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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

Above the Law

by Lily Hamourtziadou

14 Sep 2008

‘Iraq official's bodyguards involved in rush-hour shooting’ read the headline. The story went like this:

Bodyguards of the minister of displacement and migration, who has been telling Iraqis it is safe to come home after five years of war, were involved in a rush-hour shooting Monday that police said killed a woman and injured six other people.

Circumstances surrounding the incident were unclear. The ministry said traffic police fired toward the minister's convoy and that the bodyguards only fired into the air. Police said the bodyguards were trying to clear traffic by shooting into the air and that one of them accidentally aimed his gun into nearby cars. Witnesses said the shooting was the result of a dispute between the ministry bodyguards and traffic police.

The head of the ministry's planning directorate, Ali Shaalan, called the incident "totally unacceptable" but said the ministry guards had done nothing wrong.


Shaalan said the guards had surrendered and that their detention proved "no one is above the law."( Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed, LA Times, September 9, 2008)

So no one is above the law in Iraq. Those foreign soldiers who bombed a whole neighbourhood in Sadr City on April 29, killing 30 civilians, 12 of them children, are not above the law. The killers of 2-year-old Ali Hussein, and 2-year-old Moqtada Raed, 4-year-old Sajad and 2-year-old Ayat are not above the law. That same army that has killed some 500 Iraqi civilians so far this year is not above the law. Or so we are told, by their allies, the government that exists on the strength of this army that occupies their country and kills its civilians nearly on a daily basis. An army that arrests and detains whoever they decide, for months, even years, without charge. An army that remains unpunished. And still welcome.

And the minister of displacement and migration had just been saying how ‘safe’ the country was. As if a country that was occupied, ruled by a government that is supported by the occupying forces, could possibly be safe. As if a country as lawless, in effect, as Iraq, where the strong do just as they please and are clearly above the law, a country where bombs and guns kill civilians every day, without exception, could be safe for anybody.

During the past week 128 civilians were reported killed in violent incidents, in this safe country. The dead include a doctor driving to work, an aid agency official, 3 reporters and 2 children.

To make Iraq even safer, its friends are providing further help. Britain is committed to ‘providing Iraq with sophisticated weapons,’ according to John Whelks, the Spokesperson of the British government (PUKmedia, September 10 2008). As for the American friends of the Iraqi people, they are planning to sell the Iraqi government F-16 fighter jets. Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassim, the Iraqi defence minister, has ‘vowed that jet fighters would be used only in the name of the entire Iraqi nation and not, as they were under Mr. Hussein, against parts of his own country’ (NY Times, September 11 2008).

No weapons, no bombers against its own people, he says. Yet he does not realise that his government has used weapons against the Iraqis already. Every time an American soldier shoots an Iraqi, his government uses weapons against its people; every time an American plane bombs an Iraqi home, every time a man, woman or child is thrown into a filthy jail indefinitely, his government acts against its people.

Every time a bomb explodes, every time a family looks for its loved ones in a morgue, and every time bodies are unearthed from mass graves, the Iraqi government fails its people.

That the leaders of Iraq put themselves and their allies above the law is not the greatest shame. The greatest shame is that they put them above the Iraqi people.