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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

Happy New Year

by Lily Hamourtziadou

11 Jan 2009

Or not so happy…

Reports of bombings, dead families and wailing women have dominated the news in the past few weeks. Pictures of bleeding, crying children, or tiny corpses being carried by screaming men, have adorned the front pages of newspapers.

Yet they were not about Iraq. One would be forgiven for thinking they were though; the story seemed to follow the same recipe: (massive) aggression provoked by (considerably smaller) perceived threat, bombings causing great civilian casualties, followed by invasion aimed at destroying ‘terrorism’.

It sounds so familiar to anyone who has followed the events in Iraq over the past few years. But this time it was Gaza, not Iraq. And the aggressors were not the Anglo-Americans but their friends, the Israelis –their leaders at least.

Not that Iraq has had a great start: 137 civilians have so far been killed this year. US forces have killed 4 of them, including an old man eating his lunch on the side of the road.

In a mass rally in Baghdad, young men burnt American and Israeli flags, in protest at the conflict in Gaza. ‘We understand their pain, because the innocent are being killed by occupiers,’ said a prayer leader. ‘Any free-minded human being will call for stop of bloodshed once he sees the atrocities there,’ added a local shopkeeper (Agence France Presse, 9 January). ‘Free-minded’? This is a tough call. Who is ‘free-minded’? We all have our values, our belief systems, our religious or national affiliations.

Perhaps ‘free-mindedness’ is a lot to ask of anyone. We could just ask for compassion, mercy and understanding instead. Those are not a lot to ask or expect from fellow humans. Only they seem to be in short supply.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is ‘facing considerable challenges to his leadership, with opponents and critics saying he has built up too much power’ (Iraqi Crisis Report, 9 January). He has been accused of adopting a ‘dictatorial leadership style.’ It is indeed remarkable how stable his government is. When other countries struggle to keep stability, when other governments are barely able to make it to the end of their first term, in circumstances far better than those in Iraq, the Iraqi PM has managed to form such a strong government in the midst of terrorism, civil war and thousands of deaths! Any other leadership would have collapsed under all this strain. But not al-Maliki. He is on the winning side. He has the support of those who decide the fates of others. In Iraq and elsewhere.

The new year has started well for one man, though. Tony Blair is being honoured for his role in the war against Iraq. He is going to receive ‘the Presidential Medal for Freedom,’ which will be ‘presented by US President Bush,’ and is ‘one of America’s highest civilian honours’ (Sunday Sun, 11 January).

He must be happy. Not so happy are those too unfortunate and too weak to defend themselves from the wrath of the mighty.