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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

23 Mar 2008

‘Noble, necessary and just’ George W. Bush called it, this war that has entered its 6th year, this invasion that has destroyed a society and killed thousands of people. It’s been ‘worth fighting’ this war that has caused death, destruction and terror on an unprecedented level.

US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker was less celebratory. ‘The progress is still tenuous,’ he said. ‘It is fragile. It is reversible.’

‘We’ haven’t won then yet.

In fact, this month the civilian death toll is higher still. Five years on, daily violence plagues Iraqis, young and old, male and female, poor and wealthy, educated and illiterate alike. ‘We are surrounded by fear, depression and violence,’ writes Ali Marzook (‘Life After Saddam –Five Years On’, Iraqi Crisis Report, 22 March). ‘Fear has taken over the people,’ he continues, ‘the fear has cut away at the city’s once-famous social fabric. No one dares to utter a controversial word in front of his friend or neighbour, for fear that the individual may report him to a political party or militia.’ Moreover, people ‘anticipate death at any moment, on any corner, because no one knows when a car or roadside bomb might explode.’

‘Why and how and with what legitimacy’ have Iraqi people been ‘sentenced to all this harm?’ asks Iraqi academic Nabil Mohammed Younis, professor at Baghdad University (The Times, March 18). War, professor Younis observes, ‘seems to have become an accepted policy for a country with supreme power to achieve its foreign policy goals wherever it has vital interests, without any consideration to humanitarian values and the cost in terms of the lives of innocents lost and the tragedies faced by those who survive.’

Sadly, he is right. The lives of innocents and the tragedy of the survivors are not among ‘our’ considerations. Even the Iraqi government itself is not so interested in the human losses of their countrymen. Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi admitted this week that the Iraqi government has let Iraqis down, ‘simply because we have failed to provide the ideal we had promised’ (National Iraqi News Agency, March 23). Instead, the results of the past five years under foreign occupation are ‘painful and regretful.’ Any progress that may have been made ‘should not veil the catastrophe that has happened in Iraq,’ al-Hashimi said.

Any small or large progress made is reversible. What is irreversible, however, is the loss of life . This past week 300 civilians lost their lives in violence, 14 of them children. US forces alone killed 31. The March death toll is already over 1,000, while at least 91,000 civilians have fallen victims to this war so far. Those people are not coming back. Their fate is non-reversible. Nothing we do from now on, nothing we achieve can restore life to the dead, civilians or soldiers. Whether we ‘win’ or ‘lose’ those lives are lost forever.

And the killing goes on. From the air, on the ground, through bombings, shootings, by ‘us’ and by ‘them.’ Many more lives are going to be lost, so much more irreversible damage is yet to be inflicted on the Iraqis. In Baghdad, in Karbala, in Mosul, in Baquba… every death in every town serves as a reminder that we can never return to them what we have taken: the lives of those they loved.