It should come as no surprise that Iraqi conscripts who declined to fight for a corrupt Saddam government also decline to fight for a corrupt Abadi government. That was the lesson of the very slow capture of Mosul and Raqqa.
It will not do to belittle the difficulty of reducing a stubbornly defended city, even if the defenders are only a small, poorly armed and hopeless force. It almost always requires the complete destruction of the place. Such was the case in Warsaw, Manila, Hue and many other places. But you cannot obliterate a city without killing its inhabitants.
And so it happened, again, in Iraq. The American press has done little to report the consequences, but European sources have claimed that something on the order of 60,000 non-combatants were killed. Many by coalition bombing, as the Iraqi infantry declined — they are not fools — to assault defended positions, preferring to have pilots blow them up.
If anyone was taking “shelter,” so much the worse for them. A rare American report on the consequences is in today’s Los Angeles Times. Nut grafs:
“When Ali Thanoon lost more than 50 members of his family in a U.S. airstrike during the battle against Islamic State in Mosul in the spring, he turned to the Iraqi government for compensation.
“But officials required Thanoon to prove his loved ones had been killed: He could get the necessary death certificates only by digging up their bodies from a mass grave.
“That would take time. Thanoon had been trapped for five days under the rubble, then hospitalized for weeks. By the time a cousin was able to take Iraqi officials to unearth Thanoon’s two wives, seven children and other relatives, all they found were “meat and bones,” Thanoon said.
“‘What’s this?’ said one of the officials. ‘We need to see faces.'”
* * *
“Yet payments under the U.S. program plummeted after America ended its initial combat role in Iraq in 2010 — and did not pick up again when the U.S.-led coalition launched a violent new phase of the war with its assault on the militant group Islamic State.
“The U.S. acknowledges that it has killed at least 801 civilians in Iraq and Syria since the campaign began in 2014. Independent monitors insist the toll is much higher: at least 5,975, according to the London-based monitoring group Airwars.
“Congress has set aside at least $5 million through the end of 2018 for payments to civilians under the condolence program. But a review of Pentagon data shows that just three such payments have been offered to families in Iraq over the last three years — and none were offered in Syria.”
Although very few Americans have any notion of the immense destruction and savagery we are responsible for — just as few know, even today, how much insane killing we did in Southeast Asia — you can be sure that the Iraqis know, and the version they will hear will be even more lurid and disgraceful than the facts, however bad those are.
The rest of the Arab societies will hear, too; and other Muslims; and even, in diminishing ripples of knowledge and propaganda, many others.
I am reminded of a Fascist poster depicting their view of the bombing of Italy:
It means “Here are the Liberators!”