1 February 2019
The news of possible civilian deaths from Australia’s role in the bombing of Mosul, Iraq, in early 2017 reminds us of the tragedy of the war in that country. But it should not surprise us. When we bomb cities, it’s inevitable that civilians will be killed and severely impacted in other ways, and probably in large numbers. To believe otherwise is merely wishful thinking.
However the Australian government keeps no official record of the civilian impacts of our wars. No official report on the civilian impacts of the bombing of Mosul was released.
A report in the New York Post and elsewhere on 20 December 2017 stated that “The coalition….says it lacks the resources to send investigators into Mosul” to assess civilian damage.
In 2017, Amnesty International published a report, “At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq”, which estimated that 5,805 civilians may have been killed between 19 February and 19 June 2017 as a result of the attacks by Iraqi and US-led coalition forces.
The report stated that “Pro-government forces, [which included Australia] failed to take feasible precautions to protect civilians during the battle for west Mosul”.
The Costs of War project at Brown University in the US estimates that around ½ million people have died from direct violence in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, with around half of these being civilians. (This figure does not include those killed in the war in Syria.) Many more have died from indirect effects. Some estimates of the numbers of civilians killed are much higher. For example, the 2015 report “Body Count”, by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, stated:
“This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war [on terror] has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs.”
The lessons are these:
- War is not an appropriate response to terrorism. It brings terror to those living where we fight our wars. Our “war on terror” is in fact a “war of terror”. We need smarter approaches to deal with terrorism.
- If we don’t have the capacity to monitor the safety of civilians where we fight our wars, and to care for those injured or displaced, then we shouldn’t be fighting the war.