Here in South Eastern Turkey I have been watching a great deal of news coverage, on a satellite system showing news channels of many regional countries, of the major massacre of Sunni Muslims in Mosul which is taking place as you read this. The video of a couple of people being thrown off a cliff is something I wish I had not watched; it is on the Independent website here. Human Rights Watch have confirmed the location in Mosul. This video had become so viral on social media that some Western mainstream media felt obliged to note its existence. But I have been watching, on other national channels, TV images still more disturbing. These include images of mass shootings. Most chilling of all have been much less graphically violent pictures, of shambling columns of men –and boys – being marched off. It is fairly plain that these are residents of Mosul rather than ISIL fighters. The images reminded me forcefully of Srebrenica.
Whether the number killed in cold blood will exceed the horror of Srebrenica only time will tell. It is currently too hard, without being there, to discern the truth from the propaganda on all sides. But there is one way in which, morally, this is a much worse outrage for any British citizen than Srebrenica. The Shia troops carrying out the massacre only were able to conquer the Sunni city of Mosul because the British and Americans had not only armed and financed them, but British and American forces were actively fighting alongside them. It is not possible to shrug off the moral responsibility for the massacre we have actively launched.
In Srebrenica the cowardice and bureaucratic blinkers of a group of Dutch officers were shameful. But Mosul is the equivalent of the Dutch having fought alongside the attackers then pretended not to notice anything at all was happening.
There is also another great difference in western culpability. In the Balkan Wars the Serbs were the “enemy” of the West – NATO even bombed them – so justified mainstream media outrage was screamed at us. In Mosul, those perpetrating the massacre are on “our side”, so you will never hear much of it. The deliberate conflation of Sunni tribesmen defending their homes against their traditional enemy, with the separate forces of ISIS, aids this lie.
The greater irony is of course that in Syria the UK and US forces are operating on the opposite side of the same conflict. There the Sunni jihadists, with precisely the same ideology and the same financing as ISIL and before Mosul was cut off sometimes the same physical people, are our allies. There is no distinction of the remotest importance in beliefs, funding or operational methods between the jihadists who were controlling Mosul and those who were controlling Eastern Aleppo.
Yet, despite the glaringly obvious intellectual paucity of the position, the devastation of Mosul by western backed forces was described as a “liberation”, whereas the precisely analogous devastation of Eastern Aleppo by Syrian government forces was described as a… “devastation”.
Still more astonishing, the Western media in co-ordinated fashion played up fears of a massacre in Eastern Aleppo, whereas in fact no massacre took place. In the event, so concerned were the Syrian government (of which I do not generally approve) to refute allegations of intended massacre, they allowed many of the actual jihadists to bus out to Raqqa, where they are fighting again today.
Whereas whilst an actual massacre does take place in Mosul, the Western mainstream media has fallen almost completely silent.
The other interesting silence is from Saudi Arabia, which poses as the defender of Sunni Islam throughout the world, but actually has no interest at all in it, except as a tool for promoting the much more worldly interests of the Saudi elite. It was Saudi fury at the US effectively handing Iraq to Iranian control through its majority Shia population, that caused the USA to change policy to back the Saudi inspired and financed Sunni proxy war throughout the rest of the Arabian peninsula, and especially in Syria. The USA turned a blind eye to the Saudi military invasion of Bahrain to crush its majority Shia uprising, and actively facilitated the devastating aerial attacks on Shia civilian populations in the Yemen. The Saudis have found their grievance over Iraq to be useful leverage on the US.
For the Saudi elite, the money they pumped into ISIS in Iraq was a trifle; Mosul ISIL were pawns to be sacrificed and the Sunni civilian population of Mosul is no more important to them. By the combination of funding the spread of Wahhabi ideology and providing unlimited arms and organisational financing, the Saudis can pop up another Al Qaida, Al Nusra or ISIL more or less anywhere, any time it seems useful. Meantime they are focused on cementing their burgeoning axis of Saudi Arabia/Israel/USA to continue the violent promotion of Saudi regional ambition.