US playing deadly word game in Iraq: 'collateral damage' vs. 'enemy combatants'

© Lee Jae-Won
Western media will never portray the real human toll in Daquq, Iraq, where a funeral procession was targeted. It will be brushed under the carpet or explained as ‘collateral damage,' says Steve Topple, independent journalist and political analyst.

In Iraq, an alleged US-coalition strike on Saturday hit a funeral procession at a shrine in the northern city of Daquq killing over a dozen civilians.

This comes when Iraqi forces, backed by America, are also conducting a massive anti-ISIS operation in the area focusing on Mosul and surrounding villages. That is being widely covered by major news outlets - unlike the funeral attack that claimed 15 civilian lives, many of them women and children and also left 50 more injured.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the procession was likely mistaken for terrorists by coalition forces. It also added that according to its data there are no ISIS fighters in the area. Russia slammed the incident as a war crime.

RT: How would you explain the civilian victims in Iraq going largely ignored in the mainstream media?

Steve Topple: It is a very fluid situation and it is very complicated. Of course, in our Western media they are not going to portray the real human cost that is happening here. Just in Kirkuk alone over the past few says reportedly ISIS have killed 80 civilians and then you have this apparent US-led incident on Friday. This is not something they want to report, they are quite happy to report in Syria, however, it has been suppressed by and large over here because they are trying to exude the positives of the campaign which is that they are pushing back ISIS. However, quite often that is not the case.  

RT: The Russian Defence Ministry describes the strike on the Iraq funeral as a 'war crime'. What kind of investigation do you expect?

ST: The US has a long history of this. You only have to go back to Kandahar in 2008, the infamous wedding strike where at least 37 women and children killed. This will be brushed under the carpet as it always is. They are very quick to denounce Russia when they commit similar atrocities, however, the US-made will be brushed under the carpet or they will say it was ‘collateral damage.’ The whole situation over the past few days in Iraq seems somewhat messy. Obviously, there is an operation in Mosul to push back ISIS. That was very well-publicized.  And then what seems to happen is that ISIS has now assaulted Kirkuk, which apparently has taken the coalition forces by surprise and they were not expecting it. Eighty civilians have been killed there, maybe the excuse will come out from the US because the strike of this funeral party was about 30 kilometers from Kirkuk that they were trying to target ISIS. But there are no Sunnis in this area; there is no presence of ISIS in that area. So, it is going to be very hard to explain away.  

"I don’t except to see anything out of the West regarding this particular incident. I don’t see any logic in this whatsoever. I think what we should be looking at is what happened in Mosul with the escaping troops there with the ISIS and the coalition forces seem to have no problem with allowing the ISIS forces to escape Mosul to regroup in Syria. So, it is very hard to understand how they can claim to be able to be struggling to differentiate between funeral procession and retreating troops." - Steven Kelley, former CIA Contractor

RT: How could mourners in a funeral procession have been mistaken for terrorists? Could Washington's intel be so tragically misinformed?

ST: Exactly, it is a question that is going to have to be answered and very rapidly. It is hard to conceive how they could have been, but the US have  (…) droned over 10 wedding strikes since 2001 and it seems inconceivable that they keep doing it. But when you look at the Medecins Sans Frontrieres hospitals in the Middle East last year, 63 of those were bombed by both Russians admittedly but as well US forces. And MSF give their coordinates to both sides in conflicts when they are there.
And of course what they don’t mention about the assault on Mosul is that estimates suggest that up to 100,000 civilians could flee out of Mosul and go into Syria and Turkey, which is just going to exasperate the problem in Syria which is already chaotic and add more pressure on Turkey and their humanitarian situation. It’s looking out of control at the moment.

RT: Russia's Defense Ministry claims US-led coalition air strikes mistakenly hit that funeral, killing many civilians. How could they have been mistaken for terrorists?

Joaquin Flores, editor in chief, Fort Russ News and president of 'Independent Journalists Association for Peace': If this had been something that we’ve seen for the first time or the second time or the third time in the course of the last five or ten years in the US campaigns in the Middle East and Central Asia, fine, we might accept that this was a bad intel situation; we might accept that this was confusing - the gathering from 10,000 meters up that [the funeral procession] looked like something else. But we know that this has happened dozens of times, Afghanistan is one place where this has happened countless times. Now looking at what happened in Iraq, I think that the Russian Ministry of Defense statement was a little bit conservative and diplomatic to call it “a mistake.” Because what we found in Afghanistan is that numerous times weddings and funerals were targeted specifically because the US didn’t have bad intelligence, but their intelligence was very good and they were targeting people associated with groups that they were fighting, not necessarily Al-Qaeda, not necessarily ISIS, but whoever it was that they found it to be pertinent, that they found to be convenient and the fact that they would do this because they can get them all gathered at the same time, and they don’t care that they are going to be also taking  out women and children as well…

RT: The Russian Defence Ministry describes the strike on the Iraq funeral as a 'war crime'. How would you describe it?

JF: The biggest problem is that this is a word game; the US has many different categories. They do not consider people to be necessarily civilians once they categorize them as ‘enemy combatants.’ And if they’re going to take a whole group of people and call them ‘enemy combatants’ then there is some twisted truth in their statement that they didn’t target what they have to find as civilians because now they have defined them as ‘enemy combatants’ even though they were gathered at the funeral.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.