As Thought Front has discussed before, there can often be unintended consequences of strategic bombing. Facilities or infrastructure that may bolster the Islamic State may also provide vital services to ordinary civilians suffering under its hegemony. That includes bombing oil fields resulting in higher food and heating oil prices for civilians, and the loss of water infrastructure and power plants. In addition, a coalition bombing in Mosul resulted in the tragic destruction of a soda factory.
And now, Mosul suffered another loss: the coalition has bombed and leveled the area’s lone remaining pharmaceutical plant.
On Wednesday, the Islamic State media outfit Amaq News, which is nominally independent, released a propaganda video showing the grim destruction, entitled “Footage of the only medicine factory in Mosul after being destroyed by American warplanes.”
The video made for good fodder to foment anti-America sentiment: “The only medicine factory in #Mosul was bombed by the US/Saudi allied coalition. #WarCrime,” Tweeted one person who identifies himself online as Abū Dhul-Kar-Naŷn.
So did the Coalition, in an event tragically common during strategic bombing, cause severe harm to the people of Mosul unintentionally? Is there secretly a contempt for citizenry on their part and the bombing is all a ruse to cover up the real intent of killing off the populace?
Well, it turns out the Islamic State propaganda, in accordance with the truthiness common to such material, omitted a major chunk of the story.
Although the plant was used for making medicine, ISIS was now using it for chemical weapons, as reported by Mosul Eye on Facebook, and based on an automated translation:
(It bears noting that the reliability of Mosul Eye has been questioned at times, in particular over a report that ISIS issued a fatwa to exterminate children with Down’s Syndrome, and the outlet even acknowledged that their frequent inability to provide evidence is a shortcoming. However, I am inclined to believe this report.)
So in effect ISIS set up a situation to hurt civilians under its hegemony and/or create a situation ripe for propaganda.
Such a strategy is hardly new, even to Islamic State. In the opinion of Mohammed Saleh, the nomme de plume of the cofounder of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, ISIS has deliberately embedded its operations among civilians in its capital to create a human shield:
There are 500,000 civilians living inside the city of Raqqa—it’s a large number of civilians.
There are a lot of people who are saying then let them go outside of the city. They can’t because ISIS is blocking the city. They don’t want anybody from the civilians to leave the city because they are using the civilians like a human shield.
And the strategy is hardly unique to Islamic State. Hamas has used the strategy of firing rockets from civilian areas, including schools and hospitals, and using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
Initially it was unclear if the coalition actually bombed the plant; a press release this week from the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve stated only that “three strikes destroyed three ISIL headquarters buildings” in Mosul.
However, Thought Front received exclusive confirmation from a spokesperson for CJTF OIR, who used the derisive name of “Da’esh” for Islamic State:
Yes, the strike conducted on September 12, 2016, included an attack on a complex, which Da’esh converted into a chemical weapons productions facility. This location was targeted based on credible intelligence showing that Da’esh has used this facility in the past to attempt to create chemical weapons and to stage foreign fighters and equipment. The destruction of facilities like these greatly reduce Da’esh’s ability to produce weapons that indiscriminately harm the people of Iraq.
I pointed this out on Twitter to Dhul-Kar-Naŷn, who to my pleasant surprise clicked “Like.”
Copyright notice: image of plant destruction is intellectual property of Amaq News. If there is objection to its use they may contact Thought Front.