Recently, American doctor and ex-Marine Pete Reed was killed near the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine. Since his death, Reed has been lionized as a selfless hero who lived a life of service. Ukrainian sources are quick to condemn his death as a horrible atrocity and Russian war crime.
Reed was a doctor working for his charity, Global Response Medicine, which he founded in 2017 to build “something good from the destruction of Mosul,” apparently without much thought to just who destroyed the city as he has worked in close collaboration with U.S. forces ever since.
The reaction to Reed’s life and death is illuminating. The political class and their thralls in the media are content to ignore American interventions overseas, and their rationalization of them, as they condemn Russia and accuse its soldiers of genocide. Through the life and death of Pete Reed, we can see how readily this system has conjured up atrocities from its enemies to justify its own wars and its own atrocities. The “human rights” that America so frequently accuses its enemies of violating are little more than a cudgel that this government wields against its enemies.
A Tale of Two Cities
On February 2, 2023, a Russian gunner watched a column of vehicles drive through the streets of Bakhmut, the site of what could be the most ferocious fighting of the Russo-Ukrainian war. The column consisted of a Land Rover of the same type Ukrainian forces routinely use for military purposes and several unmarked civilian vans. Severe shortages of military vehicles mean that “civilian” vehicles are pressed into service by the Ukrainian military in large numbers, often without even bothering to repaint them.
The practice is so common and accepted among Ukrainian forces that the far-right German tabloid Bild interviewed Ukrainian Army soldiers using civilian DHL delivery vans to transport mortars. The soldiers proudly posed for photographs and happily chatted with the reporter, either not knowing or simply not caring that they were documenting a war crime.
“1. It is prohibited to kill, injure or capture an adversary by resort to perfidy. Acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray that confidence, shall constitute perfidy. The following acts are examples of perfidy:
(a) the feigning of an intent to negotiate under a flag of truce or of a surrender;
(b) the feigning of an incapacitation by wounds or sickness;
(c) the feigning of civilian, non-combatant status; and…” —Article 37 of Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention
The most charitable interpretation is that this is simply due to the time and material constraints of a war. However, it seems unlikely that an army that has received more than $100 billion in aid from the U.S. alone and has NATO’s finest specialists at its beck and call is somehow incapable of painting or putting stickers on its vehicles. Even Russian forces, whom we are constantly told are subhuman “orcs” by the media, still manage to mark their vehicles with large and distinctive Z, V and O insignia to avoid misidentification, even if they must use spray paint to do it. What, then, is stopping the Ukrainian Army from doing something similar?
This leaves the more cynical interpretation, which is that this is an intentional strategy of perfidy from the Ukrainian Army, relying on the protection afforded to civilian vehicles under international law to carry out military operations without hindrance from Russian fire support. This muddies the water and places genuine civilians in grave danger, but it is no surprise that a country that has been shelling its own citizens in Donbas almost non-stop for nine years is willing to sacrifice civilians.
Their reasoning for this tactic is simple: It provides phenomenal propaganda for Ukrainian forces. Every time one of their “civilian” vehicles is destroyed, a helpful legion of photographers will descend on the burned-out and bullet-riddled wreckage, eager to document it as evidence of Russian brutality. Of course, the infantrymen the vehicle once carried are either burned away or already buried, leaving the world none the wiser. It is one of the most bitter ironies of this war that the Ukrainian Army relies on Russian hesitation to massacre civilians for protection while simultaneously screaming about Putin’s “genocide” to the media, a charge for which UN investigators have found no evidence.
Despite what Ukrainian propagandists would have us believe, the circumstances surrounding Reed’s death are not at all clear.
Only one of the vehicles in the convoy had any markings at all, and this vehicle and its occupants were not attacked. The survivors were evacuated in this vehicle, no doubt still under the eye of the Russian gunner, who let them go. According to Emanuele Satolli, a Wall Street Journal photographer riding with the convoy, they traveled with armed security (in a war zone, this would invariably be either the Ukrainian Army or intelligence, either of them a valid target in war) and wore military uniforms. Medics often travel with infantry, but this does not mean the infantry is protected by their presence. Only those units specifically marked are given any protection under international law.
