Alleged Iraqi war crimes in Mosul ‘give ISIS propaganda’
An elite Iraqi military unit, which has received training and support from the US, was filmed supposedly carrying out extrajudicial killing and torture in the city of Mosul. Iraqi officials say they are conducting an investigation into alleged war crimes by the Emergency Response Division (ERD).
They claim US support for the unit allows the division to operate with impunity. The Pentagon, for its part, says it no longer supplies the ERD with weapons and that it called for the investigation.
However, it’s very much likely that the Iraqi Interior Ministry may just “bury the whole thing,” according to Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow, and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute.
RT: Can we hope for a truly transparent and independent investigation?
IE: The Interior Ministry in Iraq said these people are going to be tried in the Iraqi legal system. That is probably going to be a joke because the Interior Ministry is over these police forces and they will probably just bury the whole thing. It is good that it has gotten some international attention. You certainly don’t want to be doing these things, when you’re fighting ISIS because it gives ISIS the propaganda. Also, it makes you seem as bad as they are which is hard to do since ISIS is really bad.
There were fears that when majority Shia forces went into a Sunni-majority city like Mosul, there might be problems with this, because of the sectarian conflict that has been a history, ever since the US invaded Iraq in 2003. So there have been fears that things like this might happen. The Interior Ministry and the police forces have bent over backward to say: “Well, this is not happening.” Well, we don’t know the sectarian identity of the person, the people that have been tortured, but certainly, that could be a factor. And we would have to see upon investigation. Certainly, if the police are guilty of this, they are not behaving in a way that is good for anybody, because in counter-insurgency you’re supposed to be trying to win the hearts and minds of the population. As we saw in Abu Ghraib, with the US abuse, that had a very dramatic impact on the Iraqi population, and it was unfavorable to the US occupiers. I think the same thing would happen in this case against the largely Shia police force.
RT: Should the US command or coalition take part of the responsibility in what happened?
IE: I understand the US has sort of distanced itself a while back on training and advising these troops. Anytime you have foreign troops they can misbehave. And when the US is no longer training them and assisting them directly, a lot of times the US tries to import its values into the whatever troops they’re training, and that often times doesn’t work very well, because of foreign cultures; civil wars are often nasty, etc. So it doesn’t always work out when the US trains somebody or assist them, and then they distance themselves: the troops may go back to their old habits, and that sort of thing. And that may have been what happened in this case.
‘Fighting terror with terror may only stoke violence’
RT asked Chris Nineham, Vice-Chair of Stop the War Coalition, about his take on the allegations of abuse by the Iraqi elite military unit and whether, if proven, this can amount to a war crime.
Chris Nineham: If this footage turns out to be genuine I think it’s one more example of the terrible problems, the terrible dangers involved in the purely military operation backed by the West with Western participation against ISIS. It seems difficult to believe that fighting terror with terror in this kind of way is going to do anything other than stoke the cycle of violence. That seems to be what is playing out right now not just in Iraq and Syria but also around the rest of the world. I also think that the danger of a sectarian conflict being generated out of the siege of Mosul is very, very real – that this doesn’t end up being a fight against ISIS, but it spreads the violence, spreads the conflict throughout the country. It seems to me that this is an example of a wider truth, which is that the campaign against terrorism and against ISIS needs to be re-thought very fundamentally.
RT: We spoke to several Iraqis. Many of them said things like this are inevitable in war. Would you agree with that?
CN: I think it is inevitable that innocent people get killed in any war. These levels of brutalities are not just about innocent people getting killed; this is about innocent people apparently being tortured by forces that are being supported by the West. All that speaks to the essential failure of the war on terror ever the last 16 years. We’ve seen the situation where the invasion of Afghanistan, invasion of Iraq, the decimation of Libya, now the fighting once again in Northern Iraq; then the war in Syria - all of this has …increased the level of bitterness against the West, and has gone in parallel with a massive increase in the level of terrorist attacks and terrorist organizations – mainly in the Middle East, but in North Africa, in Central Asia, and other parts of Africa, are now spreading into Europe…
Hans-Christof von Sponeck, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, says that Iraq has seen a string of incidents of misuse of power and torture for decades.
“Unfortunately Iraq is a country, which ever since its independence many years ago…has seen a string of misuse of power, of cruelty, of torture. And what we see now is simply a continuation of something which unfortunately is part of the brutal life in which Iraqis are living,” he told RT.
“Allegations will always be made by the other side. Your own side is always right, and the other side is always wrong. The difference, as far as Iraq is concerned, is that there is hardly any crisis area around the world, which is more complex than the one that we face in Iraq at the moment. You have so many different groups: you have the government forces; you have Shia militias; you have Sunni militias; you have Kurdish militias; you have foreign participation; the Iranians are involved, the Syrians are involved. So the allegations will come from outside,” he added.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.