Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Competition For "City Most Destroyed By War" Heats Up!

Raqqa, Before And After!  (click to enlarge)
Recent revelations of devastation, destruction, and the massive civilian death toll unleashed upon the Syrian city of Raqqa highlight the ugliness of war. This makes it clear the competition for "the city most destroyed by war" is heating up. In an article, one interactive website has moved Raqqa into first place. Rhetoric versus Reality: How the ‘most precise air campaign in history’ left Raqqa the most destroyed city in modern times, looks into the investigation by Airwars and the human rights group Amnesty International USA. which is said to be the most comprehensive investigation into civilian deaths in a modern conflict.

It details that between June and October 2017, a US-led Coalition launched thousands of air and artillery strikes in support of the local Kurdish-led militia fighting the “Islamic State” (IS) on the ground. By the time the assault started, IS had ruled Raqqa for almost four years and had perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, torturing or killing anyone who dared oppose it. Amnesty International has previously documented how  IS used civilians as human shields, mined exit routes, set up checkpoints to restrict movement, and shot at those trying to flee. While the US led Coalition claims to have taken all necessary measures to spare civilians that rhetoric appears untrue.

Amnesty International and Airwars have carried out extensive investigations in Raqqa. They uncovered how the US led bombing campaign, which one military commander at the time claimed was the "most precise air campaign in history," killed an estimated 1,600 innocent civilians and leveled the city on a scale unparalleled in recent decades. Their research "gives a brutally vivid account" of the enormous number of civilian lives lost as "a direct result" of thousands of coalition air strikes and tens of thousands of US artillery strikes. The findings confirm that the U.S. led coalition has admitted to just a fraction of the civilian carnage it has caused in Syria.

US, UK, and French forces launched thousands of air strikes into civilian neighborhoods, scores of these resulted in mass civilian casualties. In one tragic incident, a Coalition air strike destroyed an entire five-story residential building near Maari school in the central Harat al-Badu neighborhood where four families were sheltering in the basement. Almost all of the 32 or more civilians, including 20 children were killed. A week later, another 27 civilians were killed in an air strike on a nearby building including many relatives of those killed in the earlier strike. Ayet Mohammed Jasem, one of the few survivors of the later attack, told the investigators. "I've lost everyone who was dear to me. My four children, my husband, my mother, my sister, my whole family. Wasn't the goal to free the civilians? They were supposed to save us, to save our children."

Mosul Is A Scene Of Destruction And Carnage
As I noted, the competition for city most destroyed by war is heating up. An article in the spring of 2017 highlighted Mosul's transformation into a pile of rubble filled with the bodies of dead civilians. As victory grew near and we prepped for the celebration giving credit to those bringing ISIS to its knees on Face The Nation, Defense Secretary James Mattis made it clear, containment was not enough, the goal was total annihilation and humiliation so that nothing would rise from the ashes of ISIS.

Mosul and the surrounding area in northern Iraq had at one time housed about two and a half million people. After being occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in June of 2014 many people fled. Knowing that to stay was to risk your life and the lives of those with you the population declined to around two hundred thousand in early 2017.  Adding to the woes of civilians that remained trapped by the fighting or were afraid to flee are reports from U.S. based Human Rights Watch that Iraqi Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State unlawfully destroyed Arab homes in scores of towns and villages in what may amount to a war crime, in short, they proved, your potential liberators may not be your friend.

In Mosul, Civilians And ISIS Fighters, Were Killed
As Iraqi forces advanced into Mosul suicide car bombs took a toll and ISIS even deploying armed children in Mosul’s Old City to bolster the impression they were still in control. This resulted in the once great and ancient city of Mosul being reduced to nothing more than a pile of rubble. Mosul shares this fate with many other cities in the region that have become war zones. Within its slowly shirking kill zone, it was not difficult to imagine 100,000 or more of the innocent people trapped within the city killed as troops seeking to eradicate the last of the estimated four to six thousand ISIS fighters went about their task. Death often occurs rather indiscriminately in such places and is dealt out to both civilians and combatants. In this case, civilians used as human shields increased the toll and carnage.

Aleppo, Another City Reduced To Rubble!
Even though they are in different countries Aleppo, Syria also stood in the path of total destruction and was destined to be wrecked by the forces of war. Photos of Aleppo depict the total devastation and death modern warfare brings upon those caught in its way. We often forget how lucky we are not to have been born into an area where life has turned ugly. Warfare has proven to be a pathetic option to bring about positive change, it may change things, but to what degree and for how long.

Raqqa, Mosul, and Aleppo stand as glaring examples of how death and destruction can be spread through arrogance and proxy. A conflict often develops in the "grey area" between "doing the right thing" and going along with the flow. Life is difficult in much of the world without starting down or being drawn down a path by someone whit questionable motives. This again highlights that the loss of life of an individual is often insignificant except to their loved ones. One of the harsh realities of modern war is that it has become a less personal way to die.  Years ago it was hand to hand combat, looking into the eyes of your adversary, now you die by the hand of technology and often without any warning. Modern warfare is more abstract with many soldiers more emotionally detached from the carnage as we train our soldiers on video games and place them on autopilot.

The terms rebels or freedom fighters easily flows from our politician's mouths depending on which side they support or embrace. These cities are proof of how for political gain politicians are willing to turn the masses into cannon fodder, that is what happened to those unfortunate souls unlucky enough to have found themselves and their loved ones living in these areas. Cannon fodder is defined as an informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded or treated as expendable in the face of enemy fire, in this case, it must be expanded to include all the residents of these once beautiful cities and upon the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of unfortunate innocent souls who have died in similar incidents. These bloodbaths continue to play out over years and have flashed across television screens everywhere as "government troops" go about clean-up operations, a sanitized term meaning to kill off the last of the resisters and restore order.

Aleppo Had Been A Beautiful City
Anyone who knows me will testify that I'm far from a touchy-feely rollover and take it kind of guy opposed to war or to violence but you don't need to be a pacifist to rail at this kind of stupid widespread death and destruction.  War tends to be a Pandora's box rather than the easy answer we often seek. Conflicts will always exist in our world and this again spotlights that we must work towards developing a consensus of what is in man's best interest. The simple truth is most mothers value their children, the peasant in a rice patty field values his ox and neither desire to see them killed in a war.  If we look at every war ever fought we will find that most of the people affected by the violence only wanted to be left alone. It is pure folly that mankind continues to bring more misery upon the world by self-inflicting injury.  While we remember and mourn for all of the heroes that keep dying for God and Country we should also remember it is always at the request of the latter.

Footnote; Way way back at the beginning of 2012, I wrote an article about Syria noting the uprising in Syria had reached the point of no-return. By September of 2013, President Obama's red line was crossed. The link to that report can be found below, the article is short and worth a quick read.
Another article concerning the cost of war can also be found below.

1 comment:

  1. Very true that modern warfare is impersonal. It is also not Darwinian. High explosive comes in and everyone dies.

    I was reading about India. 1952 / 500 million people, now 1.5 billion people. Say what you like about the political chaos, my suspicion is that Charles Darwin would rate those Indian desert people as the toughest in the world.