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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

One option means no option

by Lily Hamourtziadou

15 Oct 2006

It comes as no surprise to hear Salam al-Zawba'i, Iraqi depury prime minister for security, say that 'this government is the Iraqi people's only option. The Iraqi people have only this option, and this government cannot but succeed. ' Though what this actually means is that there is no option; the Iraqis have to live and cope with the present situation of daily killings, foreign control and, in Zawba'i's words, 'paralysis in all sectors of life'. They have no choice.

Yet others have had options, still do. Other options were available to the young men and women who joined the army and were sent to fight in Iraq. The army was not their only option. Their governments too had other options, other than to 'kick the door in', as Sir Richard Dannatt put it, in Iraq in 2003. They can still opt to withdraw from Iraq, or they could stay for several more years. Helena Cobban, writing for The Christian Science Monitor, echoes Dannatt when she counts the military cost of this war. 'Mr Bush's quite voluntary decision to invade and occupy Iraq has cost the United States dearly. We're now paying $7 billion per month to maintain the troop presence there -and the nonfinancial costs have also been huge. More than 2,740 US service members and scores of thousands of Iraqi citizens have been killed' (The Christian Science Monitor 12 October 2006). It is time, she says, to hold those who made such 'disastrous decisions' accountable, for the deaths of soldiers and civilians.

And the civilian cost last week was high: nearly 500 of them were killed in violence around the country, starting with the assassination of the Vice President's brother, Amir al-Hashimi, outside his home. His death, on Monday 9 October, comes five months after his sister and another brother were shot dead. His death was one of around 80 on Monday.

Clashes dominate Tuesday 10 October, when shelling and fighting breaks out in Sadr City, in Diwaniya, Al-Jadiriyah, Al-Karradah, Al-Sayidiyah, Al-Jami'ah, Al-Khadrah, and a rocket and mortar attack is launched at a US military base in Southern Baghdad, causing dozens of explosions and fires burning for several hours. Overall, nearly 120 people are killed, including 11 civilians blown up outside a bakery.

On Wednesday 11 October it is announced that the US army will maintain its current level of soldiers in Iraq until 2010. The parliament approves a law creating autonomous regions, despite vehement opposition by Sunnis. The headless corpse of a Christian priest is found in the outskirts of Mosul.

It is on Thursday 12 October that Sir Richard Dannatt, Head of the British army in Iraq, admits that the presence of the armed forces in Iraq 'exacerbates the security problems' there and worldwide. It is also revealed that attacks on US troops have increased by 43% since midsummer. On this day, gunmen break into the offices of Al-Shaabia TV station and kill 11 employees; in Balad, gunmen break into a house and shoot dead 7 members of the same family. They are some of the day's dead, which exceed 100.

One of the most shocking incidents of the week is the murder of 6 women and 2 little girls, killed as they pick crops in a field, on Friday 13 October. The gunmen then abduct 2 teenage girls. The headless corpses of 14 construction workers, abducted the previous evening, are found, while 2 British contractors are killed on the road to Karbala.

The killing of 14 workers sparks off the revenge killing of 26 Sunnis, on Saturday 14 October. A family of 10 is murdered in Safiya, while a family of 4 is murdered in Wahda. A family of 5 is killed in Mosul the following day, Sunday 15 October, and a family of 8 is killed in Latifiya. Hala Shaker, deputy to Interior Minister, survives an assassination attempt in which 7 civilians are killed, and in Kirkuk bombs kill 12.

Over 170 civilians died during the weekend in Iraq, 9 of whom were children.

The mistakes made in Iraq, 'are not al-Maliki's mistakes but the mistakes of all concerned parties in Iraq and every party that is concerned about what is happening to the Iraqi people, even if this party is outside the borders of Iraq', stated Salam al-Zawba'i during his interview on Al-Jazeera on 9 October. Those mistakes have cost many lives, civilian lives and those of soldiers.

A reader asked: don't I care about soldiers losing their lives in Iraq? Is it only civilian losses that are 'tragic'? Putting aside the difference in numbers, which is vast, yes, I am more affected by the deaths of those who found themselves in a situation they did not choose and cannot choose, than the deaths of those who chose to be there, sent by a government which chose to send them there, to kill and to die. Just like the civilians who died in America on 11 September 2001, the citizens of Iraq who die daily in violent attacks also matter and should also be remembered, their names read out too. Sadly, the names of most of them remain unknown.