From a concealed position more than four kilometers (roughly 2.5 miles) away, it would have been impossible for the Russian gunner to pick up fine details when watching from the thermal sight of a Kornet anti-tank missile system. It was a long shot, near the maximum range of the missile, and as the system is designed to engage targets the size of tanks, the sights are not heavily magnified.
From the perspective of the Kornet gunner, the convoy would have been little more than the outlines of vehicles in widespread army use, which stopped in a position near two destroyed military vehicles and where there had been fighting recently enough to require a medevac. It would be impossible to determine if the armed men in military uniforms who emerged from the convoy of unmarked vehicles were medics or enemy infantry, and from the perspective of the gunner, the distinction would have been largely irrelevant.
The U.S. Marines Reed fought alongside in Afghanistan called people like this “military-age males,” a euphemism that invariably marked them for death in the thousands of incidents like this during America’s illegal and unjustified war. Almost 20 years later, Pete now stood on the other side of the gun and suffered the same fate as so many “military-age males” before him. Based on whatever it was he saw, the gunner either decided or received permission to fire, and 20 seconds later the Kornet missile hit home and destroyed the unmarked van closest to Reed.
Reed was killed instantly by the blast, but his comrades, two Norwegians named Simon Johnsen and Sander Sørsveen Trelvik survived, despite being thrown into the air by the force of the explosion. The entire incident was filmed by Estonian medic Erko Laidinen who was riding in the passenger seat of the Land Rover. From his footage, we can see very clearly that none of the men was wearing a medical armband or any other visible insignia, in direct contravention of international law. Perhaps if they had, they would still be alive today.
“Personnel exclusively engaged in the performance of medical duties in connection with
the sick or wounded in medical units or establishments shall wear, affixed to the left arm, a water-resistant brassard/arm band bearing the distinctive emblem (the red cross on a white background) prescribed by the Geneva Conventions.” —US Army Field Manual 8-10-15
While this can perhaps be explained given the age and inexperience of some of the medics, Pete Reed would have known better. Reed was not only a former Marine infantryman who no doubt encountered similar situations during his deployment to Afghanistan, but also an experienced field medic and the owner of an international charity that had been previously deployed to war zones in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.
It is utterly inconceivable that Pete Reed would not have known the relevant international laws front to back and yet he still saw fit to travel with armed, uniformed men in an unmarked vehicle through an active war zone. This raises uncomfortable questions regarding the nature of Reed’s work, the character of the team he worked with, and the integrity of the media covering him. These questions are only made worse by Laidinen’s refusal to release the whole unedited video rather than just the small portion we have seen. Given as even these carefully selected clips already leave significant doubt about the official story, we must ask what is on the full video that Laidinen does not want us to see. If these men were on a genuine humanitarian mission, why are they hiding so much?
Only a short time after Reed’s death in Bakhmut, a Ukrainian drone operator watched as a van rushed through the streets of the Russian city of Donetsk after the Ukrainian Army shelled it once again. The district under fire was miles from the front lines and had no military value, but the residents of Donetsk are used to being treated like the enemy by the Kyiv regime. The shelling is a sadly routine act of terrorism against the civilian population that the Kyiv regime still considers its citizens in a city that it still considers its territory. In the nine years since the Maidan coup, these deadly and largely indiscriminate attacks are an almost daily occurrence.
The drone was a new touch. Armed with only a grenade, these minuscule bombers already prowl nearly every inch of the front lines, hunting for unsuspecting soldiers and providing countless hours of video footage of their death for the propaganda mill. This is the first time we have seen evidence of these killing machines operating inside Donetsk but not the first time that Ukrainian forces have filmed themselves carrying out the same “double tap” strikes that the Russians are accused of doing to Pete Reed.
Watching through the drone’s high-definition camera from a position above the city, the operator could see everything. Even in the compressed video that was posted online, we have a clear view of what happened.
A group of unarmed men in camouflage get out of their van and rush into a nearby building. Shortly thereafter, they emerge helping a wounded civilian woman into the waiting ambulance. She can walk only with the assistance of the two soldiers, who support her as she slowly descends a small staircase. It was only then that the Ukrainian drone operator either made the decision or got the order to fire and released his payload. The grenade hit the staircase and exploded. One of the soldiers was knocked down while the other was miraculously still standing and supporting the injured civilian.
