Photo: Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesSentiment in Washington may not reflect that the U.S. is at war, but two war correspondents described the astonishing extent and toll of recent U.S. military strikes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen on Intercepted, the weekly podcast by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill.
In Iraq, U.S. forces are helping Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers in their months-long battle to drive ISIS out of western Mosul. As many as 600,000 civilians are trapped there, amid widespread hunger and destruction, and more than 1,000 civilians were killed or injured last month in Iraq.
“There are American special forces on the ground but much more important than that is U.S. airpower, without which the Iraqi forces would not be able to get very far,” explained author and journalist Anand Gopal.
“And they’ve been hitting pretty much everything in sight and there’s been an extraordinary number of civilian casualties — just kind of gone through the roof in the last couple of months especially coming into Mosul.”
Gopal explained that the western half of the city, where the fighting is now, is the older part, with densely packed neighborhoods.
The “houses are really close together and so you can have a case where an ISIS sniper is on a house and the Americans are dropping bombs on the house and killing everybody inside including families that are cowering in the basement, people who are being shot on the street in sight. It’s a real humanitarian disaster that’s unfolding as we speak.”
The United States is also building up its own troop strength in Syria. “There the U.S. is allying with Kurdish forces — with the YPG — in the push towards Raqqa, and then if you look at the pattern of where the U.S. is deploying — where its airstrikes are hitting in Syria — what you see is the entire U.S. effort in Syria is to attack the enemies of [President] Bashar al-Assad,” Gopal said.
In Palmyra, for instance, U.S. warplanes in February carried out 45 strikes to help the Syrian government forces — the only forces on the ground — recapture the city from ISIS.
“You know, we tend to think that the U.S. is supporting regime change in Syria but on the ground it’s not the case,” Gopal said. “In fact, the U.S. has been avoiding doing anything to antagonize the Syrian regime and instead has been really focusing its fire on ISIS or on other enemies of the Assad regime.”