IRAQ – Exclusive report – Mosul… Horror!

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The big majority of the European and American media organisations are in the habit of, loosely and with much complicity, cover the war that the West is raging in the Middle-East and in Africa.

This was the case in Iraq in 1991, then in 2003; and in Libya in 2011; in Mali starting from 2012, and the same happened during the battle of Mosul in 2016 and 2017.

Few “war reporters” dared to denounce the events which were happening in Mosul after the start of the offensive spearheaded by the Iraqi army along with Shiite militias on the city. They were supported by the aviation of the coalition led by Washington and special forces on the ground compromising many of these countries.

Few were these reporters, because most of them, along with special envoys, wrote their articles or appeared on TV from Erbil in Kurdistan, without ever taking the risk of going on the terrain in Mosul itself, one the most dangerous war fronts at the time. Therefore, they ignored the reality, and were content to reverberate the “information” communicated to them by the armed forces engaged in the battle against the Islamic State. The bravest of these journalists made the adventure to the few villages already liberated in the Nineveh plain, surprised to find so many ruins, but satisfied to show a “war-terrain” in front of the camera.

Those who found the way to the actual battle site were hesitant to describe what they saw and sweetened it to not seem out-of-way of the mainstream media’s dominant orthodoxy; they didn’t want to risk their own career. This is how “mainstream media” works. If you say what’s really happening, and you say this alone, it will bring only ostracism and a ban from the system.

Therefore, rare were the “correspondents” and “special envoys” who warned their audience of massacres that were prepared; too occupied to boast about the effectivity of the airstrikes by the coalition, write victory songs about the international community and the Iraqi army on their battle against the Islamic State. They don’t ask the right questions and don’t see what’s really happening on the ground.

Today, however, it has become impossible to hide the horror and everything trickles down, albeit too late; the evil is done, and the press has not even once accomplished its democratic mission, which is to inform and alert public opinion.

If the eastern part of Mosul, mostly inhabited by Kurds and Arab Shiites, was more or less spared, the major part of the town (the Sunni part) was torn down and disappeared, bombed down by the coalition aviation.

I’ve seen the ruins of Sirte in Libya, destroyed by NATO bombing; I was there during the bombings of Homs and Aleppo as an “embedded reporter” with rebel brigades of the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al-Nusra… But I’ve never seen anything like the ruins of Mosul.

Then, when realising the total destruction, a question immediately came to my mind: “But where are the 250.000 men, women and children who didn’t evacuate west-Mosul?!

It was less about them being used by the Islamic State as human shields (the myths of war-propaganda have a pretty thick skin) but because they feared the repercussion of the Shiite army of Baghdad (90% of the Iraqi army is composed by Shiites), because in 2014, the Sunni families of Mosul welcomed the Islamic state with open arms. They welcomed the 800 liberators who chased away the 65.000 soldiers of the (occupational) Iraqi army.

What happened to all these people?!

Under the rubble!

The month of June 2017 is particularly hot in Iraq and the putrid smell which floats everywhere from the graves of rotting people responds to the mentioned question.

As for stray dogs, which scratch here and there among the ruins and extract from the entrails of the battlefield strips of flesh… They confirm the answer, if one still needed. Just like the clouds of black flies which leave no doubt on the presence of corpses and make them easily noticeable.

Elsewhere, around a crater for example, a piece of an arm or a leg sticks out, covered by burnings. It turns the skin rotten black and barely recognisable of what it once was. The Iraqi bulldozers work full-time, but can’t make everything disappear with their large heavy shovels.

No, nothing is done: the dead clearly show their presence.

It is important for the army, now joined by the militias, to clean out the last pockets of resistance.

Not all Jihadists have been killed. Every day, they come out of the many long tunnels they dug under the city. How many are those who remainin their vast underground city? No officer that I have met has managed to put a number on the remaining Sunni fighters.

The Shiites are now merciless. The unofficial order by the Iraqi headquarter is to take no more prisoners and finish quickly with all of those still alive in Mosul. That’s why the bulldozers are so active; to butcher the access and openings of the tunnels, from where the killing continues daily to come. To bury alive those that are in hiding.

And bad luck for the civilians. After all, they are Sunni. This is probably the explanation for the corpses which can be seen in the Tigris river every day, who then finally drift ashore and remain burning under the sun. Some of them are handcuffed.

The odour is so entrenching that it is impossible to remain in West-Mosul for long without getting nausea. After coming back to the hotel in Erbil after three hours on the road, the odour covered my clothes so much and people asked me what happened back there.

The victorious don’t show any pity towards the Sunnis, and the revenge does not matter anymore, just like in the case of Tikrit and Fallujah, two former towns which counted on Washington to make pressure on Baghdad to avoid the same horror. But probably, the coalition was rather busy with the Raqqa affair in Syria and the humanitarian issues were the last of their concerns.

This is how in Iraq they celebrate the end of three years of war, covered in blood and heat. The religious antagonism has been mounting since 2003 and cannot be neglected: the army sings victory chants about Imam Hossein, an emblematic figure of Shi’ism, as the soldiers hunt down the last survivors, supported by helicopters which fly over the ruins and launch their deadly missiles on any moving target.

It’s not the pressofficer in charge who will change anything, even though he repeats what we want to hear while smiling: “There are no Shiites or Sunnites here! We’re are Iraqis!

Like in Aleppo (Syria), we’ll probably never know the number of civilian victims of this battle.

Lastly, to go back to the job as a “war reporter”… It would be dishonest to ignore the Russian press corps’conduct on the other side, not so prompted to use the terrible acts committed in Mosul to dehumanise the West, just as Western press did during the battle of Aleppo, where Russia supported the fight against al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra).

Something to keep in mind, moments before Moscow decides to support Bashar al-Assad’s offensive against the last bastion of al-Nusra (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham): Idlib, where more than a million people are trapped.

by our special envoy in Mosul

 

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Pierre Piccinin da Prata

Historian and Political Scientist - Chief Editor / Rédacteur en Chef

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