Written by Anton Gitsov; Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
There is, and here is what it is. Although located in different countries – Iraq and Syria, both cities are key to ISIS, and the expulsion of jihadists from them will be an important turning point in the battle against the Islamic state. In Iraq, Mosul is surrounded by the Iraqi army and the Kurds, assisted by air from the United States. In Syria, Aleppo is surrounded by the Syrian army and supported by air from Russia. Because of the hostilities, the shelling by artillery and bombing from air, the population inevitably suffers and massive refugee wave is expected. In both cities many buildings are destroyed.
But there is a significant difference between Mosul and Aleppo. The US and EU, including Bulgaria, condemn Russia for its military actions in Aleppo, labeling them criminal, and are even speaking of sanctions against Russia. There is no similar condemnation of the air strikes in Mosul, in one of which American planes mistakenly bombed a funeral procession, killing 17 people, including women and children.
Let me clarify that against ISIS is fought a real war, and it is no different than any war in the past. In every war there is destruction and civilian casualties.
The question can be posed: Why is Russia not participating with powerful land forces to defeat the jihadists in Aleppo without bombing from which can suffer civilians? The answer is: because Russia helps the Syrian army but does not want to be involved in a land participation inside Syrian territory, and in anyway this is not requested by the Assad government. But the United States does the same. Washington has always preferred to crush opponents by air instead of during land operations. When in the spring of 1999, the United States launched a military operation to drive out Serbian troops from Kosovo, they did not send ground troops against the Milosevic goverment so as to not endanger their soldier. Moreover, without the approval of United Nations Security Council, they subjected to cruel bombing Serbia, destroying not only its economy and striking such civilian objects as hospitals in Belgrade and Nis (a total of 31 people were killed and injured in the Nis hospital), a sanatorium in Surdulica (20 sick, elderly and women were killed), a passenger train traveling from Belgrade to Athens on a bridge in Grdelica ravine, multiple bridges and power plants, and deliberately destroying the television tower in Belgrade (16 journalists and support staff were killed and more were severely injured). Back then, the government of Ivan Kostov facilitated the air operations against Serbia since he allowed NATO planes to pass over Bulgarian territory after they poured their deadly cargo, for a direct return to their bases for refueling and bombs. According to estimates by the Serbian authorities, in the bombing of Belgrade, Nis, Pirot and other Serbian cities around 2,500 people were killed, including 89 children, 12,500 people were inured and the material damage amounted to tens of billions of dollars.
The same thing happened in the massive bombing campaign codenamed “Shock and Awe” in Iraq, in the spring of 2003, when the United States were taking down Saddam Hussein. In both cases, the victims among the population were shyly called “collateral damage.” But if we put aside the deliberate destruction of buildings and factories, as in Serbia, during which were killed innocent people (were such actions not war crimes?), in a war with heavily armed opponents like the Islamic State, whether those who die by shelling and bombardments will be called “civilian casualties” or “collateral damage” such deaths are unfortunately a fact. Nobody can doubt that American and Russian pilots do not bomb hospitals, schools and residential buildings on purpose, but such civilian objects can not remain unaffected when close to them are bases, forts and camps of ISIS.
Since some of the most prominent opponents of the Russian operation in Aleppo are the US and Britain, it is appropriate to recall several episodes from their participation in a war, a little more than 70 years ago. During World War II, German planes bombed London and other English cities, and these are barbaric acts committed by a barbaric Nazi regime. But how do we define the targeted bombing by US and British aircraft against Berlin and other German cities, which caused the deaths of thousands of men, women and children? Between the 13th and 15th February 1945, months before the war ended when Hitler’s army was literally crushed, a total of 1,380 heavy bombers destroyed Dresden, literally razing it to the ground and killing between 22,000 and 25,000 people. Recall the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the United States deliberately resorted to them to avoid a ground war in Japanese territory. Bulgaria also has the bitter memory of this kind of air war against its cities and civilian population. After the mad decision of the Government of Bogdan Filov to participate in the Second World War on the side of Nazi Germany, for a little more than three years between 1941 and 1944, only in Sofia, the Anglo-American bombers destroyed or heavily damaged civilian objects such as Alexander’s hospital, the National Theatre, the National library, Sofia University, the Art Academy, the Synodal Palace, the Sofia Seminary, the Archaeological, the Ethnographic, and the Natural History museums, multiple schools and churches. Thousands of buildings were bombarded in many other Bulgarian cities, and the killed as a result of the bombing were over 4,000 people, with nearly 5,000 people injured. These are not “collateral damage” in strikes against military targets, but purposeful and deliberate destruction of civilian targets. Has anyone ever accused the US and Britain for their criminal military actions against civilians?
Unfortunately, the Bulgarian Prime Minister entirely inappropriately and unnecessarily, decided to join the general anti-Russian choir for possible sanctions. Bulgaria did not win anything from this, except a further erosion of relations with Russia. Boyko Borisov’s justification for being in favor of sanctions against Russia? The repression of “the values of humanity, human rights” and because “there is no justification to attack hospitals, schools and homes.” He’s almost suggesting that a goal of Russia is to destroy civilian objects, instead of the Islamic State base in Aleppo. And not a word about the American bombings in Mosul and the destruction of civilian targets there. What a manifestation of double standards indeed! But it is consistent with other actions of the Bulgarian Prime Minister toward Russia. Let’s recall the statement of Deputy Prime Minister Bachvarova, that when Borisov suspended the three big Russian-Bulgarian energy projects – gas pipeline, oil pipeline and a nuclear project, that was a “strong political action, which can not but be appreciated by our partners.” There is no doubt that this political action by Borisov will also be appreciated by “our partners”, even though it will aggravate our relations with Russia,which have never been at such a low point as during his rule.