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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

Not all about winning –or losing

by Lily Hamourtziadou

10 Dec 2006

It was generally admitted this week that ‘we’ are not winning the war in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group report, published on December 5, confirmed what many had already admitted and many more already realised: ‘Current US policy is not working.’ The situation in Iraq is ‘grave and deteriorating,’ the report explains, as Iraq is ‘sliding toward chaos.’ The government could collapse and a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ may result, they warned. Moreover, ‘there is no path that can guarantee success.’ It looks like Iraq may have gone past the point of no return. Bad luck for them –as for the American forces, they can try to ‘help Iraqis help themselves’ and withdraw their troops by 2008. In any case, success looks unlikely, because ‘the Iraqi people and their leaders have been slow to demonstrate the capacity or will to act.’

Though disappointed by the findings of the ISG, President Bush remains optimistic. He is confident he will be ‘vindicated by history,’ insisting that America would still achieve victory in the Iraq war (Times, Telegraph 8 December ).‘It is a noble mission, and it’s the right mission,’ echoed Mr Blair, ‘and it’s important for the world that it succeeds.’ It is not only his ‘idealism’ (to use his own term) that drives President Bush, but also his belief that ‘the only realistic path to security is by ensuring the spread of liberty.’ As if the free, liberal and democratic USA was not the most aggressive state in the world.
The ‘other side’ is also confident of victory. Shiite politicians, such as radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdel-al-Hakim, are happy with the report’s findings and can see victory within their reach if and when the Americans leave Iraq. Al-Qaeda in Iraq also would like nothing better than to see Americans leave, so they can claim ‘victory’ in their jihad. To them, and to the American and British governments, it is all defined and explained in terms of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’.

Yet this week over 630 civilians died in Iraq.

On Monday 4 December around 90 lives are lost in violence. The dead include a child, a radio reporter, 4 engineers, a taxi driver and around 70 bodies found in four cities.

On Tuesday 5 December the dead reach 135, as 15 are killed in an explosion on a minibus and 15 more are blown up as they wait to buy kerosene. Another 2 children are killed and over 70 bodies are found around the country. Not included in the count are the 67 unidentified bodies received and buried by the Karbala Health Department.

Nearly 100 more civilians die on Wednesday 6 December, half of them bodies found in various cities. Among the dead a school director, an ex-general and 4 people in a shop.

Thursday 7 December has the lowest figure of the week: 60 die, among them a 7-year-old girl, a professor, and a psychiatrist.

Over 70 die on Friday 8 December, when a controversial incident takes place in the Thar Thar area. As the US military claims to have killed 20 insurgents in an air raid, during which two homes are flattened, Iraqis claim the dead were civilians –the families of two brothers, both farmers. Among the dead 7 women and 8 children. (The US military once again demonstrates the regard they have for the lives of Iraqis, as they employ their usual tactic of bombing a whole house or a whole neighbourhood in order to kill or capture one person, killing innocents in the process. Is this what they do back in the US, one wonders?)

Reports of clashes in Baghdad dominate the news during the weekend. Sunnis and Shias fight on Saturday and Sunday, as militiamen storm houses and open fire on residents, issue death threats, and forcing around 1,000 from their homes. Dozens are killed in the process. Overall nearly 200 civilians are killed during Saturday and Sunday, 8 of them children. Employing another familiar tactic, US forces, ‘firing randomly’, shoot dead 6 civilians, after a US soldier is shot by a sniper.

Who values these lives? Not the militiamen. Not the Americans. Not the British. Not even the Iraqi Prime Minister, as it appears. It was reported that Nuri al-Maliki ‘is losing patience’ over reports of unjustified killings by US troops (Radio New Zealand 9 December). That is all. He is otherwise quite accepting of the situation, this ‘national leader’ who expects loyalty from Iraqi people. He also wants to be counted among the winners, whatever the cost. But the human cost is so great that it surpasses concerns over ‘victory’ or ‘defeat’, whatever either of those entails. Even if no civilians died violent deaths in Iraq from this day forward. Talk of winning or losing devalues us and the lives lost so far –and those that will be lost still. Assessment of this war in such terms makes us lose sight of the real losses, perhaps because nobody wants them on their conscience. ‘We’ can still win? After so many deaths, we have all lost already.