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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

What war looks like

by Lily Hamourtziadou

29 Oct 2006

'The Iraq war', writes Ximena Ortiz (National Interest Online, October 27 2006), 'has been portrayed in such principled terms- bringing democracy to the Iraqi people- that it has taken an abstract quality and, indeed, is often discussed in abstract terms. But there is nothing abstract about a corpse.'

Images of war necessarily include blood, corpses, often dismembered; they are images of poverty, of terror, of flight, of despair.

War looks like people on the run. Jordanian immigration is welcoming Sunni refugees daily, while heavily laden buses full of Shias leave Baghdad for Damascus every day. Sunni are disappearing from Shia districts and vice versa. The Christian minorities are also fast disappearing and most of their churches are closed. Nobody feels safe. Around 70,000 Kurds have fled Mosul, while in mainly Shia Basra the Sunni are fleeing after a rash of assassinations. Baghdad itself is breaking up into a dozen different cities, each under the control of its own militia. As reported in the Gulf Times, the Sunni control the south and south-west; the Shia the north and east. There is heavy fighting between Sunni and Shia districts, which bombard each other with mortars every night.

War looks like terror and despair, when law and order have completely broken down. Women are killed for wearing trousers, men for wearing shorts. American soldiers shoot at anything that moves.

War looks like corpses littering the streets, floating in rivers. This week of 'relative calm' over 400 Iraqi civilians lost their lives.

Monday 23 October was the worst day, when around 80 died.

On Tuesday 24 October the dead included 4 Iraqi firefighters, killed by US forces in Fallujah, mistakenly believing they were insurgents who had commandeered a firetruck.

On Wednesday 25 October US aircraft kill some more Iraqi civilians, when they bomb houses in Sadr City. At least 10 die in the bombing.

Thursday 26 October comes a close second with around 70 deaths. A lot of those killed are police officers, over 30 of them, while 50 policemen are kidnapped and are still missing. Suicide bombs kill 15 in Kirkuk, and another journalist is killed, together with his wife.

On Friday 27 October US forces raid a house in Fallujah and shoot dead 2 civilians. At least 30 bodies are found scattered in Baghdad, Mosul and Suwayrah.

Another US airstrike, this time in Ramadi, kills a family of 6 (2 of them children) on Saturday 28 October. Over 30 dead bodies are found, 11 Iraqi soldiers are abducted, and in Kirkuk an activist for women's rights is killed in front of her children.

Another journalist is killed together with her driver on Sunday 29 October. Over 30 bodies are discovered, while 19 police academy employees -police instructors and translators- are abducted and killed. Among Sunday's victims a 10-year-old boy gunned down with his father.

This is what war looks like. It does not look like its heroes as much as it looks like its victims. War looks less like its winners than its losers. Hans Blix, during an interview with a Danish newspaper this week, concluded that 'Iraq is a pure failure.' A pure failure is what this war has been, for everyone. But especially for the Iraqis.