BROADCAST DATE : Oct 30, 2015

Canada in Iraq : The Hidden War

One of the largest decisions weighing on the shoulders of Canada’s new prime minister Justin Trudeau is what role, if any, should Canada play in the war against ISIS. How will Canadians know whether their efforts are having the intended results? Do we really know what our troops are doing in Iraq? Do we even know whether Coalition airstrikes are hitting intended targets? Deep behind ISIS lines, two brave people agreed to talk to the fifth estate about what life is really like under brutal occupation. One is Rami, a young man who tells us his story as he sees his town destroyed and its citizens terrorized -- fearing all the while that he will be found out and killed. The other, Leila, is a journalist who made a treacherous journey overland to meet our team in Erbil, Iraq.  She documents what she says is the little-known toll of civilian casualties from Coalition air strikes. Through their stories, a narrative emerges about fear of ISIS and of the bombs dropped from the sky.

  • Despite claims by Canada and coalition forces of a near-perfect bombing record that has rarely harmed or killed civilians in Iraq and Syria, our investigation has found nearly 50 credible allegations — involving as many as 600 possible deaths — that merit further review
  • The numbers are a sharp contrast to those provided by what's known as U.S. Central Command, which has publicly acknowledged only two civilian deaths and conducted only a handful of in-depth investigations
  • In Nov. 2013, the fifth estate obtained an internal Pentagon document that raised questions about the quality of the investigation conducted by coalition forces into an allegation that as many as 27 civilians were killed in Iraq by a Canadian airstrike

CANADA IN IRAQ: THE HIDDEN WAR
September 3, 2015

Despite claims by Canada and coalition forces of a near-perfect bombing record that has rarely harmed or killed civilians in Iraq and Syria, a fifth estate investigation has found nearly 50 credible allegations — involving as many as 600 possible deaths — that merit further review.

The numbers are a sharp contrast to those provided by what's known as U.S. Central Command, which has publicly acknowledged only two civilian deaths and conducted only a handful of in-depth investigations.

"I don't expect (the coalition) to be happy about investigations, but recognize it's part and parcel of armed conflict," says Chris Jenks, a retired U.S. military judge advocate who investigated allegations of civilian casualties during the first Iraq war.

"When you are essentially blowing things up, when you are breaking things and wounding and killing people, investigations are gonna be part and parcel of that equation … [the coalition]
should frankly want there to be investigations."

So far in the conflict in Iraq and Syria, Canada says it has conducted 181 airstrikes and dropped 469 bombs, but claims it has killed no civilians.

Human rights groups and independent observers, however, claim high estimates of civilian casualties.

Airwars, a London-based group of independent journalists documenting allegations of civilian casualties in this conflict, reviewed almost 250 allegations, determining more than 100 of them — involving as many as 1,000 possible deaths — to be credible.

An internal Pentagon document obtained by CBC's the fifth estate raises questions about the quality of the investigation conducted by coalition forces into an allegation that as many as 27 civilians were killed in Iraq by a Canadian airstrike.

The Department of National Defence acknowledged last week that an investigation looked into allegations that a Canadian airstrike had killed civilians in northwestern Iraq in January of this year. It was part of an important battle for a key highway near Mosul.

Airwars coordinated the release of the internal documents with the fifth estate, along with several other media outlets around the world. It was first obtained through an access to information request by the U.S. blog War Is Boring.

The document "details many incidents that I think many of America's allies in the coalition are going to be rather uncomfortable being in the public domain now," says Woods. "And that includes an incident involving Canadian aircraft."

As of September 3, 2015, the Canadian military has refused to identify the source of the allegations or provide details about the quality of the investigation, but the document appears to shed new light on both aspects.

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