Mosul Massacre II: US Is Bombing Civilians in Raqqa
It seems the widely condemned slaughter of civilians in Iraq’s Mosul was never enough; because the United States is now busy doing the same thing in Syria’s Raqqa – bombing civilians who have two choices: flee or die.
ISIL was defeated in Mosul after a nine-month Iraqi military campaign. But US airstrikes that destroyed significant parts of Iraq’s second largest city, killing up to 40,000 civilians and forcing as many as one million more people from their homes, is now repeating itself in Raqqa. Now, the United States is focusing its energies – and warplanes – on the ISIL-occupied city of Raqqa in an offensive dubbed “Euphrates Rage Operation.”
ISIL’s brutal treatment of civilians in Syria has been well reported and publicized. And the Syrian government has every right to dislodge the terrorist group from its soil. But that does in no way give a ticket to the US to slaughter its innocent civilians as well. Reports and photographs from journalists as well as first-person accounts from those with family members living in areas under US bombardment, detail a strikingly different tale of the American offensive – one that looks a lot less like a battle against ISIL and a lot more like a war on civilians.
These human rights groups and local reporters say that, across Syria in recent months, the US-led coalition and US Marines have bombed or shelled many civilian objects: Primary schools and high schools; a health clinic and an obstetrics hospital; Raqqa’s Science College; residential neighborhoods; bakeries; post offices; at least 15 mosques; a cultural center; a gas station; cars carrying civilians to the hospital; a funeral; water tanks; at least 15 bridges; a makeshift refugee camp; the ancient Rafiqah Wall that dates back to the 8th century; and an Internet cafe, where a Syrian media activist was killed as he was trying to smuggle US war crime news out of the besieged city.
In a sense, the United States is one of the deadliest warring parties in Syria. In May and June combined, the US-led coalition killed more civilians than the terrorists, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization that has been monitoring the death toll and human rights violations since 2011. “The US is targeting and killing without taking into consideration the benefits for the military and the collateral damage for the civilians. This, of course, amounts to war crimes,” the group concludes.
Nowhere is this war against civilians more acute than in ISIL-occupied Raqqa, where trapped civilians are living under dozens of airstrikes every day. This particular city has become one of the most isolated cities in the world. The militants ban residents from having home Internet, satellite dishes, or WiFi hotspots. They arrest and kill local reporters and ban outside journalists.
Despite these restrictions, dozens of journalists and activists have risked and still risk their lives to smuggle information out of besieged Raqqa – and their efforts are the only reason global media outlets have any information about the war crimes the United States and its allies are committing there.
It’s because of this work that we know the Raqqa offensive by the US is not about liberating the terror-held city; it’s about a barrage of airstrikes and artillery shelling that are designed to hit schools, train stations, the immigration and passport building, mosques, and multiple residential neighborhoods. They are never designed to target the terrorist group, much less liberate the city in one piece.
Worse still, the US military forces are also using white phosphorous bombs. White phosphorus is capable of burning human flesh to the bone. When exposed to oxygen, the chemical ignites reaching a temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s so flammable that its burns can reignite days later if the bandages are removed too soon.
US military officials have not denied using white phosphorus in the city. The Pentagon regime has, in fact, published photos of US Marines deployed to the Raqqa region transporting US-manufactured white phosphorus munitions. Its spokesmen claim that the US military only uses this incendiary agent to mark targets for air strikes or to create smoke screens and therefore remains in accordance with international law. But Amnesty International warns: “The US-led coalition’s use of white phosphorus munitions on the outskirts of al-Raqqa, Syria, is unlawful and may amount to a war crime.” Amnesty similarly accused the US of committing war crimes during its campaign against ISIL in Mosul.
This madness has to stop – before many more civilians are killed in US airstrikes or burned to death by white phosphorous bombs. There are many causes of death for the long-suffering people of Raqqa. Last thing they want is white phosphorous bombs and indiscriminate airstrikes by the US or daily artillery shelling by Washington’s favorite terrorists.
In June alone, US warplanes and Marines fired or dropped approximately 4,400 munitions on Raqqa and its surrounding villages. According to the Human Rights Watch, these munitions are dropped by B-52 bombers and other warplanes, most taking off from the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, or the USS George H.W. Bush, an aircraft carrier stationed off Syria’s coast in the eastern Mediterranean.
Hundreds of US Marines, most from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are also positioned outside Raqqa and are firing high explosive artillery rounds into the city from M777 Howitzers. In late June, the Marines’ official Twitter feed boasted that they were conducting artillery fire in support of US-backed troops and terrorists 24 hours a day.
The result of this type of warfare is not that hard to predict: A staggering increase in civilian casualties – or more accurately, as many civilians in Syria and Iraq as were killed in the previous two and a half years of the Obama administration. In the book of International Law, this is not what they call fighting terrorism.