Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rare NYT Story on Mosul Siege Highlights Weakness of U.S. Propaganda

Aleppo and the alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election are the stories that have dominated the front page the last week. Now coverage will shift to the tractor trailer massacre at the Berlin Christmas market -- which Merkel, after a bit of delay, has proclaimed an act of terrorism -- and the assassination in Ankara of the Russian ambassador.

There are still plenty of hyperventilating stories inside the paper about the devastation of Aleppo. What's remarkable is how little reporting of any kind is devoted to the massive U.S.-led operation to the east in Mosul. A reader of The New York Times could be forgiven if she thought a ceasefire was in effect there because nothing is said about the huge military operation.

Yesterday was an exception though. A substantial story appeared, penned by Tim Arango, Eric Schmitt and Rukmini Callimachi, "Hungry, Thirsty and Bloodied in Battle to Retake Mosul From ISIS," part of the purpose of which was to explain why the U.S.-led siege of Mosul is different from the Russian-led siege of Aleppo.

Something to keep in mind: Whenever Eric Schmitt appears in the byline, know that your are getting official USG propaganda. Tim Arango is one of the better reporters on the Gray Lady's staff, and Rukmini Callimachi has written stories basically calling out the Gulf monarchies for funding and maintaining the Islamic State. But with Schmitt on the byline Arango and Callimachi are being minded by a government handler.

Another aside: Each morning I usually take a peek at Foreign Policy's Situation Report by Paul McCleary and Adam Rawnsley. It is a daily roundup of foreign policy news that sticks closely to the Deep State's point of view, i.e., it is thoroughly Russophobic.

Neither yesterday nor today is there a peep about "Hungry, Thirsty and Bloodied in Battle to Retake Mosul From ISIS," which is unusual because most significant NYT reports get a nod from McLeary and Rawnsley.

I mention this because clearly the Pentagon, Langley and Foggy Bottom prefer dynamic silence to prevail when it comes to the siege of Mosul.


Read the opening of Arango et al.'s piece:
ISTANBUL — After two months, the battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State has settled into a grinding war of attrition. The front lines have barely budged in weeks. Casualties of Iraqi security forces are so high that American commanders heading the United States-led air campaign worry that they are unsustainable. Civilians are being killed or injured by Islamic State snipers and growing numbers of suicide bombers.
As the world watches the horrors unfolding in Aleppo, Syria, where government forces and allied militias bombed civilians and carried out summary executions as they retook the last rebel-held areas, a different tragedy is transpiring in Mosul. Up to one million people are trapped inside the city, running low on food and drinking water and facing the worsening cruelty of Islamic State fighters.
ISIS members have become like mad dogs, and every member has the power of immediate execution,” Abu Noor said by telephone from his home on the west side of Mosul, which government forces had not reached, referring to the terror group by one of its acronyms. “We live in constant fear and worry.”
There has been a blackout of Mosul news because beleaguered propagandists of the prestige press, such as Eric Schmitt, are being tasked with an impossible squaring the circle -- justifying one siege as a reasonable, proportionate use of force (Mosul) and another (Aleppo) as bloodthirsty genocide.

It is a high hurdle. We are being asked to believe that the jihadis of Mosul behave more cruelly than the jihadis of Aleppo; that somehow only the ISIS jihadis take hostages and use human shields, while the jihadis of Al Qaeda usher civilians out of harms way.

Two more points. There is a explanation towards the end of the story about why there has been a Mosul news blackout:
When the battle started, in mid-October, it moved fairly quickly as forces took outlying areas that had mostly been empty of civilians.
Journalists were given wide access to the front lines. But recently, getting the news out of Mosul has become more difficult; commanders are prohibiting most front-line embeds.
The tightening of access, apparently, was not an effort to control the narrative [!], but a reaction to the recent appearance in Mosul of Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French philosopher and writer, who is producing a documentary film about the battle. Why was that controversial? Because Mr. Levy is Jewish. 
His appearance stirred outrage in Iraq, and the authorities in Baghdad moved to shut down access for all journalists.
“The rumor spread that we were having relations with Israel,” said Lt. Gen. Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a special forces commander in Mosul, who said he had no idea who Mr. Levy was when he arrived. “In fact, we had no idea who this was that came to see us.” 
He said access for journalists would be restored soon. “We will solve this problem,” he said.
So the news blackout is due to Iraqi anti-Semitism. Got that?

Finally, what about those skyrocketing civilian casualties? Here the article slams up against the limits of credulity.
Civilian casualties are soaring, even though the government, at the outset of the battle, dropped millions of leaflets over the city with instructions to stay inside their homes. Most civilians have, but those who have fled — there are some 90,000 people displaced from their homes around the city — have faced harrowing journeys, and many have been killed or maimed by crossfire.
That so many civilians have remained has hampered the fight, as Iraqi soldiers move slowly in an effort to protect them. It has also led to limited use of air power and artillery.
“Essentially, they are trying a different operational approach,” said Carl Castellano, a senior analyst at Talos, a consulting firm that focuses on security in Iraq. “They don’t have the capability to evacuate all these civilians, and so that’s limiting the amount of firepower they can use in the city. That is limiting their options in terms of what they can do — close air support and everything else.”
American air commanders have quickly sought to modify some of their bombing runs to counter shifting tactics by the Islamic State, cratering streets in Mosul with bombs to stymie car-bombers or at least slow them down, and stepping up attacks on car bomb factories in and around Mosul. Allied warplanes have destroyed nearly 140 car bombs or car-bomb factories since the Mosul offensive began, American officials said.
In the second week of December, nearly 700 civilians were wounded, from gunshots, mines and rocket fire, according to the United Nations, a 30 percent increase from the previous week.
The story does not mention that the planners of the siege originally called on the residents of Mosul to stay and fight. Residents stayed, but there was no mass rebellion.

The story would have us believe that U.S. air power is only being used to hit ISIS car-bomb factories. Bullshit. Air power is and will be used just as it is in Aleppo. To win. And much of Mosul will be destroyed, like the eastern half of Aleppo. The major difference is the propaganda.

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