On the front lines of the battle against the Islamic State, suspicion of the United States runs deep. Iraqi fighters say they have all seen the videos purportedly showing U.S. helicopters airdropping weapons to the militants, and many claim they have friends and relatives who have witnessed similar instances of collusion.
Ordinary people also have seen the videos, heard the stories and reached the same conclusion — one that might seem absurd to Americans but is widely believed among Iraqis — that the United States is supporting the Islamic State for a variety of pernicious reasons that have to do with asserting U.S. control over Iraq, the wider Middle East and, perhaps, its oil.
“We don’t believe the Americans support Daesh,” said Naseer Nouri, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “But it is true that most people are saying they do, and they are right to believe that the Americans should be doing much more than they are. It’s because America is so slow that most people believe they are supporting Daesh.”
The fighters there insist there have been no strikes by the Americans at all. “We’d be better off without them,” said 1st Lt. Murtada Fadl, who is serving with the Iraqi elite forces in Baiji. He said that the only air support had come from the Iraqi air force and that he wishes the government would ask the Russians to replace the Americans.
– From December’s post: Epic Foreign Policy Fail – Most Iraqis Think the U.S. Government Supports ISIS
That a majority of Iraqis believe the U.S. government is fighting on behalf of ISIS is a well established fact at this point. The following incident will merely add fuel to the fire.
From the Washington Post:
BAGHDAD – The Iraqi military said a U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit its forces on Friday, the first time it has reported a friendly fire incident since American jets began bombing Islamic State militants in the country last year.
The strike took place as the Iraqi army engaged in close combat with the militants in poor weather conditions south of the city of Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad, the Iraqi ministry of defense said in a statement. One solider was killed and nine were injured, it said.
However, soldiers said the death toll was higher. One officer injured in the strike, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said 25 soldiers were killed and 37 wounded. A military medic said he treated at least 20 injured soldiers.
In its statement, the Iraqi military said it requested air support from the U.S.-led coalition near the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah on Friday because the weather prevented Iraqi planes from providing assistance.
“The coalition launched two airstrikes which caused many casualties in the ranks of the enemy,” the statement said. Iraqi forces then moved forward rapidly, it said.
“The distance between our forces and the enemy was very close, meters,” the statement continued. “Our forces got mixed.”
During a third strike, “because they couldn’t distinguish from the air” between the forces on the ground, “there were some casualties among our forces, too,” it said.
So the Iraqi defense ministry is putting out the official story that it was just an unfortunate “fog of war” mistake; however, the message from soldiers on the ground paints a far different picture…
“At first we thought it was something fired by Daesh,” said one army solider, his uniform covered in blood from carrying the injured. Daesh is an Arabic term for the Islamic State. “The explosion was very big. We ran. I saw many dead bodies. I saw that one of my friends had lost a leg.”
However, in addition to the death toll, the injured officer also disputed the official version of events. “We were moving forward and Daesh were retreating, when suddenly the bombing took place on the forces that were behind us,” he said. “It was meant to be a secure area.”
The fact that senior officers were injured showed that it was not frontline troops that were hit, he said, adding that the weather conditions were not particularly bad.
The report will add fire to critics of U.S. military assistance in Iraq, where conspiracy theories that the United States is supporting Islamic State, rather than fighting against it, are widely held.
Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the Iraqi parliament’s defense and security committee, said that more than 20 soldiers were killed in the incident and 30 injured. Zamili, a Shiite militia commander, has repeatedly accused the United States of friendly fire incidents and dropping weapons to Islamic State militants in the past. He called for an investigation.
“The army is on the ground fighting Daesh and the Americans are bombing them,” said Ali al-Maliki, who was at the hospital visiting his injured 23-year-old brother. “Now people will believe that Daesh was made by the Americans, because when the Iraqi army was moving forward to take their territory, they bombed them.”
A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation, released a statement acknowledging the reports.
“We are aware of the reports and are trying to gather information now. As with all accusations of strike inaccuracy, we will initially do an assessment of the allegation to determine if it is credible,” the statement said. “If the allegation is credible, we will conduct an investigation into the incident. We are here to support our partners the Iraqi Security Forces and take great pains to avoid these types of incidents.”
Yes of course, an “investigation” will certainly reveal the truth. Much like the fairy tale told about the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan.