Iraq war timeline: 10 years later, and Iraqi deaths continue to climb

I invite the reader to compare the photograph below, taken November 21, 2013, with the one on the cover of my book (left), taken February 4, 2007.

Iraqi men inspect the site of a blast that took place the previous day outside a cafe in Baghdad’s Bayaa neighborhood on November 21, 2013. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

This is the latest installment of the “Iraqi body count chronicles.”  I should just start numbering them.

It’s pretty much a “slam dunk” that there is no Iraq war timeline, at least not for the Iraqi people.  On November 27th, Bloomberg Business Week News posted an article titled: “Attacks in Iraq kill 36; 13 corpses found”

Attacks across Iraq including a suicide bombing at a Sunni funeral killed at least 36 on Wednesday, authorities said, while police found 13 bodies at two different locations with gunshot wounds to their heads.

Bodies were frequently found dumped during the height of Iraq’s sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007, when the country was at the edge of civil war. Although monthly deaths tolls are still significantly lower than they were then, a seven-month spike of violence that shows little sign of abating has raised fears that widespread killing may be rekindled.

Eight of the corpses were found dumped in farmland in the Sunni-dominated Arab Jabour district, a police officer said. All of the dead, men believed to be between the ages of 25 to 35, suffered gunshot to their heads, he said.

Two days later, on November 29th, The New York Times posted an article titled:  “18 People, Abducted in Baghdad, Are Found Shot to Death”

Eighteen people were found dead in what appeared to be an execution-style killing on Friday, their bodies dumped on a farm near the predominantly Sunni neighborhood where they had been rounded up the night before, according to the police.

Armed men in sport utility vehicles and dressed in military uniforms swarmed into the neighborhood of Mashahdi in northern Baghdad late on Thursday and singled out 18 people, taking them from separate residences, the police said, quoting witness accounts. The bodies of the victims, who were all Sunnis, were discovered in the morning riddled with bullets, the police said.

I can tell the reader with absolute confidence this is the exact same violence that was going on when I was in Iraq in 2006-2007.  One day, about a week after I arrived, a house was raided by Coalition forces where they found 60 decapitated bodies.  Another day my interpreter came to work and told me about the “pile of bodies” she had passed that morning.  When I asked her what she was talking about, she said she had passed a pile of dead bodies that were on the sidewalk near her home.  I asked her how many, and she said “about 25 or 30.”  Along the hallways of the Ministry of Defense building photographs were posted of employees who had been murdered within the previous few weeks.  Eventually, the pictures would come down, only to be replaced by others.

The years 2006-2007 were the height of the insurgency, with a slight drop from around 2009-2011.  Now it’s picked up again, and it’s as bad as it was when I was there.

When we think about why the US invaded Iraq in 2003, and contemplate the name of the conflict, “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” what are we supposed to take away from that?  When I was there the Iraqis I worked with at the Ministry of Defense used to ask me: “Mr. Mike, we know Mr. Bush wants to fight the war on terrorism, but why does he have to do it here?”  What could I say?  I felt like a jerk.  These people (who became my good friends) were asking a simple question: what did Iraq have to do with the war on terrorism that George W. Bush spoke of all the time?  The answer was clear, nothing.

Operation Iraqi Freedom is about as ridiculous a name as one could possibly come up with.  Are the Iraqi people free from violence and terror?  Are they free from death and destruction?  Are they able to live in peace and security?  I’ll let the reader figure out the answers to these questions.  But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the people of Iraq are far less safe today than they were the day we invaded their homeland in March 2003.  I say this with all sincerity.  I was there and worked with the Iraqi people every day for 14 months.  We talked all the time.  They told me what life was like under Saddam.  It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t as bad as this.

As long as Iraqi people are being slaughtered like these articles describe, the Iraq war timeline is not over.  Although I think he only cares about himself and being worshipped by the media, I have to credit Colin Powell with the phrase, “If you brake it, you own it.”  We broke Iraq for no reason other than to stroke the egos of a handful of Bush’s advisors with their own agendas, and he was too weak to stop them.  Ten years later Iraqis are being slaughtered, their bodies found with bullets shot through the back of their heads.  This is no different than what the Nazis did in Poland and the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

And all this while George W. Bush goes on late night TV with Jay Leno to get a few laughs.  Real funny.

Written by Michael M. O'Brien

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