There are some consequences of the war to the “liberation” of Mosul that I was not familiar with. That is the existence of camps for refugees. One of the often forgotten results of war is the displacement of people. It is just not possible for people to live in a war torn country. As Ben Taub reported in the New Yorker, “The war against the Islamic State displaced a million people in Nineveh Province.” (emphasis added) And that is just one province of Iraq! It is difficult for us in the west to comprehend 1 million people not being able to live in their own homes. Imagine the distress this would cause.
Many of these people were placed in refugee camps, often near by in other parts of Iraq some distance from the worst fighting. Originally the main inhabitants were people displaced by ISIS. Later ISIS linked families were added to the list of the displaced as the U.S. led coalition forces claimed “victory.” Many were transported to the camps in 115°F weather in open trucks without shade or water. Taub reported how the head of a major Non-governmental organization described the camps as“like a concentration camp.”
Many of the security forces were reluctant to protect the camp residents. They are more interested in exacting revenge for violence inflicted on their loved ones. Life inside those camps was gruesomely bad:
In some camps, humanitarian workers offer aid in exchange for sex. Many women are pregnant from having been raped by the security forces or from having sex to feed themselves and their children. Although the fighting has ended, “these camps are meant to stay,” the N.G.O. director said. “If you are ten years old now, and you have no food, no assistance, and your mother has to prostitute herself to survive, and the whole of Iraqi society blames you because you were close to ISIS—in two, three, four years, what are you going to do? It’s clear. The seeds for the next conflict are all here.” (emphasis added)
Many commentators criticized President Obama for the chaos he left behind in Iraq, saying it generated ISIS. Now the American supported coalition forces are doing it again. As Taub said,
“At a police compound in West Mosul, I asked a colonel named Mezhar Sedoon whether he thought that the camps are creating more security problems than they are solving. “Some of the mothers in the camp are raising ISIS children, but others have become prostitutes,” he said. He laughed. “Money-money, fucky-fucky!” he said in English. “I’d rather they become whores than raise terrorists!”
Some women try to carry out abortions inside their tents. Others give birth, and discard the babies in unpopulated parts of the camp. Those who are found alive often end up in the care of Sukaina Mohammad Ali Younnis, an Iraqi government official who is in charge of women’s and children’s issues in Mosul. Over tea in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, she showed me hundreds of photographs of children she has found in camps, on the streets, and dead in trash cans. Earlier this year, she saw someone throw a bundle out of a car, and found that it was a baby boy. She showed me a video of herself cradling him in the back of an ambulance, as blood bubbled out of his nostrils. He died on the way to the hospital.
Outside the camps, thousands of other children have been abandoned or orphaned by the war. Many of them were born to Yazidi women who had been kidnapped by ISIS and forced into sexual slavery. “After ISIS, the Yazidis accepted the women back into the community, but not their half-ISIS babies,” Younnis said. “They force the women to turn over their children to the orphanage. Every day, these women call me, wanting to know how their children are doing.” (emphasis added)
Hundreds of very young children are living in Iraqi prisons because their parents have been sentenced to death. As Taub said,
“Iraqi children whom ISIS trained to become fighters and potential suicide bombers, are imprisoned, as if their lives were irredeemable. “They are useless in interrogations—they just cry,” the senior Iraqi intelligence official said. “We are holding children as young as twelve in cells with hard-core jihadi fighters.”… Thousands of children in Mosul live on the street, searching through the trash for scrap to sell. “After their parents were killed or imprisoned, their relatives refused to take them in,” Younnis said. “They are seen as tainted, even if they were too young to absorb the ideology.” Many of them hang out in traffic and at checkpoints, choking on dust and diesel, trying to wipe down windshields or sell water and tissues to passing motorists. “They will do anything for fifty dollars,” she said. “I go to many government officials, asking to find ways to help these kids, but they all say, ‘It’s not my area of responsibility.’ ” (emphasis added)
Thousands of children in Mosul live on the street, searching through the trash for scrap to sell.
So the American supported coalition forces have created a problem that will come back to haunt not just he Middle East, but likely, the world. All of this is just one more unintended consequence of war. Taub put it this way,
“The camps are a time bomb,” Younnis continued. “The fathers are in prison or dead. The mothers are being raped. They will raise the kids accordingly, and their sons will seek revenge. This won’t just affect Mosul, or Nineveh, or Iraq. This will affect the whole world.” (emphasis added)
At least the Pentagon is not saying “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. They have learned that the next generation of jihadists is being incubated. No matter what Trump says, ISIS is not destroyed. He did not start any of these wars, but he seriously misjudged, as did Obama, how difficult it is to end these crazy wars in the Middle East. That is one more reason not to start them in the first place. Already since its “defeat” ISIS has set up checkpoints and has carried out abductions and assassinations in parts of Iraq. It has been said that they have buried large quantities of weapons and even cash to be unearthed when the next jihad is declared. Taub concluded his article in the New Yorker this way:
” According to the Pentagon, ISIS is “more capable” now than Al Qaeda in Iraq was at its peak, in 2007, and there are still some thirty thousand fighters operating in Syria and Iraq. Citing the camps, Umm Hamad told me that she expects the Islamic State to return to Mosul. “Not soon, but more powerful than before,” she said.
The other woman was Umm Hamad’s niece. She was in her twenties, and spoke softly and wistfully of the past. “Everyone in my family welcomed the Islamic State, except my youngest brother,” she said. “He hated them.” Throughout the occupation, she and her other brothers had tried to convince him of the merits of the caliphate, to no avail. Then he was arrested by the Iraqi security forces, under suspicion of ISIS affiliation. He was twelve years old. She has no idea where he is, or when he will get out of prison—she knows only that, if the government doesn’t kill him, by the time it lets him go it will have taught him that she was right.”
I keep thinking about my American friend who wants to “take out Iran.” How easy will that be? What unintended consequences would such actions usher in? The United States has helped cause the death of thousands of people, helped displace millions of others, spent hundred of billions of dollars (if not trillions) in Iraq and the result has been the Middle East is filled with people who hate Americans and the next generation of jihadis has already been born to unleash their reign of terror on a new generation of innocents. This is not madness; it is much worse than that!