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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

For Ali, Sajad, Ayat and all the other children

by Lily Hamourtziadou

4 May 2008

Ali Hussein was buried in the clothes he died in: a white-and-blue t-shirt and a pair of little orange shorts. It was what he wore the day his dust-covered body was pulled out of the rubble of his house, after it had been flattened by an American bomb. Ali was 2 years old.

At least 30 people died in that bombing in Baghdad’s Sadr City, on the 29th of April, 12 of whom were children.

“Ya’mma, Ya’ba” (“Oh mother, oh father”), cried Amira Zaydan, a 45-year-old spinster, slapping her face and chest as she grieved for her parents Jaleel, 65, and Hanounah, 60, whose house had exploded after apparently being hit by an American rocket.
“Where are you, my brothers?” she sobbed, lamenting Samir, 32, and Amir, 29, who had also perished along with their wives, one of whom was nine months pregnant.
“What wrong have you done, my children?” she howled to the spirits of four nephews and nieces who completed a toll of 10 family members in the disaster that struck last Tuesday (The Times, 4 May).

As neighbours were trying to dig out her family’s bodies out of the rubble, another rocket landed, killing 6 rescuers.

Um Aseel Ali lost her husband and 3 sons, aged 6, 4 and 2, when a rocket hit their house, while another woman, Um Marwa Muntasser, kept under sedation, lay unaware that her husband Samir and her children, 4-year-old Sajad and 2-year-old Ayat, had been killed when their home was hit. All three women may qualify for condolence payments (made for death, injury or battle damage resulting from US military operations) usually around $2,000-$3,000, which should ease their pain of having had their families exterminated inside their own homes.

Overall, 218 civilians were killed in Iraq last week, 25 of them children. 20 of those children were killed by US forces, as they tried to kill Iraqi ‘criminals’ through bombing house after house, neighbourhood after neighbourhood, in a city of 2.5m people.

As April 2008 came to an end, the Iraqis mourned another 1,400 civilians… perhaps as many as 1,900. At least 66 children were reported killed in April, while US forces killed a minimum of 136 civilians (and possibly as many as 600), with the blessing of the democratically elected Iraqi government.

How can we do this? How can we ‘enlightened,’ ‘liberal’ and ‘moral’ citizens of a culture that has allegedly reached the ‘end of history’, a culture that stands for freedom, human rights and equality… how can we commit such crimes? We think we can fight humanitarian wars inhumanely, we find it acceptable to meet ‘evil with evil’. We, who think our morality and our ethics to be superior to those of others, less civilised, how can we bear to be so cruel?

When did we lose our faith in our principles, those principles that were true for us, that defined our western civilisation? When did we abandon those principles that made our lives a little more meaningful than the simple struggle for survival in a jungle, a little more meaningful than the basic survival of the fittest –or, in this case, the mightiest?

When did our own lives become so meaningless that we can bear to take the lives of children without guilt, without regret, so systematically and so heartlessly?