Just last December, the United Nations and several international human rights organizations accused the Russian-Syrian coalition of committing war crimes in Syria.
The widespread condemnation came in the wake of a month-long airstrikes by the Syrian government and its allies, including Russia, in Aleppo in September and October 2016. The Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian civil monitoring organization, found the bombing campaign killed more than 440 civilians, including more than 90 children.
“Using that amount of firepower in an urban area with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of civilians predictably killed hundreds of civilians,” said Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Those who ordered and carried out unlawful attacks should be tried for war crimes.”
Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also said the raids by the Syrian government and its allies on an area "packed with civilians" most likely violated international law and probably tantamount to a war crime.
The loss of innocent lives in Syria prompted global outrage, and rightfully so. The New York Times, for instance, wrote a scathing editorial titled “Aleppo's Destroyers: Assad, Putin, Iran,” which held Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Russian president Vladimir Putin and “to a lesser extent, Iran,” responsible for the murder of hundreds of civilians.
However, the intense outrage in December turned into complicit silence this week when the United States admitted the aircraft of its coalition fighting against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq hit a location in west Mosul where as many as 240 civilians may have been killed as result of an air raid.
The alleged incident occurred on March 17 in Mosul al-Jadida district. The death toll and the events that led to the airstrike are still unclear, according to Reuters.
“At the moment the answer is we don’t know,” said Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command.
However, Iraqi commanders claim the massacre followed an Iraqi army request for U.S. air support to target ISIS snipers in three buildings.
“The days after were horrible,” Majid al-Najim, a 65-year-old resident of Jadida neighborhood, told the Guardian. "There were children shouting under the rubble. Nobody came to help them. The police told us yesterday that there was nothing they could do.”
The U.S. forces also maintain they were targeting ISIS fighters and that the terrorists might have used civilians as human shields.
However, that’s pretty similar to what the Russians said when they were accused of bombing civilians in Aleppo.
Deliberate or not, though, innocent civilians were killed at the hands of the U.S. coalition. So, where is the condemnation?
Or is massacring civilians only a crime against humanity when carried out by U.S. rivals?
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Goran Tomasevic