‘West funded creation of Islamist fundamentalism & terror’ – Ken Livingstone, former London mayor
The US-led coalition's anti-ISIS offensive in Iraq's second city has slowed with the military facing strong resistance while advancing into Mosul's Old City.
Since the start of the campaign in October, Iraqi forces have recaptured the east of the city and about 40 percent of the city's Western districts.
However, as the fighting rages, the number of civilian casualties and the level of displacement has grown significantly.
RT: Why do you think there's been such a difference in the mainstream media's coverage of the battles in Aleppo and in Mosul?
Ken Livingstone: I think the simple fact is that every war has been like that. I remember through the Vietnam War, America’s intervention led to almost four million Vietnamese dead. And yet all the US told us it was a Western struggle to prevent a communist takeover. In fact, the Vietnamese just wanted control of their own country. And that is the reality. In every war, we have seen horrendous levels of civilian casualties. And I watch RT, the BBC, but each side puts a different perspective. And someone just watching Western television will have no idea about what you have just shown and revealed, and I think that is a tragedy.
RT: Are you surprised at the lack of voices among the public regarding the Mosul crisis? After all social media was packed with calls for a stop to the battle for Aleppo, but there is relatively little in comparison now. What's going on?
KL: This is just the way wars are conducted. During war both sides rely on propaganda, they put their own case. The tragedy is, of course, most people in the West, just looking at Western channels. It would just be a lot better if more and more people tuned in to RT and other foreign channels to actually see a different perspective. Otherwise, you'd never know about this. You'd never know about what is going on. If I just think back to the 1980s, we had British troops crossing over the border into the Republic of Ireland and killing not just IRA people, but a popular band, anything to stir up trouble. We were never told about this. It took twenty years of my asking questions in Parliament before finally it was accepted that our troops had been conducting murders in Ireland.
RT: Instead of reporting on Mosul, several mainstream sources prefer to cover the recent UN report, which blames Assad's troops and their allies for deliberate strikes on humanitarian infrastructure in Syria. Do you expect the same kind of UN and media attention to the bombings in Mosul?
KL: Not just that. I mean, if you look at the horrendous bombings that are going on in Yemen where British and American arms that have been sold to the Saudis are indiscriminately killing civilians, bombing schools, bombing hospitals. Virtually no one in the West gets to see anything about that. Basically, we have one or two good papers, the Guardian reports it, but for most people they have no idea that this is going on. I do think as well that while the UN is broadly a good institution, it has been predominantly in the pockets of American interests throughout most of my lifetime.
The one thing that has never changed is US concern for civilian casualties – the US has no concern, never has. And we saw that through the years of the US occupation of Iraq, and really the way in which they have used ISIS as a way back into Iraq. A few years ago they couldn’t even get a status of forces agreement. But with Saudi arming and really silent US backing, and not so silent of ISIS, the US is again back in Iraq, and it has also been used in Syria. Their strategic plan in the whole region is to create great chaos and confusion; to inflame sectarian divisions and to use ISIS as the excuse for all of this when really it is the US determination to stay engaged, to keep the area inflamed- Sara Flounders of the International Action Center, to RT
RT: The battle for Mosul is presented as a decisive battle against ISIS, but retaking Mosul doesn't mean defeating the terror group. Why is there no talk about the future of the anti-ISIS battle that could affect more civilian areas?
KL: Part of the problem with all of it is that you got to go back to the 1980s when America started funding Muslim fundamentalist groups, and the Saudis were funding the most extreme, like Al-Qaeda. The West is in denial about Islamist terrorism as its origins go right back to the 1980s. There were instances when President Carter, who was briefed by the CIA in 1979, saying that if we [the US] give arms to the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, Russia will have to intervene to actually stop that and it will create Russia’s Vietnam. An absolute tragedy.
When Carter took the decision to do that, it never occurred to him he was lighting the fuse that would lead to 9/11, and the West has got to come to terms the fact that we funded the creation of Islamist fundamentalism and the terror that has come from that. And we got to make sure we stop, and that means pressure on Saudi Arabia, which remains the principle funder of the extremist terrorist groups in the Muslim world.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.