‘Destroy town to save it – Mosul may become US’ My Lai in Iraq’

‘Destroy town to save it – Mosul may become US’ My Lai in Iraq’
Americans seem to be willing to step into the fray in Iraq, which takes one back to Vietnam and the My Lai massacre, where the concept of the US was to destroy the village to save it, said Jack Rice, former CIA officer, and international lawyer.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Moscow is alarmed by American actions in Mosul, which may have resulted in mass civilian casualties. He also said Russia had requested a special briefing of the UN Security Council in connection with the deadly incident.

An airstrike made headlines around the world after more than 200 people were killed.

However, there’ve been conflicting reports as to what exactly happened in Iraq’s Mosul over a week ago after the US coalition’s airstrike against ISIS. The Pentagon confirmed Saturday carrying out a raid in Mosul on March 17 in the same area where reportedly a significant number of civilians were killed. A statement released by US Central Command claims the strike was conducted at the request of Iraqi Security Forces.

The Iraqi side denied the blast was even caused by an air raid, claiming it was triggered by ISIS booby traps. According to Iraq’s military, 61 bodies had been recovered from a destroyed building.

Meanwhile, reports by witnesses and local officials said a lot more people were killed when the building collapsed as a result of the March 17 blast.

According to Jack Rice, former CIA officer and international lawyer, the fact that Iraqis blame ISIS for the attack may be used by the US as a justification to continue airstrikes.

RT:The Pentagon has confirmed the air strike, but the Iraqi forces deny the attack caused the civilian deaths. What do you make of this?

Jack Rice: I am concerned by what the Iraqis are talking about now because they apparently have said that the operations are continuing. If what they are claiming now is that it was ISIS who actually caused this and not the Americans, not the Iraqis - that gives the Americans justification to continue to fight, to continue the airstrikes. What we do know is that the airstrike did take place on the 17th [of March] and it happened in the area where these civilians were killed. The numbers could be in excess of a hundred, maybe even several hundred. So this is a very serious concern. It’s been my experience working in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the years. I have seen a lot of civilians dead. I have seen a lot of innocents, who simply are the ones who pay the price frequently far more so than you see from the soldiers on either side, on any side for that matter.

RT:On Saturday, Iraqi police said airstrikes have been put on hold because of the numerous civilian casualties. This was later denied by the army, with officials saying they are simply reviewing their strategy. Why the contradiction and what kind of review can we expect?

JR: Likely not. And that is really is the problem. Again what you hear is this is a creeping story that I saw in the end both in Iraq and Afghanistan…. What you hear is: “Ok it was us. K, it wasn’t us – it was somebody else. Ok, we’re going to do it in the event that might be us.” And the story continues to change and shift under their feet. The problem is the Iraqis themselves claimed that the operations had stopped, but then what we hear including from your own reporters, as well as BBC and others, who said: absolutely not, the operations are continuing just like they were before. There is a bunch of things going on right now, and nobody seems to have real answers.

RT:In the media, the Mosul operation is being presented as part of Trump's push to defeat ISIS. But do you think there has actually been any change in military strategy since Trump took office?

JR: What there is at least – there seems to be a few more boots on the ground, at least on the American side. They seemed to be more willing to step into the fray to some degree, and they are working a little more closely with Iraqi forces and on the frontlines. But again the problem that the Americans have is they are in this difficult place. Are they supporting the Iraqis, are they supporting the Kurds? Are they trying to protect what Turks are doing? Are they trying to keep all sides apart, so they will sort of work together? Because it is all sides converging in this one spot. My fear in the end, though – is what Mosul is going to look like, is what Fallujah looked like so many years ago, where at the end of the day it was simply gone when it was all over. That takes me back to the concept of Vietnam if you think of the US, and My Lai – we had to destroy the village to save it. That is what I am afraid of.

‘Iraqi explanation doesn’t tally with other sources’

The statement by US Centcom is interesting in a couple of ways, says Charles Shoebridge, former UK counter-terrorism intelligence officer.

“The US Central Command refers not to the US’ own investigation at this stage because they are only in the early stages themselves, but they refer to this Iraqi statement. This Iraqi statement basically says that they have sent what they call a team of experts to examine the building that news reports were alleging so many civilians died,” he told RT. He added though that, “they name that building as being in a different neighborhood.”

“My understanding that it is a neighboring district of Mosul, but it is not the same district the US has actually acknowledged the airstrikes took place in, and crucially, of course, it is not the district that reporters have stated the very high casualty toll came from. Also, I find it strange at this stage that US Centcom didn’t seem to have taken part in that examination on the ground of what actually took place there. After all, one would have thought because they are in close military liaison with Iraqi forces that they would also have some kind of liaison input into this. But it is almost as if in their statement they pointed journalists including RT journalist to the Iraqi statement, but didn’t want to take ownership of it. If it proved incorrect – that statement – in the future that could be one reason for that,” Shoebridge added.

Another “mystery” around the statement is that Iraqi forces claimed that all the walls of the building were booby trapped. But since the building was destroyed completely by the blast, how can they be so sure it was booby trapped when there is nothing left of the structure?

“They say there was no evidence in terms of holes – presumably they mean in a roof of the building, where an airborne projectile could have landed. But then that seems to be contradicted, or at least there’s an element of inconsistency introduced when they say that the building was totally destroyed, which begs the question: what kind of evidence they were hoping to find. It may be that the initial reports were confused,” the analyst said, adding that confusion in a war zone is not unusual. “It is just that the explanation that the Iraqis have given … doesn’t tally what we already know from other sources coming from the ground and from what the Americans have said themselves.”

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