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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


by Lily Hamourtziadou

19 Nov 2006

‘How do we leave?’ asks William Pfaff (Guardian, November 19 2006). This is a good question, and many are wondering precisely this: how do we leave Iraq? As existing policies have not worked, what is the alternative? There is no satisfactory answer so far, and both thousands of foreign troops and millions of Iraqi civilians seem to be trapped in a state that has collapsed. A state where hundreds are killed or injured daily and where mass abductions are becoming a feature of Iraqi life: for soldiers, for police, for political figures, for ordinary citizens, for foreigners, even for children.

‘American policy has been running on images rather than evidence of real nations and people doing things for real human motives’, observes Pfaff. ‘It has been populated by abstractions: Global Terrorist Conspiracies, Rogue Nations, Fanatics Who Hate Our Freedoms, Generations of Terrorism and The Global Menace of Al-Qaeda.’ The US itself has been turned into an abstraction: the Sole Superpower, the Righteous Nation. Like Britain, US is the ultimate moral nation whose mission is to create democracy and to fight terror. This is the language of government and journalism in the US and in Britain, as politicians and journalists alike, having left reality behind, are regurgitating ideas and arguments from their virtual world of ideals and abstractions.

They are even claiming (as they have often done lately) that, although violence in Iraq has remained at ‘unacceptably high levels’, ‘it’s not nearly as bad as it was in August.’ So stated General John Abizaid, Chief of US Central Command on 15 November. General Abizaid is obviously not reading the news that are coming out of Iraq very carefully, or he would know that this is in fact not the case. This past week over 700 civilians were killed in Iraq. This high death toll is not due to some freak incident, but due to fairly steady levels of violence: on 4 days out of 7 more than 100 civilians were reported to have died violent deaths.

Around 140 die on Monday 13 November, 47 of whom are killed by US troops during airstrikes and raids. Monday’s dead include 20 people killed on a bus, one of them an infant, a journalist and 4 primary school teachers. More than 50 bodies are found in the streets of Baghdad, Yusufiya and Mahmudiya.

On Tuesday 14 November the dead again exceed 100. Another US airstrike kills a family of 6 inside their home.

The dead on Wednesday 15 November exceed 100, once again. Dozens of tortured bodies are found in Baghdad, Latifiya, Mosul, Baiji and Samarra, while 2 more journalists are murdered. They are among the usual list of victims of workers, police, and other innocents.

On Thursday 16 November over 60 are killed, of whom 9 at a bakery, 10 in Baquba, and a university professor is murdered in Falluja.

On Friday 17 November the 90 or so dead include shepherds, police, and over 40 bodies showing the usual signs of torture.

Fierce clashes in Baquba on Saturday 18 November result in the deaths of 24 policemen, while a former Iraqi army Brigadier is gunned down by US snipers in his garden, shot 4 times in the back. In Karbala 87 unidentified bodies are buried; the Health Dept reveals that since May the total number of unidentified bodies received by the Karbala morgue has reached 1,495.

On Sunday 19 November over 100 die, of whom 22 are labourers blown up by a suicide bomber who pretends to offer them work. The dead on Sunday include 8 farmers, and 3 children blown up after being lured to a booby-trapped doll. Over 50 bodies are found, one of them that of a 15-year-old girl that had been abducted in Mosul.

Hundreds of people were abducted during the week, some released, others still held. The most prominent among them, the Deputy Health Minister, was abducted on Sunday.

‘We should put the responsibility for Iraq’s future squarely where it belongs –on the Iraqis,’ said Senator Carl Levin on Wednesday. This comes four years too late, as four years ago decisions about Iraq’s future apparently belonged to someone else. ‘We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves,’ Levin concludes.

It is a sad reality that nobody can save the Iraqis from anybody anymore, or save anybody else in Iraq for that matter. They are all, civilians and soldiers alike, trapped in their sad reality. Just as those who started this war are trapped in their own sad demagogy.