Civilians, including children, are reported to have been killed in Iraq in separate airstrikes involving the Australian Defence Force.
As reported by the ABC:
The Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston, has detailed two incidents of civilian casualties in West Mosul which occurred this year involving Australian aircraft or personnel.
On March 30 a coalition aircraft from an unspecified country bombed a residential building in the ISIS-held city, killing or injuring seven civilians, including one believed to be a child.
The approval to strike involved an ADF member stationed nearby.
In June, RAAF hornets bombed another building in the war-ravaged city.
A child is believed to have been killed in the strike.
Amnesty International Australia criticised the delay in making the announcement about ADF’s involvement in civilian casualties in Iraq.
“It’s extremely disappointing it has taken the Australian government until now to release information about Australia’s involvement in civilian casualties, including the possible killing of a child,” said Amnesty’s Australian campaign coordinator, Diana Sayed.
Airwars, an NGO monitoring civilian casualties from airstrikes, has previously raised concerns about Australia’s lack of transparency in tracking civilian casualty incidents.
“In our view, there’s no real transparency from Australia here and there’s no real accountability either,” Chris Woods, director of Airwars, said.
The explanation provided by the ADF was expected and unsurprising. According to Vice Admiral Johnston, Australian “rules of engagement” had been followed.
Apparently thorough reviews have been conducted and some “extra training” introduced.
Also, IS combat tactics are to blame. “Daesh we know uses civilian homes and booby trapped buildings, and uses those homes as defensive fighting positions,” Vice Admiral Johnston said.
Explaining away civilian deaths by citing “rules of engagement”, introducing “extra training”, or blaming enemy combat tactics does not hide the fact that Western military intervention in the Muslim world has killed thousands of innocent civilians.
According to Airwars, 5500 civilians have died in coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
It is worth noting that this is not the first time that the ADF has been responsible for the death of civilians. Australian troops, previously, have also killed civilians including children on a number of occasions in Afghanistan. In one particular incident, the shooting of an Afghan boy by Australian troops was allegedly covered up and never reported up the chain of command.
Regarding the callousness with which Afghan lives have been taken, the ABC quotes a veteran of Afghanistan as saying:
Ultimately the behaviour of some elements of SOTG (Special Operations Task Group) led to the indiscriminate, reckless and avoidable deaths of innocent civilians, caused by an institutional shift in culture that contributed to the decay of moral and ethical values towards armed conflict,
I saw innocent people killed who didn’t need to die or deserve to die, in circumstances that were unwarranted and ultimately avoidable. This behaviour was in direct conflict with what I believed it meant to be a special forces soldier.
Also, the investigations usually carried out into these incidents are questionable. For example, an ADF investigation into a particular incident where Australian troops killed five Afghan children among other civilians has been criticised as “secretive”. The ADF never spoke to members of the family who survived the raid and also inconsistently described one of the civilians killed in the raid as, firstly, an “insurgent”, then a “suspected insurgent”, and later “an Afghan fighting male”.
These are merely those incidents that have somehow managed to come to light. It is quite terrifying to think how many such incidents have gone completely unreported and the horrors of which will never be known by the world.
Therefore, the problem with such incidents is not so much the lack of adherence to “rules of engagement”. The fundamental issue is Western military intervention in the Muslim world, which must be challenged and which must end in order to stop innocent lives being lost.