the coalition has made mistakes, right? He also courageously made it clear that “we have never targeted them [civilians], not once.”
This warped rationale of justifying mass murder was captured brilliantly in Professor Noam Chomsky’s email exchange with attention-seeking atheist Sam Harris, completely unrequested on the part of Chomsky. Chomsky stated:
“And of course they knew that there would be major casualties. They are not imbeciles, but rather adopt a stance that is arguably even more immoral than purposeful killing, which at least recognizes the human status of the victims, not just killing ants while walking down the street, who cares?”
Chomsky and Harris were discussing former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s decision to destroy a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant. The politics are the same some decades later.
B-b-but – we are liberating the Iraqis, so the price is worth it, right? The other horrifying aspect of this is that the propaganda we are fed through our television sets does not even mention the fact that for the Iraqis who survive the ordeal and don’t get buried under cement and rubble, this is not a liberation. In their eyes, this is the brutal takeover by one group of extremists from another group of extremists.
A poll conducted last year, as reported by the Washington Post, found that 74 percent of Sunni respondents did not want to be liberated by the Iraqi army on its own. One hundred percent of the respondents said they did not want to be liberated by the Shiite militias or the Kurds. The Shia militias, backed by Iran, have been documented carrying out numerous atrocities and revenge acts against the Sunni population of Iraq.
As noted by Luke Coffey, a former special adviser to the British defense secretary:
“These attitudes by Iraq’s Sunni population probably explain why even though Fallujah has been surrounded for more than a year by Iraqi security forces there has not been a popular uprising by the Sunni inhabitants against ISIL.”
Iraqis’ lack of desire to unite against ISIS says more about the people attempting to liberate them than it does about life under ISIS.
This is not to say that the Iraqi people shouldn’t be freed from living under the reign of a terror group, but if they are being killed by the thousands in the process, I ask: Who is the terror group?