Do The Ends Justify the Means In Mosul?


Now in its sixth month, the US-backed offensive to drive ISIL out of Mosul has made significant progress and has been able to recapture most of the city with reports showing that the entire eastern side and about half of the west are now under Iraqi control. However, the progress made is now at risk of being delegitimized as sources within the US-led coalition have confirmed that air raids were carried out on ISIL positions in western Mosul where official and residents claim scores of civilians were killed. The acknowledgment yesterday came hours after the United Nations stated it was ‘stunned’ by the reports of civilian’s deaths in the March 17 air raids on the ISIL-held al-Jadida district. The US Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement on Saturday that “An initial review of strike data… indicates that the coalition struck (ISIL) fighters and equipment, March 17, in west Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian causalities.” The coalition further indicated that the strikes occurred “at the request of the Iraqi security forces” and an investigation to determine the validity and facts of the report was underway. While multiple casualty numbers are being reported by numerous sources, likely numbers appear to be around 130-200 civilians killed in the strikes.

The acknowledgment yesterday came hours after the United Nations stated it was ‘stunned’ by the reports of civilian’s deaths in the March 17 air raids on the ISIL-held al-Jadida district. The US Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement on Saturday that “An initial review of strike data… indicates that the coalition struck (ISIL) fighters and equipment, March 17, in west Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian causalities.” The coalition further indicated that the strikes occurred “at the request of the Iraqi security forces” and an investigation to determine the validity and facts of the report was underway. While multiple casualty numbers are being reported by numerous sources, likely numbers appear to be around 130-200 civilians killed in the strikes.

Salim al-Jabouri, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, stated that “What’s happening in the West part of Mosul is extremely serious and could not be tolerated under any circumstances” in reference to the increasing violence being directed towards civilians in Mosul. The United Nations has also expressed their concern regarding the situation by stating, “We are stunned by this terrible loss of life.” Mark, a former US Assistant Secretary for Political and Military Affairs shared similar sentiment regarding the involvement of civilians in the violence. He went on to state that the ultimate blame lies with ISIL, who “deliberately kept civilians in this area for this specific purpose” and “coalition forces are doing everything they can, along with Iraqi security forces to minimize civilian causalities.” Reports by Al-Jazeera confirm this claim that civilians are being ‘trapped’ in Mosul with “ISIL fighters using snipers on top of buildings… shooting randomly at any civilians, including children.”

In light of the recent incident and overall rise of civilian deaths, Iraqi government forces have temporarily paused their push to recapture Mosul. A Federal Police spokesman said on Saturday that “The recent high death toll among civilians inside Old City forced us to halt operations to review our plans.” However, it appears unlikely that the involvement of civilians in Mosul operations is over. As long as ISIL fighters continue to trap civilians and use them as human shields in order to repel the government and coalition forces, civilian causalities will continue to rise. It is often commonplace for individuals to question after a conflict whether or not the ends justified the means? Does peace and democracy, which is instilled in the nation outweigh the widespread destruction and death of combatants and non-combatants alike? Interestingly, it appears that Iraqi forces are now being asked that question. Does liberating their city from the evil that is ISIL justify the violence that will inevitably be required? Unfortunately, there is no ‘right’ answer, as whether the ends justify the means is entirely dependent upon ones proximity to those means and ends.

William Vickers

Will is currently in his final year of studying a double degree in International Relations (specialising in International Security) and Business at the ANU.

About William Vickers

Will is currently in his final year of studying a double degree in International Relations (specialising in International Security) and Business at the ANU.