Five-hundred fifty-eight days after targeting an ostensive headquarters of the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, the United States finally admitted to bombing a family home and killing a university professor and three family members, wounding at least two more — even though the coalition suspected mere hours after the attack the ill-begotten mission had snuffed out the lives of an innocent family.
Overnight from September 20 through 21, the U.S.-led coalition carried out an airstrike against a family home — putatively believed to be a strategic Islamic State target — killing four members of the Rezzo family and wounding others on scene.
Airwars reports, “University professor Mohannad Rezzo; his 17-year old son Najib Mohannad Rezzo; his brother Bassim’s wife Miyada Rezzo and their 21-year old daughter Tuka Rezzo” perished together, as bombs intended for Islamic State leaders instead heedlessly destroyed a family.
But, unironically, it took until April Fool’s Day 2017 for U.S. officials to concede the coalition’s heinous error.
“This report was opened and a credibility assessment completed in 2015. However, the report was never officially closed or reported publicly. I do not know why that was,” Colonel Joe Scrocca, Director of Public Affairs for the Coalition, told Airwars. “The case was brought to our attention by the media and we discovered the oversight, relooked [at] the case based on the information provided by the journalist and family, which confirmed the 2015 assessment, and officially closed the report in February.”
Asked by Airwars how the coalition managed to mistake a family home for the headquarters of one of the most insidious, barbarous, terrorist organizations in operation, an unidentified spokesman spartanly stated,
“ISIS uses many different types of structures to plan its terrorist activities. Many of which are residential homes taken from the people of Iraq and Syria.”
While indeed welcome news, for the Rezzos and their loved ones the tepid acknowledgement of wrongdoing dismisses over a year and a half demanding their deceased family members not be posthumously falsely described as fighters, militants, or anything other than the innocent, extremist-condemning people they were.
“For eighteen months, we have been fighting for this admission of a mistake, for our loved ones to be counted as civilians,” Professor Zareena Grewal told Airwars from New York. “It is a small relief to have the US government concede that this airstrike was a mistake, that they mistakenly targeted the residential homes of a family that opposed ISIS. It is also deeply frightening because this case is an indictment of the quality of US intelligence.”
Grewal, an associate professor of American and religious studies at Yale University and the author of “Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority” and “Is the Quran a Good Book?” excoriated the imprecision with which the coalition murdered members of his family in an editorial for the New York Times on October 4, 2015 — just days after the tragedy.
“The American-led air campaign did not hit a weapons storage facility belonging to the Islamic State, or ISIS, as one local report claimed,” Grewal asserted. “In a secluded part of Mosul that locals call ‘the Woods,’ the empty government warehouse, which the Islamic State briefly occupied until January, remains untouched. Instead, the strike hit two homes nearby, killing my husband’s cousin, Mohannad Rezzo, a university professor; his 17-year-old son, Najeeb; and their beloved German shepherd, Sinbul.
“Mohannad’s wife, Sana, survived the explosion, which flung her, burned, from her second-floor bedroom to the driveway below. Mohannad’s older brother, Bassim, also narrowly survived, but his wife, Miyada, and their 21-year-old daughter, Tuka, did not. Bassim’s pelvis and leg were shattered in the attack and require surgery, but it is his emotional pain that consumes him.”
Grewal’s candid description of the hopelessly ill-conceived airstrike provide intimate, insider context for civilian casualties resulting from U.S.-supported actions — the physical actuality of which too frequently is dismissed in the sterile headlines and paragraph-long articles by the American corporate press.
Major Genieve David, spokeswoman for the United States Air Force Central Command, confirmed to Grewal at the time that officials were made aware of a “civilian casualty allegation” the day following the ill-fated airstrike. CENTCOM planned to assess whether a “formal investigation” would be warranted — but, apparently, left Grewal and surviving family members in the lurch without acknowledging the avoidable error, much less offering apology, for more than 18 months.
“Today’s official recognition of this airstrike having killed civilians has been a long time coming, and should have been made public previously,” stated Azmat Khan in an email to Airwars. “It is also a searing reminder of the immense difficulty families face in getting the loss of their loved ones recognized, even in cases in which there is ample evidence of civilian loss.”
Khan and fellow investigative journalist, Anand Gopal, worked doggedly for more than a year with various members of the victims’ family to compel the United States to take responsibility and clear the Rezzo family name.
“There is still information that the Coalition has refused to provide us,” Khan continued, “for example, the kind of aircraft and munitions used in this airstrike, as well as the reason why the Rezzo family homes were hit. We are also still awaiting the results of our Freedom of Information Act requests for the government’s own investigations into this incident.”
Wholly uninvolved parties have been slain in shockingly high numbers in airstrikes carried out by the U.S. coalition in Iraq and Syria — two military theaters, among others, which have received the staunch support of the Trump administration in the form of additional troops, supplies, and, frighteningly, greater latitude for aggressive actions.
To wit, the U.S. Military’s Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve claims a striking 229 people were killed essentially without justification in Iraq and Syria last month, during coalition efforts to extinguish Da’esh (Islamic State) control in the region.
However, being a notorious underreporter of its own wrongdoing, those figures don’t approach the actual travesty committed, in part, thanks to American taxpayer dollars.
Airwars determined that, as of the 30th, coalition airstrikes against supposed terrorists had instead slaughtered no less than 1,472 noncombatant civilians residing in the two long-fraught conflict zones during the month of March, alone — more than seven and a half times the 196 innocents killed throughout the same month last year.
“This is worse than anything we have ever seen from the coalition, and it’s up there with the levels of allegations we saw against Russia a year ago,” observed Airwars’ Chris Woods. “Something is shifting — a lot more civilians are dying, and it’s happening on Donald Trump’s watch.”
Indeed, it seems the new administration only amplified the beating of war drums so favored by the previous — leaving even more families like the Rezzos to grieve when directly affected by a battle royal against the Islamic State many of them have at least loosely supported.
While the U.S. coalition ultimately admitted wrongdoing in the killing of a family, the uptick in bombings and the butchery of civilians continues at an untenably reckless pace — thanks, in part, to lack of public backlash. Beyond the corporate press relegating the murders of civilians in the Middle East to mere footnotes, pro-U.S. Military propaganda claims airstrikes almost always hit intended targets.
Grewal, however, has experienced the reality — and wishes the tragic number of errant bombings and scores of civilian victims would garner appropriate scrutiny and condemnation, as he stressed,
“The claim that our military air strike campaigns are precise is a dangerous and bloody myth.”
It has now been over 14 years since United States forces invaded Iraq — and the conflict shows no indication a resolution is even in sight.