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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

Causes of war

by Lily Hamourtziadou

27 May 2007

States are amoral. The moral values that guide the actions of individuals in our daily lives are not what lies behind state actions. Our moral guide, moral dilemmas, moral questions and principles that make us act in the ways we do, are not among the considerations of a state as it acts in the international arena. States, unlike people, are not moral agents.

A state’s decision to go to war is not informed or influenced by moral considerations. A state doesn’t wage war on another state to ‘bring democracy’ or to ‘help’ foreign civilians.

In Greece, we are taught that Alexander the Great sent his army to invade and occupy the Middle East, all the way to India, in order to ‘spread civilisation,’ to ‘enlighten the barbarians.’ We are taught to admire the Macedonian king who killed, destroyed and pillaged his way through Asia, as he built his Macedonian Empire. As part of our national education, as part of our nation-building, we are told our people and our ancestors should always be admired, as they were/are noble and kind.

Statesmen talk of morality, use moral reasoning to convince us civilians, us moral agents, to gain our support or to manipulate. Political elites use moral rhetoric both to gain support and to make their public feel good about themselves, to feel they are perhaps giving something up themselves (the lives of their soldiers or their resources) out of their own humanity, for the benefit of others, far away. Elites also use ‘fear’ to gain support; they speak of ‘imminent threats’ as they target people’s emotions and insecurities, making them feel as though the state is taking action to protect them.

The reality is that states go to war to pursue their self-interest. The US-led attack and occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with those values that Americans, or any of us in the West, hold dear: Christian ideals, democracy, equality, human rights. We went to war to gain politically and economically. Saddam Hussein’s regime was no longer friendly, and the US stood to lose politically and economically, if the unfriendly Iraqi regime continued to have control of the country and its oil.

So the US did not go to war against Iraq to help it. It also did not wage war on Iraq to destroy it. The intention was neither to help nor to exterminate, but simply to achieve its own goal: control of the region and its resources. Unfortunately, the means by which it has tried to achieve its goal, the reckless and belligerent methods it has employed, have caused devastation on a scale not even the most pessimistic of us could have foreseen.

The violence this week has caused over 600 civilian deaths.

More than 80 die on Monday 21 May. Gunmen kill 7 inside a minibus near Hibhib, one of them a child, while US forces shoot dead a civilian in Ishaqi, after their patrol is hit by a roadside bomb. In Baghdad, Falluja and Baquba, police find 51 bound and tortured bodies.

On Tuesday 22 May 125 lose their lives. In the day’s largest incident, a car bomb blows up 25 people, including 3 children, in Amil, Baghdad. Gunmen shoot dead 8 college students in Baghdad, while mortars kill another 4 students in Adhamiya, Baghdad. Near Baquba, gunmen kill 6 people, mother, father and 4 children, while US forces kill 4 civilians in two different incidents in Baghdad and Mosul. In Albu Ubaid, east of Ramadi, a suicide bomber enters a house and blows up 10 members of the same family. Police find 46 bodies in 5 cities, most of them in Baghdad.

On Wednesday 23 May 110 die, including 20 killed by a suicide bomber in a café in Mandali, 3 children killed by mortars in Khan Bani Saad, a primary school pupil killed when mortars fall on his school in Mahmudiya, and 8 policemen. 49 bodies are found in 6 cities, most of them in Baghdad.

Around 100 die on Thursday 24 May, among them 35 people who die when a car bomb explodes during a funeral in Falluja. Gunmen set up a fake checkpoint and shoot dead 11 people inside a minibus when it stops. After planting a bomb among the bodies, they blow up another 2 who come to the scene. 2 more civilians are shot dead by US forces, while a truck driver is killed by Blackwater security contractors in Baghdad. Also, 27 bodies are found, most of them in Baghdad.

On the quietest day of the week, 58 die on Friday 25 May. In an attack on Aswad village, gunmen kill 17 people, while mortars kill 2 children in Baghdad. Police find 26 bodies, mostly in Baghdad. In Kufa, Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr calls for all Iraqis to fight the occupying forces united.

Another 60 civilians are killed on Saturday 26 May. In an air raid over Sadr City, Baghdad, US planes kill up to 5 people. According to several reports and witnesses, as well as Iraqi officials, the dead are civilian drivers queuing in their cars to buy petrol. 11 cars are destroyed in the raid. During another air strike by British forces, up to 8 civilians are reported killed in Basra. Police find 27 bodies, mostly in Baghdad.

Around 75 are killed on Sunday 27 May. Among the victims, a famous Iraqi calligrapher shot dead in Baghdad, a child blown up by a car bomb in Falluja, 2 farmers, a head of council and his assistant, and 3 women and a child killed by mortars in Baghdad. In Baghdad police find 44 bodies, tortured and shot in the head.

This is what the pursuit of self-interest by a powerful state has led to: the total devastation of a country and its people. The collapse of Iraq: a country that had no terrorists before its invasion, a country that never attacked America. The goal has been achieved: the US is in Iraq and it will stay there to protect its interests. Yet too much has been lost on both sides to make this a sweet victory.