Yesterday, the US military publicly announced that it had bombed a hospital in Mosul, which it claims (without showing any evidence) was an ISIS stronghold. Predictably yet depressingly, the British and American mainstream press have completely ignored this story, with a few minor exceptions, while continuing to scrutinise the Russian/Syrian onslaught against the people of Eastern Aleppo. It is estimated that 600 civilians have been killed so far in the US/British/French/Iraqi assault on Mosul, with almost 100 of those deaths being directly attributable to coalition airstrikes (although that is almost certainly a conservative estimate), including an entire family. Yesterday’s hospital bombing was just the latest grisly addition to this ongoing horror story.
What is so striking about this story is that unlike when the US military bombed an MSF hospital in Afghanistan in 2015 and then farcically tried and failed to excuse and then defend what it had done, there have been no official denials about what has happened this time; the US military has come right out and admitted that it intentionally bombed a hospital. The official justification is that it was used by ISIS as a base from which to launch attacks on Iraqi forces. The US military would only be willing to come right out and own up to committing a flat-out war crime if it was confident that the press would either ignore the story completely or obediently attempt to justify what had happened. And, because our journalists are so submissive to those in power, they have done just that; the media has totally covered up the incident, apart from The Guardian, NPR, Reuters and the International Business Times, and none of those outlets have described what happened as a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention. It is illegal to target a hospital for bombing. When Russia and Syria bomb a hospital in Eastern Aleppo, we recognise that fact. In fact, our journalists and political leaders can’t stop screaming about it for the next several months. But because it’s our side that has now done exactly that in Mosul, there has been complete silence in the media. Even if it were true that this hospital was an ISIS stronghold, it wouldn’t be legally or ethically justified to bomb it anymore than it is legally or ethically justified for Russia and Syria to bomb a hospital in Eastern Aleppo that is being used as a base by al Qaeda. Civilian infrastructure is never allowed to be targeted, regardless of whether it is being used as a cover by militants. The Obama administration just committed a war crime.
Why would ISIS hide in a hospital (assuming that the US military’s narrative is accurate)? The only reason why they would choose that kind of building as a stronghold is if it were sure to be ram-packed full of civilians. So when US pilots quite happily walked into their trap and blew it up, it’s extremely likely that they murdered many civilians in the process, thus giving ISIS a decisive propaganda victory. Of course, figures about civilian casualties are ‘not known’ at the moment; we don’t bother to count our victims. This incident really sums up our war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria; no accountability for war crimes, no facts or figures about civilian casualties, and no interest shown by our ‘adversarial press corps’. Is it even worth wondering if anyone will remember this when discussing ‘Obama’s legacy’?