The upright soldier reacted quickly, perhaps accustomed to this sort of attack. He shoves the civilian into the passenger seat of the van, which drives off as he flees back inside the building. His stricken comrade crawls up the stairs for a while before the other soldier, now assisted by civilians rushing to the scene, turns back to help. The proximity of civilians in the streets is a clear indication that this was a residential area of the city. No military vehicles or armed personnel are seen anywhere in the video.
It is unclear what happened to the victims of this attack because there is almost complete silence from the media. The same journalists who pen tearful eulogies for Pete Reed and swarm to the scene of every tragedy in Ukrainian territory, real or imagined, suddenly fall silent when the victims are Russian-speaking “orcs” from the Donbas. Even the imaginary Ukrainian victims receive far more press coverage than real Russian ones.
However, these crimes, and the complete lack of any reaction to them, should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention over the last few decades. We can use Pete Reed’s history as a lens through which we see that this is simply business as usual for the “rules-based international order.”
The Global War of Terror
“Hotel Two-Six; Crazy Horse One-Eight. Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards. Nice. Crazy Horse One-Eight. Nice. Good shoot. Thank you.” —Apache helicopter pilot from the 1st Cavalry regiment after killing two journalists and ten civilians on July 12, 2007
Regardless of what happened to Pete Reed in Bakhmut or the unnamed Russians in Donetsk, it is unlikely that anyone involved will ever be so much as investigated, let alone prosecuted, for their deaths. The simple fact is that the laws of war are at best a thin façade that evaporates on contact with the enemy and at worst nothing more than a comforting fantasy. While they were well-intentioned, these laws are toothless, contradictory and intentionally full of loopholes and exceptions to allow the guilty party to escape any consequences.
We see no clearer demonstration of this than from Pete’s previous engagements as part of America’s disastrous, illegal and utterly unjustifiable interventions in the Middle East. As part of the so-called Global War on Terror, the United States and its allies invaded, massacred and terrorized millions in the region with almost no repercussions.
The invasions were followed with endless proxy wars which America and its NATO allies have orchestrated in countries such as Syria and Libya. Estimates of the dead in Syria alone range from 320,000 to 500,000, and the decade-long war has displaced millions more, causing a worldwide refugee crisis. As the Syrian people were forced to flee their homes, American bandits moved in to seize Syrian oil production, robbing the country and its people to help satisfy America’s insatiable thirst for oil.
The “civilized” NATO countries which use their alleged tolerance and solidarity as a rhetorical weapon against Russia have responded to millions of innocent people fleeing the devastation the alliance has wrought on their countries in much the same way as their grandfathers did in the 1940s. Refugees face widespread exploitation, sexual assault and violence; they are often shot and killed by border patrols or drown in makeshift boats crossing the sea. Those who survive are put in concentration camps in the poorer border states where conditions are so dire that suicide is rampant. Countries like Denmark rob Middle Eastern refugees and then deport them to a certain death in their shattered homelands, all while opening their arms to Ukrainian refugees. These race-based laws have been compared to those of Nazi Germany, once again showing us the true face of the “rules-based international order.”
The United States and NATO have provided weapons, training and even fire support to a multitude of terrorist groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda, through the CIA’s “Timber Sycamore” program. Many of these weapons found their way to the black market, where they were re-sold to ISIS or simply stolen by Jordanian and Saudi Arabian intelligence. Joe Biden was one of the primary supporters of this program; he personally made visits to the arms bazaars of Jordan to ensure America was getting its money’s worth. We will never know just how much death and destruction these seeds will sow throughout the world.
Libya was a stable country with a standard of living on par with the Baltics before NATO’s intervention. Now, after the Obama regime’s Wahhabi thugs “liberated” the nation in 2011, open-air slave markets work in the streets of Tripoli.
The “moderate rebels” have even absconded with Libya’s stocks of uranium, leading to concerns of nuclear proliferation. Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State at the time, responded to the immiseration, murder and enslavement of the nation and its people with laughter, quipping “We came. We saw. He [Qaddafi] died.”
The people responsible for these crimes have, with very few exceptions, walked away scot-free and are now undergoing the process of rehabilitation among the press and political class, most of whom are looking to whitewash their complicity in these same crimes. Many of them have now moved on to Ukraine, emboldened by a complete lack of consequence for their murderous misadventures.
Pete Reed first comes into the picture in Afghanistan. As an infantry squad leader for 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, Reed mostly fought in the Helmand Province, which was the nexus for America’s violent subjugation of the country. Helmand saw some of the fiercest fighting in the war, as U.S. forces responded to mine and IED attacks with wildly disproportionate responses, often destroying entire villages with air strikes on long-abandoned Taliban positions. The province was also home to many of the CIA’s detention centers, where the victims of NATO’s war were sent to be tortured.
In most cases, these people were held without trial or charge and thousands of them remained in the CIA’s “black sites” for years or decades. Constant “Zero raids” carried out by the CIA and Special Forces ensured a fresh supply of new prisoners. Teams of Special Forces would descend from their helicopters on Afghan homes night after night, capturing any “military age males” they found and simply murdering those who resisted.
It was not uncommon for entire families to be shot as they slept, and to date no one has ever been charged for either ordering or carrying out these raids. The majority of those captured were released for lack of evidence. Investigation of the raids is almost impossible, as they are all classified. We know only that which the few survivors and whistleblowers have told us, at great cost to their own lives.
America has gone to such lengths to cover up these crimes that the government refuses to share evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine, for fear that it will set a legal precedent and lead to the prosecution of their own crimes.
Afghanistan was only one front in America’s terrorist war. It was in Iraq where we saw the fully unrestrained brutality of the “rules-based international order” in action. America’s 2003 full-scale invasion of Iraq was the second time that the country had been attacked in 20 years, and both times were based on complete lies.
In the run-up to the 1990 Gulf War, the Kuwaiti monarchy hired the Hill+Knowlton PR firm, already infamous for defending dictators and genocidaires, to launch an all-out propaganda blitz designed to rally the American people around a war which their own government had approved of just months before. The slick New York firm cooked up a whopper of a lie, coaching 15-year-old Nariyah al-Sabah into giving a performance for the ages in sworn testimony of Iraqi crimes to the assembled members of Congress.
“While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor. It was horrifying. I could not help but think of my nephew who was born premature and might have died that day as well. After I left the hospital, some of my friends and I distributed flyers condemning the Iraqi invasion until we were warned we might be killed if the Iraqis saw us.” —Nariyah al-Sabah, in testimony to Congress, October 10, 1990
It was only later that we found out Nariyah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.S., Saud Nasser al-Saud al-Sabah, and the whole testimony was part of a PR campaign by an astroturfed front called “Citizens for a Free Kuwait.” She was not even in the country at the time of the invasion, and every word of her testimony was a lie. Despite this, no one responsible for this has ever faced any repercussions whatsoever.
Regardless, this was enough to convince the American people, or at least the American elites, to fight in the defense of the slave-owning Kuwaiti monarchy for the cause of “freedom.” After a brief and decisive campaign, America followed up by strafing columns of retreating Iraqi troops intermingled with civilians and refugees, fleeing the brutal Kafala slavery of Kuwait. The pictures of shot, burned vehicles, and the remnants of their drivers, were proudly paraded across the American media as evidence of their triumph.
Then Senator Joe Biden was so impressed with what he saw that he authored a resolution commending George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney on their success, a change of pace from a man who had previously attacked Bush for not going far enough.
After the war, America imposed sanctions so severe that more than one million Iraqis and half a million children died preventable deaths from hunger, lack of medicine and inadequate sanitation. When asked if the cost was worth it, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright flatly said on 60 Minutes in 1996 that it was.
Not yet content with the blood already extracted from Iraq and its people, the American jackals returned to feast on the corpse in 2003. After a flimsy propaganda campaign mostly failed to convince the world of Iraq’s alliance with al-Qaeda and huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction 45 minutes away from launch, the George W. Bush regime manifested its violent fantasy into reality, launching an illegal full-scale invasion of a country with no connection whatsoever to 9/11 and no weapons of mass destruction.
The war that followed was an absolute slaughter. After the quick destruction of the now badly depleted and demoralized Iraqi armed forces, the U.S. and its allies set about the bloody task of subjugating the Iraqi people. In the resulting eight-year war, at least 400,000 civilians died from violence, but violence is not the only killer in war.
America and its allies systematically dismantled critical infrastructure in Iraq. The Iraqi people were deprived of electricity, clean water and sewers, resulting in epidemic outbreaks of infectious disease. Communications lines were intentionally destroyed, and towers knocked out, depriving Iraqi first responders of their ability to communicate with the victims. Warehouses of vital goods were bombed and with them went the food and medicine necessary to respond to these humanitarian crises. The Iraqis who died from these more mundane atrocities have never been included in the official tallies.
A peer-reviewed 2006 study in the renowned medical journal The Lancet attempted to count the lives extinguished as “collateral damage” by America’s illegal full-scale invasion of Iraq and came up with a number exceeding 600,000. The response from a cowed, servile media and government-affiliated think tanks and academia was so negative that the authors were effectively blackballed, cut off from the necessary funding to conduct such a study ever again. We can only say with certainty that the butcher’s bill has increased significantly since then.
American troops bombed hospitals and schools, shot up weddings and markets and massacred thousands at roadblocks throughout the country. The U.S. bombarded Iraq with cluster bombs and white phosphorus, and poisoned the water and land through use of depleted uranium and other toxic chemicals, causing a rate of unprecedented birth defects vastly more than that of the United States, along with massively increased rates of cancer, renal disease and other serious ailments.
The Iraqis who have died from this and will continue to die for generations are once again not included in official figures of the dead. The countless Iraqi children who survive and must suffer with these terrible defects may pity those dead, as they have little hope of their poisoners ever being brought to justice.
Of course, America did not do all this for no reason. American capitalists turned the death and suffering of a nation into record profits through lucrative government contracts; five arms dealers posted revenues in the billions as their weapons were used to massacre Iraqi people like animals in the street. Open corruption became commonplace and, before long, contractors were even rewarded with massive bonuses after killing American troops due to negligence and greed. Corporations affiliated with the Bush regime were allowed to loot and pillage the country at will, sucking it dry of resources that could have benefited the Iraqi people. The bandits in uniform even stole Iraq’s gold reserves, further impoverishing the Iraqi people for the benefit of the American economy.
Once again, Joe Biden was one of the primary backers of this nightmare: In the run-up to the war, he was a nearly omnipresent figure in the media, eagerly selling the Bush administration’s deadly lies about Saddam’s WMDs and links to al-Qaeda. Biden clashed with his own party to such an extent that he once bragged the war might not have happened without his support.
After the deed was done and the war dragged on into his Vice Presidency, Biden then backed the disastrous government of Nouri al-Maliki against the advice of all his advisers, further accelerating the disintegration of Iraq. By his own admission, Biden backed al-Maliki due to his support of a law which gave U.S. forces immunity from prosecution in Iraq, allowing the orgy of looting and violence to continue unabated.
But the crime most relevant to the story of Pete Reed is the widespread campaign of illegal detention and torture carried out by the American military and intelligence.
We will never know exactly how many people were kidnapped, held without charges, and tortured by the U.S. and its allies during their illegal war. The lowest possible number is still more than 100,000, although the existence of what are known as “ghost detainees”, prisoners who do not exist on official records, makes ascertaining the exact number impossible. While the United States is assigned most of the blame for this “Extraordinary Rendition” program, its allies, both NATO and otherwise, were directly involved in every step of the process.
In Iraq, the same programs seen in Afghanistan and elsewhere were supercharged. Usually with little to no evidence and no trial, Iraqis were kidnapped, detained, and sent to prisons in Iraq or extradited to “black sites” around the world to be mercilessly tortured, sometimes until they died. Anyone who resisted the raids would be shot without consequence. We know about these deaths thanks to a successful ACLU lawsuit on behalf of the prisoners, but the declassified reports were repeatedly blocked by the Obama administration and only released five years after the trial was over.
One of the many innocents ensnared by this program was a Baghdad resident named Ibrahim al-Badri.
His friends and family described him as a shy man who loved soccer and led a Qur’an study group for local children. Like so many of the others, he was captured by force, held without charge at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, then repeatedly tortured, before he was released due to a complete lack of evidence.
Like so many of the others, the terrors he faced at the hands of his American captors awoke a violent rage inside him, turning a shy priest into one of the most notorious terrorist warlords the modern world has ever known. Inside al-Badri’s tiny, dark cell, a new man was born. His name was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the future Caliph of the self-declared Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS.
The Road to Mosul
“By Allah, we will take revenge! By Allah, we will take revenge! Even if it takes a while, we will take revenge, and every amount of harm against the Ummah will be responded to with multitudes more against the perpetrator.” —Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Al-Baghdadi joined the Mujahedeen Shura Council in 2006, soon after his release from prison. At the time the organization was a coalition of six Wahhabi jihadi groups operating in alliance with al-Qaeda. By the end of the year, the groups had merged to form the Islamic State of Iraq, which was upgraded to the status of an official al-Qaeda branch. It was founded and run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a former pimp and gangster turned veteran jihadi who had first fought as part of the U.S. and Pakistani-backed mujahedeen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Over the years, he became one of al-Qaeda’s most trusted operatives.
Before America’s invasion, al-Zarqawi had been in the north of Iraq working in one of al-Qaeda’s vast training camps creating an army of jihadis to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam’s Iraq spent years trying to root out al-Qaeda’s operation, but a decade of American sanctions left the nation far too gaunt to stop the spread.
Ironically, al-Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq was used as one of the pretexts for America’s illegal full-scale invasion of the country, portraying a deadly enemy of the regime as its ally to justify terrorism against the Iraqi people on a scale al-Qaeda could only dream of. After the invasion crushed the regime and killed Saddam, al-Qaeda’s forces quickly transitioned to fight against the new enemy.
Of course, al-Qaeda did not just fight the Americans. When they chose the name the Islamic State of Iraq for their Iraqi branch, they meant it literally. Their goal was to create a new Islamic state out of the ruins of Saddam’s secular Ba’athist regime and to do so, they first had to purge their new nation of a long list of enemies and heretics. Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups violently cleansed entire cities and provinces of Iraq with a predictable pattern.
First, they started with car bombs in targeted neighborhoods, often killing hundreds at a time to announce both their presence and their intent. After that came the leaflets and letters, threatening the population with violence if they refused to leave. Then the soldiers moved in, at first a few vehicle patrols and then checkpoints to hunt down stragglers or anyone who did not get the message. Those who could not fight back were forced out or killed. The process was carried out with a maximum of violence and with minimal concern for collateral damage.
Iraq quickly descended into complete chaos as warfare between the jihadis and their many enemies spilled out into the streets of the country. At least 100,000 Iraqis died in the resulting fighting, although that number is likely to be an underestimate due to reliance on often sporadic media reporting.
Al-Zarqawi was killed in a 2006 bombing, and from there the organization passed through a series of leaders until al-Baghdadi rose to the top after the death of his predecessor, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (no relation, al-Baghdadi means “from Baghdad”) in a 2011 raid. Vice President Joe Biden proudly announced the death of Abu Omar, saying his death was a “potentially devastating blow” against al-Qaeda. He neglected to mention that Abu Omar’s four-year-old son was among the 16 killed that day.
Ibrahim al-Badri found his calling inside his cell, as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was an almost preternaturally talented terrorist. Under his command, both blood and money flowed like never before.
The timing could not have been better for al-Baghdadi. The self-destruction of the U.S.-backed Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki combined with the intentional destabilization of Syria by NATO, created a power vacuum which was ripe for exploitation and the warlord caliph wanted it all to himself. He broke free from al-Qaeda in 2013, at first proposing a merger between his group and the Syrian branch al-Nusra, which was rejected. After that, he declared war. Al-Baghdadi changed the group’s name to ISIS and raised the black flag which would soon become infamous around the world.
It is unclear if the impetus behind the split was more ideological or financial in nature, but what is clear is that the United States and its allies (most notably, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) backed al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, with both weapons and money. An organization which the U.S. had claimed was so reprehensible that its very presence in Iraq justified the invasion and destruction of the country was now the Obama regime’s staunchest ally in Syria. However, this was nothing new. America and its allies had quietly supported the organization for years. Joe Biden even admitted it in 2014.
Little else needs to be said about the so-called Islamic State’s reign of terror over the region. Their murderous atrocities are well known, mostly due to their own efforts in publicizing their brutality. Like most terrorist groups, they are as much criminal syndicate as political organization. ISIS stands apart mostly for their sheer industriousness, raking in enormous profits from looting conquered regions.
One of their major sources of funding was bank robbery. When an area was conquered, ISIS fighters always emptied the local bank first, pulling in nearly a billion dollars in profit from their cash reserves. Like the bandits they are, they also set up extortion rings throughout conquered regions, demanding protection from legitimate businesses, and eventually setting up their own, picking the regions clean of anything that could be sold. The organization became unimaginably wealthy, and with that wealth, it was able to spend lavishly on mercenaries and weapons, making it the most powerful Sunni militia in the world. Even the rank-and-file ISIS fighter was well paid, and many joined for economic reasons rather than ideology.
Capital was extracted not just from the resources, with ISIS seeing enormous profits from oil sales to U.S. allies such as Turkey and Jordan, but also from the people. ISIS is a prolific slaver, advertising slaves in their magazine for sale to well-heeled clients in the Gulf. The prices are broken down based on age, sex and nationality. Yazidi girls are particularly prized, but pre-teen girls in general brought the highest prices. Thousands of slaves were smuggled out of the “Caliphate” and sold.
Anyone who resisted or who broke one of the Caliphate’s many rules was killed in the most horrible ways imaginable, and often on camera. ISIS is known as much for its slick, well produced propaganda as its brutality.
Fortunately, the time of the Caliphate did not last long. After a baffling campaign in which the U.S. and NATO pointedly refused to target ISIS in hopes of using them to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, the U.S. was finally forced to act around Kobani, in the north of the country. Kurdish forces broke the back of ISIS with American fire support, despite the Caliphate receiving direct support from NATO member Turkey and key U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, and from there ISIS was forced into a retreat.
NATO supporting every side in the war (except for Assad) was intentional. The goal was to destabilize Syria for as long as possible, thereby prolonging the very profitable war. This policy has led to tens of thousands of deaths and displaced millions from their homes and homelands, but also enormous profits for arms dealers and government contractors. As usual, war benefits the members of the alliance far more than peace.
Eventually, Iraq recovered from the ravages of the corrupt puppet regime of U.S.-backed Nouri al-Maliki, a leader hand-picked and staunchly supported by Joe Biden, and the new government was able to muster a coherent response to the ISIS infestation of their country. Finally, by the end of 2016, the bandits were cornered in their capital, the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
It is in Mosul that we see the true extent of America’s crimes. The city was held by a militia which was led by a shy priest radicalized by American torture. He joined with an organization founded with American money to fight against America’s enemies before he broke off on his own. They were armed with American weapons, taken from the corrupt and reviled puppet put in place to protect American troops from prosecution or bought from American allies. The rank-and-file ISIS soldiers were men whose countries had been immiserated by American intervention, leaving them so desperate that they were willing to massacre innocents for pay. They found success on the battlefield only because of America’s intentional policy of destabilizing Syria, essentially handing them huge financial resources and weapons, both of which they used to subjugate, enslave and kill anyone in their path.
While the United States government goes to great lengths to say it did not create ISIS, it fertilized the soil, planted the seeds, and watered them with blood. The bloody harvest is as much the responsibility of Bush, Obama and Biden as al-Baghdadi and al-Maliki. Because of this crime, the city of Mosul suffered once again.
With ISIS guns behind them and American guns in front, Mosul bled and burned. ISIS death squads patrolled the streets executing anyone who ran, while America and its allies vaporized anyone who did not. The people of Mosul could do nothing but sit and die, and they did just that. With Iraqi troops on the ground, the Americans provided fire support with their usual lack of concern for civilian casualties. The city was shelled with white phosphorus again, for the second time in 20 years. America bombed markets, killing hundreds at a time, and eventually began bombing all gatherings of people in the open.
“The strikes targeted the IS snipers. A strike would destroy an entire house of two stories. They’d hit one house and also destroy the two houses on either side. They killed a huge number of people.” —Mohamed from al-Tenak neighborhood, west Mosul
While America estimates that only a few thousand civilians died, Kurdish forces which had agents on the ground and eventually reclaimed the city estimate that the toll from American intervention alone was more than 40,000 civilians dead. Most of these were due to an indiscriminate use of fire support during the siege.
This, the result of one battle, amounts to more than five times the number of civilian dead in a year of fighting in Ukraine, and yet America has not once faced charges of genocide. No one is issuing calls for Biden to be tried in The Hague, nor banning Americans from entering their country. When America massacres an entire city, they do not even recognize that it happened, let alone call it genocide. The British even went so far as to call the intervention “perfect” and claim no civilians died, even as their own missiles leveled civilian homes and killed families. It was all written off as evidence of the brutality of the Islamic State.
In this chaos, we find the familiar face of Pete Reed. The ex-Marine had joined Kurdish forces first as a fighter, but quickly realized his medical skills were more useful to the Kurds than killing. It was here that Reed founded the charity which would later bring him to Ukraine, and to his death.
Although he likely did not realize it, in Ukraine, Pete Reed was cleaning up after yet another American intervention. After the long-sought destruction of the USSR, America’s fascist proxies were released on Ukraine, eager to build a new Reich from the wreckage of Soviet Ukraine. After a few false starts, they found success in 2014 with the Maidan coup, ensuring a decade of nationalist rule.
When the blood dried in Mosul, the vampires of American capital needed new victims. They found them in cities like Odessa, Kharkiv, and Donetsk. As they soak the streets in blood, men like Pete Reed come behind to clean up after them, both physically and ideologically. The amount of propaganda surrounding his death has likely been more important to the cause of the Ukrainian nationalists than a few ambulances and medics. Ironically, Pete Reed found himself in a situation similar to so many victims before. His death, and the propaganda it brings, are far more value to America than his life. He has been used merely as grist for the atrocity mill, another atrocity used to justify America’s own.
CovertAction Magazine is made possible by subscriptions, orders and donations from readers like you.
Blow the Whistle on U.S. Imperialism
Click the whistle and donate
When you donate to CovertAction Magazine, you are supporting investigative journalism. Your contributions go directly to supporting the development, production, editing, and dissemination of the Magazine.
CovertAction Magazine does not receive corporate or government sponsorship. Yet, we hold a steadfast commitment to providing compensation for writers, editorial and technical support. Your support helps facilitate this compensation as well as increase the caliber of this work.
Please make a donation by clicking on the donate logo above and enter the amount and your credit or debit card information.
CovertAction Institute, Inc. (CAI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and your gift is tax-deductible for federal income purposes. CAI’s tax-exempt ID number is 87-2461683.
We sincerely thank you for your support.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s). CovertAction Institute, Inc. (CAI), including its Board of Directors (BD), Editorial Board (EB), Advisory Board (AB), staff, volunteers and its projects (including CovertAction Magazine) are not responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. This article also does not necessarily represent the views the BD, the EB, the AB, staff, volunteers, or any members of its projects.
Differing viewpoints: CAM publishes articles with differing viewpoints in an effort to nurture vibrant debate and thoughtful critical analysis. Feel free to comment on the articles in the comment section and/or send your letters to the Editors, which we will publish in the Letters column.
Copyrighted Material: This web site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. As a not-for-profit charitable organization incorporated in the State of New York, we are making such material available in an effort to advance the understanding of humanity’s problems and hopefully to help find solutions for those problems. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. You can read more about ‘fair use’ and US Copyright Law at the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.
Republishing: CovertAction Magazine (CAM) grants permission to cross-post CAM articles on not-for-profit community internet sites as long as the source is acknowledged together with a hyperlink to the original CovertAction Magazine article. Also, kindly let us know at info@CovertActionMagazine.com. For publication of CAM articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: info@CovertActionMagazine.com.
By using this site, you agree to these terms above.
About the Author
Evan Reif was born in a small mining town in Western South Dakota as the son of a miner and a librarian.
His father’s struggles as a union organizer, and the community’s struggles with de-industrialization, nurtured Evan’s deep interest in left-wing politics. This, along with his love of history, made him a staunch anti-fascist.
When not writing, researching or working, Evan enjoys fishing, shooting, and Chinese cooking.