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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

Still in Shock

by Lily Hamourtziadou

11 Feb 2007

In March 2003, The US Defence Department introduced ‘Shock and Awe’, its war plan for Iraq, a plan that would ‘have such a shock on the system that the Iraqi regime would have to assume early on the end was inevitable’ (New York Times, March 5 2003). Though supposedly the ‘quickest’ and ‘cleanest’ way to win their war, in reality, according to a Pentagon official, ‘there will not be a safe place in Baghdad’ (Sun-Herald, January 26 2003). The ‘strategic bombing’ of the ‘Shock and Awe’ operation, a nice way of describing causing terror, caused the deaths, as we now know, of thousands of civilians –over 7,000 between March and May 2003.

What a lot of people don’t know, however, mainly because it is hardly reported by the media (this is certainly the case in the UK), is that US aerial bombardment of Iraq is continuing. ‘Strategic bombing’ did not end in 2003, but is still ongoing, still causing ‘shock’, still killing civilians, complementing other terrorist attacks that kill hundreds every week. There is still no safe place in Baghdad, or in most of Iraq. In the last two weeks there have been reports (very few) of two large attacks on villages, the latest of which left 45 civilians dead last Thursday.

During the week over 750 civilians died in violent attacks in Iraq.

On Monday 5 February there are around 120 reported deaths, most of them in Baghdad: 10 are blown up at a petrol station, 9 at a bus terminal, 9 in a workshop, 15 in the centre of the capital, 4 at a market and 7 by mortars. In addition, over 50 bodies are found, bound and tortured, half of them in Baghdad.

On Tuesday 6 February 70 more die, a child among them. The dead include a doctor, a university professor, a government employee and 40 bodies found in four cities.

Nearly 90 are killed on Wednesday 7 February, 10 of them at a market in Falluja (2 children among the dead) and 7 in Suwayra. Another 50 bodies are found in 5 cities. Among Wednesday’s dead, 3 children.

On the bloodiest day of the week, Thursday 8 February, over 230 civilians die. In Rafiyaat 14 men are killed by gunmen, 20 are blown up at a vegetable market in Aziziya, a suicide bomber kills 7 police officers in Haditha, 3 children are killed in al-Masra, 7 people in Hilla, while over 100 bodies are found in 7 cities. A US air strike flattens four houses, killing 45 civilians in Zaidan. It is the second major strike in two weeks (last week there were 70-150 civilian deaths reported in an air strike of al-Samra). In Karbala, another 64 unclaimed bodies are buried.

On the most peaceful day of the week, Friday 9 February, there are 58 reported killings, most of them in Baghdad. Yet another US air strike leaves 4 civilians dead in Dalaiya.

On Saturday 10 February nearly 100 are killed, nearly half of them in Baghdad. In Kut, police find 24 bodies, a 15-year-old girl is killed during clashes in Baghdad, and 8 new police recruits are killed by gunmen near Mosul.

On Sunday 11 February another 90 people die. The biggest attack is in Dawr, near Tikrit, when a suicide bomber blows up a lorry at a police station, killing at least 30.

But the victims of this war are not only the dead. An IRIN report reveals that there has been a massive increase in child beggars in Baghdad. According to the NGO Coordinating Committee in Iraq (NCCI), the deteriorating economic situation and the increase in the number of widows and orphans are the main reasons for the increase in the number of street children.

Meanwhile, for the first time, one of Iraq’s insurgent groups has set out the terms of a ceasefire that would allow American and British forces to leave Iraq. Abu Salih Al-Jeelani, one of the military leaders of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Resistance Movement, has ruled out any negotiations with Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government, as they consider it ‘complicit in the slaughter of Iraqis by militias, the security apparatus and death squads’, but is willing to negotiate with American and British officials. The terms set out include the recognition ‘of the legitimacy of the resistance and the legitimacy of its role in representing the will of the Iraqi people’, ‘the dissolution of the present government and the revoking of the spurious elections and the constitution’ and the ‘legalisation of the old Iraqi army’(Independent 9 February 2007). Al-Jeelani makes it clear that they seek no pardon from America, as ‘the liberation and independence of our land’ is within their rights.

These are not terms the US is likely to accept. In fact, it is unlikely that the US will even negotiate with those they have termed ‘terrorists’. The US does not appear to be interested in negotiating, only in winning, whatever the cost or the consequences. To make this point clearer and stress the necessity of winning, the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned NATO on Sunday that failure in Iraq and the chaos likely to follow would hurt all the allies. ‘If the United States and our partners in Iraq fail, and there is chaos in Iraq, every member of this alliance will feel the consequences,’ Gates said at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of world leaders (Reuters, 11 February 2007).

We knew that. What we didn’t know was that those countries that went to war in Iraq and have been occupying the country for four years now have done so out of an obligation to fulfill NATO’s commitments –indeed an obligation to the world. ‘NATO is a military alliance, one with very serious real world obligations,’ said Gates. So those NATO members that waged war on Iraq on false intelligence, in defiance of the UN, by deception and manipulation, killing thousands outright, becoming responsible for thousands more deaths, destroying a country and its people…those NATO members were fulfilling their obligations to NATO and to the world. Another excuse to be added to the ‘List of American Attempts to Avoid the Terrorism Label when Bombing.’

The truth is that the US has become the major perpetrator of terror from the sky. Its military might may no longer fill with ‘awe’, but it still leaves Iraqis in ‘shock’.