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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

In Self-Defence

by Lily Hamourtziadou

5 Oct 2008

Mahir Ahmad Mahmud Zubaydi and his wife were killed on Friday when U.S. troops surrounded a building in an attempt to capture him in Baghdad's Adhamiya neighborhood….U.S. troops and coalition forces closed in on Zubaydi after receiving tips from insurgents in custody, the statement said. U.S. troops came under fire while trying to arrest him and, "acting in self-defense, coalition forces returned fire, killing Abu Rami and a female," the statement said.(LA Times 5 October 2008)

On Sunday, US forces again came under fire as they raided a house in Mosul, starting a shoot-out that ended in a suicide bombing, killing 10 people from the same family, 3 of them children. Some of the victims died in the bombing, others were shot dead. None of the US soldiers were hurt. And again, they were acting ‘in self-defence’ after coming under fire.

These are the most recent examples of US forces acting ‘in self-defence.’ On September 25th they killed a man waiting for the bus, thinking he was a terrorist. Only to defend themselves, of course. The previous day, they had killed 3 members of the same family, during a search, ‘in self-defence.’ The day before that, US soldiers killed a man and a woman in Salman Pak, for similar reasons, while, on the same day, the US army ‘had no choice’ but to return fire during a shoot-out and kill by mistake the chief of the Daawa in the Siniya area Jassem al-Karouti. And on the previous day they, again, killed a policeman, by mistake, during an ambush on suspected gunmen.

On September 19th the following took place:

US forces killed at least seven Iraqis, including three women, in a raid backed by an airstrike in a northern town on Friday.

The US military described the targets as Sunni extremists belonging to al-Qaeda in Iraq, but local Iraqi people and officials said the forces had killed civilians from a poor family who had fled the violence in Baghdad.

They said eight civilians were killed in the raid and airstrike on their house in the town of Ad Dawr. The US military said seven people were killed. "At around 3am American forces sealed off the area and then raided the homes of the neighbours, including my home," said Ahmad Khudier, 38, a guard at a nearby school.

"They handcuffed me and then took my wife and children and put them inside a room, and told them not to scream or do anything. About one hour later, we heard shooting and shortly after that the sound of airplanes and explosions."

The US military said it was targeting a suspected al-Qaeda leader who allegedly had conducted suicide bombings and worked for the suspected "emir" of Diyala province.

The US military said in a statement: "After arriving at the target, forces surrounded the building and called for its occupants to surrender. Despite nearly an hour of multiple calls and warnings that the force would engage them, the individuals inside refused to come out.

"An armed man appeared in the doorway, and coalition forces, perceiving hostile intent based on the man's actions, engaged him. (Financial Times 19 September 2008)

Justified again, as they ‘perceived hostile intent’ from those they had come to attack in the middle of the night.

The trouble is an aggressor cannot claim self-defence when his victim fights back. From March 2003 onwards, US forces have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians ‘in self-defence’, but the truth is that nothing they have done since they attacked that country and its people has been done in self-defence. Since they became aggressors, they have lost any moral or legal ground for self-defence claims.

American soldiers kill children ‘in self-defence.’ They kill women carrying groceries (and not explosives) ‘in self-defence.’ They annihilate entire families during raids ‘in self-defence.’

The blame they put on ‘terrorists’ who ‘hide among civilians.’ This is what the US army commanders say when they have bombed a building or a neighbourhood, trying to kill a single man and killing a dozen people instead. It is the fault of the ‘terrorist’ that his wife was killed, his children and his neighbours, because he was at home. In his own house, in his own town, in his own country. It is he who is the evil coward, and not the army who bombed the life out of his family. It is he who did not value the lives of the innocents, and not the American killing machine.

Self-defence… perhaps, but only in the sense of defence of American interests. Those are being well-defended, with every bomb and every bullet that takes the lives of innocent Iraqis.

Last week 94 civilians lost their lives in Iraq. They died pretty much defenceless.