Friday, July 22, 2005

t r u t h o u t Issues: Iraqi Civilians Are Victims of an Endless War, by Delphine Minoui

Iraqi civilian death toll keeps climbing relentlessly. These beleagured people will never forget the horrors of this war waged upon them for no other reason than U.S.-British hegemony in that region, which unfortunetely has the coveted 'black gold': oil. Indeed, this war will live in infamy forever. --- Annamarie

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Iraqi Civilians Are Victims of an Endless War
By Delphine Minoui
Le Figaro

Friday 22 July 2005

Baghdad: Twenty-five thousand people killed in Iraq since March 2003.

Akil Hakim's grocery store, in the heart of the Qadesiya neighborhood, was the circle of buddies' meeting place, one of the rare spots where Amir Ta'ei and his friends could continue to get together after nightfall, to drink sodas and play video games, in spite of the risks of staying out late in Baghdad. Last week, Akil Hakim was killed, and his store has never reopened. Thirty years old, the father of three children, he had no particular enemies. "All that we know is that armed men at the wheel of a Korean car stopped in front of his store around 10 p.m. and shot him," confides 27-year-old Amir Ta'ei, one of his best friends. Overwhelmed by more serious cases, the police didn't even deign to open an investigation. "We don't dare get together in the same neighborhood any more. The next time, it could be our turn," Amir Ta'ei worries.

Akil Hakim was young, discreet, and of modest origins. His story is the story of thousands of Iraqis, victims of a war with no front, and no visible combatants, that is getting worse every day in post-Saddam Iraq.

According to an alarming report made public by the Iraq Body Count organization, close to 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion of their country by American and British troops in March 2003, with an average of 34 deaths a day. These numbers, which remain approximate, are based on an analysis of more than 10,000 media reports between March 2003 and March 2005.

For its part, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior advances the number of 8,175 Iraqis killed in ten months from July 2004 to May 2005. Again, according to the Iraq Body Count report, close to half these deaths have taken place in Baghdad. Thirty-seven percent of civilian losses have been caused by occupation forces under American command, versus 9% by the insurgency. Criminal activity is the source of 36% of the deaths counted. "We cannot remain silent in the face of these victims. Our country is at war. We thought that, with the installation of a new government, the situation would stabilize. But the opposite is happening. The situation gets worse from day to day," worries Raja Habib al-Khuzai, a deputy of the new Iraqi Parliament. After a period of relative calm, recent days have been particularly deadly, with more than 24 children killed last week right in the center of Baghdad and the death of a hundred people after the explosion of a tanker-truck in the market of Mousayeb.

More than two years after the fall of Baghdad, Iraq has never trembled so much. Every day brings its batch of kidnappings, murders, and terrorist acts. The violence, which originally targeted occupation troops, no longer spares anyone: politicians, women, children, whatever their ethnicity or religion. In two years, the insurgents, whether Islamists or former Baathists, have professionalized their attacks. They now have recourse to a multitude of subterfuges like that of the man who pretended to faint on the university campus and waited until a large crowd gathered around him to detonate his explosives belt. In Tikrit, the resistance also practices the technique of booby-trapping dead dogs' bodies.

According to Iraq Body Count's report, occupation forces remain at the top of the list of those responsible for civilian deaths. The recent hardening of the rules of engagement has provoked an increase in "blunders," like the death of the young Heither Mohammad Moussa, from Sadr City. Two months ago, this economics student had just left the University of Mustansiriya grounds when he was shot dead by an American soldier from the side of a Humvee. Had he been taken for a potential "enemy" or was he caught in the middle of an exchange of fire between occupation troops and insurgents? In the absence of a witness, the question remains unresolved.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has just had discussions with representatives of occupation troops to assure that victims' families are compensated. The Iraqi Parliament is considering a proposed law designed for "victims of terrorists' acts," that would allocate a pension to the families of persons killed in an attack. In the meantime, Heydar has just signed a petition launched by the radical young imam Moqtada Sadr, which calls for the immediate departure of foreign troops.

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.


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