Ever since Trump took office, the U.S.-led coalition in the region has killed at least a dozen civilians a day, Amnesty contends. What's troubling about this number is that it represents a far higher rate of civilian casualties than under President Barack Obama.
In its latest report, “At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq,” Amnesty states that both the U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition have been systematically violating international law while fighting ISIS for control over west Mosul, leading to thousands of deaths and forcing millions of Iraqis to flee.
Despite the consequences, the official in charge of the anti-ISIS campaign in the region, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, has denied that Americans and their allies have broken international law.
Instead, Townsend asserts, the Mosul campaign was the “most precise campaign in the history of warfare.”
During an interview, Amnesty's Iraq researcher Nicolette Waldman said that when it comes to civilian casualties, both sides inflicted massive harm.
While under ISIS, thousands of civilians were forced to move into areas where fights were underway, trapping innocent individuals there, she told "Democracy Now!'s" Amy Goodman that U.S.-led coalition forces “subjected these very same areas to relentless attacks.”
Because of the coalition's use of “explosive and imprecise weapons,” she continued, thousands of innocent civilians were killed while the city ended up being left flattened as a result.
Unlike the reports coming from the Trump administration that say the U.S. and Iraqi forces have only used precise weapons, Waldman says, families on the ground reported something very different. One out of every three families she talked to had lost family members to strikes from the coalition's air force or ground attacks, she told Goodman.
“And it was actually so common for people to be full of shrapnel — I met whole families who were full of shrapnel — that they wouldn't even seek medical attention,” she added.
The report states that while ISIS “deliberately” put civilians in harm's way so their own fighters would be shielded from U.S. and Iraqi attacks, U.S. and Iraqi forces relied “heavily upon explosive weapons with wide area effects such as IRAMs (Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions).”
IRAMs are deadly because they have “crude targeting abilities,” the report states, and have the power to create a great deal of chaos in a densely populated area.
As ISIS trapped groups of civilians in shelters and homes, the use of these weapons made it easy for large groups of people to be directly injured as a result.
Unfortunately, the report concludes, it is not possible for researchers to know the exact number of civilians killed by U.S.-led coalition forces at this moment. However, a monitoring group known as Airwars claims that between Feb. 19 and June 19 2017, at least 5,805 civilians were killed. Still, the report contends, this is an underestimation as ISIS banned the use of cell phones in the areas under its occupation.
With Trump being so quick to shift the blame to others, it's hard to see how this accusation will be enough of a burden to force the president to either apologize or force the military to change its methods.
Still, the very existence of this report may help the international community to pressure the U.S. to change how it fights its wars abroad.
Thumbnail and banner image credit: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra