Thanks to American friends for just being there. Unsung, secret heroes.

PTSD is going to be a gut punch for the millions of health care workers taking care of COVID-19 patients and their families today. That was going to be our story, this Sunday. Somehow our own PTSD got in the way. 

Did you ever notice that when in a conversation with a group of people late in the day, someone brings up a past trauma, related to hurt children, and it hits hard. It only takes one person in the room to sob, and the tears try to come out.

FPMag had set up a video conference and interviews to dig into real world feelings about the current COVID trauma medical workers face.

That fell apart at the last minute. A few of us were chatting about housekeeping and someone brought up the topic of our own post traumatic stress disorders. Many of us, like Melissa Hemingway, Grace Edwards, Behar Abbasi, Katie Alsop, had been in Mosul Iraq when ISIS took over the place in August  2014 or at some point thereafter. Actually, most of us had been driven out of Syria since 2013.

One of the medical workers raised an example of a trauma that had hit us all, cryptically, without saying what it was.

“Do you mean the 7 children killed last August in Kabul?”
‘No’, Behar said.
“Do you mean the kids killed in the school bus in Dahyan, Saada Governorate, Yemen, 9 August 2018?”
‘No’, Behar said.
“The kids Bashar al-Assad butchered in 2012?”
“No. You know. The kids getting free ice cream in Mosul.”
“Mosul, that Thursday?”
“Yeah. Why do we never talk about that?”
“Because we can’t,” said Grace who with few words often slams the hammer down on the nail head. “Or we will cry.”
And with the first sob coming across the earphones, everyone likely fought back a tear. All heads were down.

For sure we know the Americans did not expect the Canadians to bomb the kids at the ice cream dairy near the Tigris River in Mosul.

Canada’s six CF-18s got sent home by Justin Trudeau after that day. The Harper administration (February 6, 2006 – November 4, 2015)  had sent a half dozen CF-18s that had been bombing in Syria and Iraq regardless of there being no declaration of war or anything like that. We did not know who or what they were bombing until that day. They killed over two dozen civilians, half of them kids, mostly families.

Actually, that was not extraordinary those days. We saw much much worse, but the Canadians lied about this and said it never happened.

Anyone there that day could understand how the mistake was made. The problem is that the Canadians lied. We know. We shot some of the video footage. At Ibn Sena hospital near the Alshohada Bridge we were using the footage to show to families so that we could identify some of the thirty-odd survivors and tell families where they were being cared for. Yes. It turned out that whole families were killed or maimed.

Diwan Al-Hisba operatives demanded the digital images we had. They threatened to kill everyone because such imaging was forbidden. We insisted that we needed the images for the families of survivors and families of the deceased. We had kids transported all over the city because the Daesh had pretty much closed all the main hospitals to civilians and private clinics were all that was left for the public. It was madness. The Al-Hisba took a copy of the digital imaging. That’s all. They agreed on the urgency.

The Canadians would later say that because the “video was published by ISIS“, it was not credible. Among the people who published that content was a local man who lost family that Thursday. He was a nice man who helped medical workers many times, not unlike most of his Daesh peers whose families were among the many Mosulis who had no health care other than the RINJ Women shelters and birthing clinics.

On that Thursday, today’s nightmares became real. It wasn’t about the bombing. There were lots of bombings. It was the deep awakening that we were totally alone, in the most hazardous predicament imaginable. It only got worse from that day forward.

The kids always went to the dairy where their parents worked, before school,  after school, and when there was no school.  There was no school when the bombs were flying; no school when the water treatment plant was bombed and the area stunk of chlorine; and there was no school when the school was bombed. Kids stayed with their parents at their employment at the dairy until going-home time. Other kids joined those little ones, for the ice cream tailings which the folks at the dairy surrendered to any child who came to their doors. Beautiful, it was.

You can see some of that footage here. It is banned almost everywhere. But it is real.

That Thursday in November 2015, did something to all of us. Some of the more pious Muslim teachers among the Islamic State medical workers were crying their eyes out and shrieking to Allah for guidance. We who were secretly of the Christian and Jewish faith were silent observers. The Islamic State was the government and at that time, before the foreign fighters really took hold of the place, ISIS was the government that was better than any previous government said almost all the locals—like the stupid guy who was welding steel to HumVees and S-boxes the fleeing Iraqi Army in August 2014 left behind. It was his shop that was to be bombed that Thursday. We know. We made the list.

The bombing done by the Canadians wiped out a significant Daesh military production asset and likely saved the lives of many soldiers of the Iraqi Gold Division. They were the rescuers of Mosul, Iraq.

Mosul Iraq, late 2016

Following medical treatment, a Gold Division soldier rejoins his unit as the battle for Mosul continued. Photo courtesy, RINJ Women, Mosul Iraq.

When we gave the lists of car bomb makers and armoured vehicle shops to our remarkable American friends the Americans never, ever, not once, let us down. The DIA and the others were straight arrows and highly trusted. Our folks have said that maybe the only moments of sanity were the times speaking to those secret confreres. Often they were amidst us, in Mosul, or in the hinterland to the east of the city.  These were some of the bravest people, one could ever want to meet, and it was a comfort knowing they were there.

But somehow it was hot dog Canadians who got the grids on that fateful Thursday and laid down the ordnance. It was a terrible catastrophe, but those do happen in war. To later in November 2015 lie about this was the gut punch that has never been forgotten. My country did this. But you don’t lie about such a thing, repeatedly, and then attack the messenger.  Today I might be more of an American. One cannot live through kids and their families being blown to bits and  then be told it did not happen.

It was the Gold Division that came into Mosul to claim victory in the end.  They were gracious. They like the Americans were honest, awesome, kind to the civilians, and very much welcomed.

Siege of Mosul

Soldier brings child to women’s shelter in Mosul for medical attention. The child does no know her birth family is gone and will go home with an uncle. The siege of Mosul created many orphans. Photo courtesy, RINJ Women, Mosul Iraq.

Gold Division liberating Nineveh

Gold Division liberating Nineveh. Photo courtesy, RINJ Women, Mosul Iraq.

The events denied of 19 November 2015 turned hundreds if not thousands of Iraqi people away from the West. They really have nobody to trust except themselves.

This was just one more example of how the people of Mosul were betrayed unimaginably. It didn’t happen.

From that Thursday forward IFF was impossible. It was a turning point. Bad went to worst. The Americans, Jordanians and Israelis were the straight arrows we could rely on as the traumas continued. The Americans we met, always friends in crisis, donated bandages and medical supplies. Our own country, disconnected with a lie.

“When a country kills civilians, then lies, it has no place of honour, no colour of right. Learn from this,” said Grace Edwards. She was there that day.