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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

26 Nov 2006

‘The president and his team, in and out of the White House, believed that the Iraqis were just like us, that they were a reasonable people, yearning to be free’ writes Lllewellyn King (Columbia Tribune, November 21 2006). Unlike the Western Europeans and Americans, though, Iraqis ‘harbored an enormous desire to settle ancient scores’, showing a savagery equal to ‘anything that was seen in the Balkans or in Africa.’ The execution of the war, a war full of president Bush’s ‘romanticized dreams of democracy,’ has nothing to do with this violence, according to King, which is ‘the Iraqis’ affair’. It then follows that ‘some resolution has to be found among the Iraqis.’

Joan Smith, writing for the Independent, also places the ‘moral responsibility’ for the ‘slaughter of their fellow citizens’ on Iraqi shoulders. The correct term for such people, she exclaims, ‘isn’t fighters or insurgents; people who carry out indiscriminate attacks on civilians are terrorists’ (Independent on Sunday, 26 November 2006).

And those are people found in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa…or are they? ‘The world’s first global terrorists,’ Walter Davis calls them. He is not referring to anyone in the Middle East, or in the Balkans, or in Africa, or in any other savage, uncivilised nation, state or region. He is referring to the Americans. ‘Hiroshima,’ he writes, ‘was the first act of global terrorism…an act that abrogated all distinctions between combatant and non-combatant, the object of military action now being an entire city, of no military significance, its inhabitants indifferently identified as a single mass delivered to death in an effort to inflict the maximum moral and psychological damage on the enemy’ (Death’s Dream Kingdom, 2006). The US is still committing acts of global terrorism, according to Davis, when it unleashes ‘a weapon of mass destruction, depleted uranium, on a country, people, race, and religion that deserve that fate for being the non-cause of 9-11.’ The ‘American/Western European/civilised/romantic/idealistic/freedom-loving’ versus the ‘Eastern/African/uncivilised/savage/terrorist’ dichotomy is not as clear as some would like us to believe.

Perhaps the US had good reasons to exterminate those innocents. Perhaps not. Perhaps the perpetrators (US forces included) of those acts that killed over 900 people this week also had good reasons for their violence. Perhaps not. Either way, it makes no difference to the 900+ victims.

On Monday 20 November more than 160 lose their lives. Among the dead are 2 professors, a comedian, as well as around 140 unidentified bodies discovered in Baghdad, Mosul, Tikrit and Falluja. The Iraqi Minister of State and an Iraqi Deputy Health Minister survive an assassination attempt. The Associated Press announces that ‘more civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first 20 days of November than in any other month since the AP began tracking the figure in April 2005.’

Over 80 die on Tuesday 21 November, including the Dean of Education Faculty at Tikrit University, a mother and her baby, while 40 unclaimed bodies are buried in Tikrit.

The dead exceed 100 on Wednesday 22 November. Another journalist is killed and over 80 bodies are found.

Thursday 23 November is a truly tragic day, as over 300 people die in violence around the country. Out of 320 dead, 215 die in a series of explosions in Sadr City, and over 30 more in retaliatory attacks. In addition, dead bodies litter the streets of Baghdad, Falluja, Baquba and Latifiya. Other victims include a doctor, policemen, guards, a 10-year-old boy, 2 gasoline sellers, and 4 people in a minivan killed by US forces when they refused to stop. A 3-day curfew is declared in Baghdad. The US celebrates Thanksgiving.

More than 100 are killed again on Friday 24 November, most of them in reprisals. More than 90 Sunni families receive death threats, others are forced out of their homes at gunpoint. In the Amiriyah neighbourhood of Baghdad, Sunnis start to form neighbourhood militias under the guidance of local clerics, to protect themselves. By Friday evening, 25 volunteers sign up, and those without weapons are handed AK-47 rifles.

On Saturday 25 November the 80 or so dead include 21 men and boys from an extended family killed by unknown gunmen. Also 2 children killed at a checkpoint. US bombs kill 7 family members in their house near Falluja, while another US air raid kills 4 women in Baquba.

Around 70 die on Sunday 26 November. An angry crowd throws stones at the Iraqi prime minister at a ceremony of mourning for Thursday’s victims. Some shout ‘coward’ and ‘collaborator’. As the curfew nears its end, the Iraqis fear more violence in the coming days. In the coming weeks, months or years. Until Iraq is a stable, possibly democratic country, and bodies no longer litter the streets. How this can be achieved is not clear –one thing is clear though: it will not be achieved by American militarism. Or terrorism.