Iraq Body Count urgently needs your support to keep track of casualties - help us with a donation now


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

Building nations (the military way…)

by Lily Hamourtziadou

12 Oct 2008

‘U.S. Army issues new manual for nation-building’, reads the headline (Reuters, 6 October). It continues:

‘The U.S. Army on Monday released a new field manual that for the first time gives nation-building the same top priority as major combat operations in conflicts involving fragile states.

The Stability Operations Field Manual, derived from the Army's experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, provides commanders and other Army personnel with a guide for supporting broader U.S. government efforts to deliver development, reconstruction and humanitarian aid in war-torn nations. Army officials described the document as a roadmap from conflict to peace.

"Our objective, when we go into a foreign country, is to leave but to leave with that country safe and secure," said Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center.’


‘The "coercive and constructive capabilities" of military force, it says, can establish security; facilitate reconciliation between adversaries; establish political, legal, social and economic institutions; and ultimately transition responsibility to a civil authority.’

Forget ideology, ancestry and glorious past as the building blocks of national consciousness and identity. Forget shared values and goals. Forget trust, brotherhood, and loyalty to the motherland. Forget unity when faced with external threats and enemies. Nation-building the new, military way involves, instead, ‘going into a foreign country’ and, using ‘coercive and constructive capabilities,’ building a nation.

But what does ‘going into a foreign country’ mean exactly? It means attacking. It means bombing. It means killing. This is no way to build a nation.

Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing over a security agreement between Iraq and the US, with the thorniest issues remaining unsettled. The two sides cannot agree on two issues: legal jurisdiction over US troops and contractors and a timeline for a US withdrawal. Washington demands that US troops and contractors in Iraq have immunity from local prosecution, when they commit crimes, a demand the Iraqi government has accepted so far but is now reconsidering. The Iraqis also want the last US troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, ‘unless the Baghdad government asks them to stay’ (Associated Press, 8 October).

Naturally, the American military does not want its soldiers prosecuted when they kill innocents. Naturally, they do not wish to leave Iraq, as they are in the process of ‘building a nation’ there, of ‘reconstructing,’ and of ‘reconciling.’ As for the so-called government of Iraq, it is laughable that it should put its foot down now, when it has already accepted so much, when it has stood by and let its citizens die horrible deaths in the hands of a foreign army, when it has accepted to be bombed every day of the past week by Turkish planes, and when it has put its own power over and above the welfare of its people.

This week 157 civilians were killed in Iraq, 13 of them children. US forces shot dead 2 men, in separate incidents, who approached them, ignoring their warnings to stop. They will not be prosecuted for killing the men in question. As they have not been prosecuted for killing thousands.

Building nations… it is hard to see this as the role of the military, any military. When it is the military of one’s own country, they call it a ‘military coup’ or a ‘dictatorship.’ Military intervention, even domestic, is always regarded as something bad, something that violates civil rights and liberties. And when the army is foreign… well this is what they call ‘war’ and ‘occupation.’

The army, any army, can perhaps reconstruct buildings it has destroyed, but it cannot resurrect those it kills, or those whose deaths it causes during its ‘nation-building’ efforts. This is beyond the ‘constructive capabilities’ of even the most powerful army in the world.