Airstrikes and Hypocrisy
Brian CLOUGHLEY | 10.04.2017 | OPINION

Airstrikes and Hypocrisy

On December 22 last year the government of Syria regained control of the city of Aleppo that had been occupied by brutal rebel forces since 2012. As reported by the BBC, «The predominantly Sunni Muslim opposition is made of several rebel groups, many of whom have received financial aid from key opponents of President Assad, including the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey».

Following defeat of the US-supported insurgents, «Under a deal brokered by Turkey and Russia, convoys of buses and cars have shuttled thousands of civilians and fighters out of Aleppo's last rebel-held pocket toward opposition areas outside the city», and peace was restored, much to the frustration and annoyance of some Western governments. The Los Angeles Times noted that «a series of victory celebrations were held in Aleppo following the government forces’ victory, attended by large crowds. For the first time since the civil war began, Christmas was celebrated in Aleppo, with a tree lighting ceremony».

When the rebels controlled the city there was persecution and slaughter of Christians, with the BBC recording that «in areas seized by the jihadist group Islamic State, Christians have been ordered to convert to Islam, pay jizya (a religious levy), or face death. In the Syrian province of Hassakeh in February 2015, hundreds of Christians are feared to have been kidnapped by the militants. Senior Christian clerics have also been kidnapped by unknown gunmen. Suspicion for the abductions has fallen on the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate». You might imagine that the Christian West would have welcomed the freedom restored to Syrian Christians by the Syrian government, but there was hardly a word about this aspect of victory over the Muslim fanatics.

On the other hand, immediately before the rebels were defeated the leaders of the West were vociferously critical of operations to take the city, with reports that «Theresa May has joined Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and the leaders of France, Canada and Italy to jointly condemn Russia over its role in the humanitarian disaster ‘taking place before our very eyes’ in Aleppo». There was saturation media cover of the joint statement that «The urgent need now is for an immediate ceasefire to allow the United Nations to get humanitarian assistance to people in eastern Aleppo. Only a political settlement can bring peace for people in Syria».

If the situation had not been so appalling this would have excited derisive laughter because much of the West, along with the freedom-loving kingdom of Saudi Arabia (which forbids the practice of Christianity) and the near-autocracy of Turkey, are the very countries that advocated rebellion in Syria rather than advocating a «political settlement». They all urged the violent overthrow of Syria’s President Assad, with Saudi Arabia declaring that he «cannot be part of a solution to the conflict and must hand over power to a transitional administration or be removed by force». Turkey’s Erdogan, himself intent on establishing a dictatorship, proclaimed that his armed forces intervened in Syria «to bring justice. We are there to end the rule of the cruel Assad, who has been spreading state terror». And the hypocrites of the West cheered them on.

The US and the European Union announced that «President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country». They were all determined that Syria’s President be brutally deposed by the vicious anti-Christian rebels who were murdering civilians and laying waste to Aleppo.

Then in 2017 the governments in Washington, London and some other capitals which championed rebellion in Syria and condemned Russian airstrikes in support of the government suddenly changed their tune about aspects of the conflict. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told reporters on March 29 that «You pick and choose your battles and when we’re looking at this, it’s about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out». No doubt President Assad has views on this, but it is a welcome development — if indeed it is official US policy, as one never knows which way the tweet might blow in Trumpland, nowadays — and it would have been even more welcome had there been a similar change of mind about accepting responsibility for the massacres in Mosul by US airstrikes.

The Iraqi city of Mosul came under control of Islamic State barbarians in 2014, since which time they behaved much as their soulmates in Aleppo, murdering opponents, destroying ancient buildings, and persecuting those whose religion differed from their own warped interpretation of Islam. Last year it was decided to retake the city, and Iraqi forces launched a series of operations supported by a «coalition» of countries, some of which assisted the US in mounting hundreds of airstrikes on the city and its environs. Many of the rockets, bombs and missiles caused the deaths of countless civilians, but it was only on March 17 that the western media had to take notice, after a particularly hideous attack killed some 200 civilians in a Mosul suburb.

Then the damage control experts swept into action. Not to alleviate the slaughter and destruction on the ground, of course, but to control the media as best they could.

US Central Command was forced to admit that «the Coalition struck ISIS fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties». Most western media then carried reports heavily slanted towards blaming Islamic State for the slaughter.

The commander of «Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve», US Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, admitted to reporters that «our initial assessment... shows we did strike in that area, there were multiple strikes in that area, so is it possible that we did that? Yes, I think it is possible. Because we struck in that area, I think there’s a fair chance that we did it». But then he altered his tone and said that «We know ISIS were fighting from that position in that building… So that's my initial impression, the enemy had a hand in this...» This line was followed by the media, with, for example, the Washington Post commenting that Russian airstrikes had killed civilians and then, almost as an afterthought, that «Confusion still surrounds the [Mosul] incident: Iraqi military authorities are saying the casualties were caused by booby traps the Islamic State had planted in the house, or by a suicide car bomb that detonated nearby. There’s no question that the jihadists are using civilians as shields, forcing them to stay in homes that are used as firing positions».

To give it its due, the Post ended by saying that it is «vital that US authorities determine as quickly as possible whether an American or coalition bomb [note the clever use of the singular «bomb»] caused the civilian deaths, and, if so, accept responsibility», but we can be confident that Pentagon inquiries will not result in anyone accepting responsibility for this or any other atrocity, as indicated by The New York Times reporting on March 30 of the hardening official line that «ISIS is smuggling civilians into buildings so we won’t see them and trying to bait the coalition to attack».

The Mosul airstrikes and many others killed over a thousand Iraqi civilians in March, and you might imagine that western leaders would be at least mildly disapproving of this horrible butchery, but there hasn’t been a word from any of them.

Remember that Barack Obama, Theresa May, Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Justin Trudeau and Matteo Renzi were eloquent about the Aleppo airstrikes and lamented emotionally that «the images of dying children are heart-breaking». But they don’t say a word about the hideous slaughter in Mosul. It’s just a collateral massacre. What a bunch of hypocrites. 

Tags: Pentagon  Iraq  ISIS   Syria 

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