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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

Legacies of pain

by Lily Hamourtziadou

7 Sep 2008

‘The notorious Abu Ghraib prison is getting a face-lift: work to reopen the facility and construct a museum documenting Saddam Hussein's crimes…a section of the 280-acre site just west of Baghdad will be converted into the museum featuring execution chamber exhibits and other displays of torture tools used by Hussein's regime - including an iron chain used to tie prisoners together (‘Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison getting makeover,’ Bushra Juhi, Associated Press, September 5, 2008).

There are no plans, of course, to include the abuse and humiliation people suffered there at the hands of our soldiers. Iraq’s deputy Justice Minister, Busho Ibrahim, told the Associated Press that the American brutality was ‘nothing’ compared with the atrocities committed there by Saddam Hussain’s regime.

That may be so –as far as this particular prison is concerned. But the crimes committed by our armies and leaders go far beyond the walls of this prison. If only our crimes were limited to the actions of a handful of soldiers, if only our responsibility went as far as the actions of a few psychopaths…then Busho Ibrahim would be right. Unfortunately we are guilty of far more: the deaths of thousands of innocent people and the devastation of a whole country.

Since my last editorial, in late May, around 2,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq. Over 7,000 since the beginning of the year -317 of them children. Not our children, of course, but theirs, so we do not mourn their untimely deaths. We instead speak of ‘success’ and of ‘godly tasks’ in order to make this less shameful, in order to have something to be proud of rather than something that taints our very souls.

We speak of ‘democracy’… What kind of democracy is this? The last 5 years suggest it is a democracy of killings, of homelessness, of flight, of torture and human rights abuse; a democracy of bombardment, of terror and deep divisions; a democracy of fear and mistrust; a democracy under occupation by foreign armies. A democracy nobody would like to have in their own country.

It is our legacy in Iraq. On a par with Saddam Hussein’s. It is the legacy of both fanatics and cold-blooded killers; ours is the legacy of suicide bombers and ruthless politicians. And there is no museum, no memorial, nothing to chronicle the crimes we have committed, nothing to document the atrocities our leaders and the Iraqi government are guilty of. The horror of the last few years…the lives lost…who were they? Who are those who are being killed today? Who will be blown up, shot, tortured tomorrow? Which family will lose its child next?

If IBC achieves one thing, let it be this: that those lives lost become more than numbers, that every individual victim is remembered. And that our sad legacy is never forgotten by us –as it will not be forgotten by them.