It’s a well-known cliché that “War is Hell.” But even in Hell ethical choices are constantly being made.
Under most conditions, the top imperative is survival, survival of yourself and your family; survival of yourself and your troops.
At the next level is protection: protect your team and your allies, protect innocent civilians, protect property so you and surviving allies have something to rebuild from.
Even at the lower points of the scale, involving the treatment of your enemies, there are ethical imperatives: so as little damage as possible, kill as few civilians on the enemy side, kill only as many of the enemy soldiers as is necessary to subdue a force, induce a surrender, take over and secure enemy territory.
These are the rules of war.
But the reality of war, what makes war Hell, is that the choices are rarely clear, and frequently in conflict, and always subservient to Warfare’s First Commandment: win.
Winning the Battle for Mosul is crucial for so many reasons. By far the biggest city in Northern Iraq, and one of the 3 biggest cities in the country, Mosul is also by far the biggest, richest, most important city the Islamic State has ever held. Expelling IS (or ISIS or ISIL, or in Arabic, Daesh) is important for tactical and strategic and symbolic, military and political reasons. Mosul and the much smaller city of Raqqa, across the border in Syria are the last two capitals of consolidated power the Islamist radicals can claim.
That the forces of the Government of Iraq, its local and international allies would win the Battle for Mosul and expel the Islamic State has hardly ever been in doubt. What is still not known though are how long it will take, what the cost will be in military and civilians casualties and deaths on both sides, and what will be left of Mosul when the battle is over.
My good friend and former colleague Tony Cheng has just come home to Bangkok after covering the battle for Mosul for TK.
He and his team, producer Majd Holbi, shooter/editor Florian Witulski, were at the front lines of the fighting, and visited the refugee camps for those who fled the city and ruins of surrounding areas through which Iraqi forces had to fight to get into Mosul.
Tony Cheng is a respected veteran of global television reporting. Based in Bangkok, Thailand, Tony has reported for the BBC and Al Jazeera English, as well as CCTN, the Chinese Government’s English-language news service for whom he has recently been covering the front lines of the battle for Mosul in Iraq.
Video reports from Mosul: