The plight of Iraqis are reported on as a geographical global component, spot a map with flag pins, of major bloody incidents or what this or that politician in Iraq had to say about each other. These are followed routinely in every major news stream in the world, providing there are enough horrific scenes with the associated scale of casualties or tidbits of news.There are no news reports about how Iraqis are getting about and living their lives, after seven years many are without full electricity, potable water or proper infrastructure, save the areas favoured by government, hotels to host the upcoming Arab Summit, facilities for the rich and powerful with
photos of children frolicking in swimming pools.
In contrast to these seemingly normal photos, half of the population lives in wretched poverty, some do not have
homes or live in makeshift shelters and have difficulty even affording the ingredients for proper daily meals, for
them health care is non-existent. Add to this, the plight of refugees outside Iraq waiting to either be settled or
for calm to return to Iraq, so that they can safely return, losing even that hope. Men line up to join the Iraqi
police or security forces or military, many join because they have no other choice of employment, and are blown
up by suicide bombers in the process.
Former military, teachers, physicians, professors, scientists, government workers or blue collar workers who fled the present regime and who desire to return to their homes cannot. These men and women who would contribute to a working Iraq will never be granted mercy or be welcomed back into the echelon of Iraqi society; they with their hearts in Iraq collectively remain outside, because if they did return they would join the ranks of their fellows either in death or in prison.
The rancid UN pays no heed to the topic, persistently ignoring the plight of Iraqis. Mainstream media was silent on the effects of UN sanctions on civilians, and how in both wars water treatment and infrastructure was deliberately targeted. There are no western nor arab government schemas targeting the plight of civilians, save those NGO's who in their seemingly small numbers carry on the work of giants.
Now that the US military is leaving Iraq, the mainstream news will be whittled down to the occasional blurb, although it is not more than that now. Media fixated with literary portrayals of war and explosive destruction, leave out the core of human suffering and devastation.Human suffering at a maximum, families affected, lives changed forever, this part was never properly portrayed, nor will it ever be.The world whose eyes were fixated on Iraq during the invasion has forgotten the people it left behind. What will become of them? They are the survivors and will climb out of the dust of hopelessness on their own, because that is all they have -- each other. This saddens me greatly that they are now the forgotten.
by Elaine Bigelow & contributed to Iraqi solidarity News (Al-Thawra).
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Even as Washington is recasting the narrative of the Iraq war in terms of the troop withdrawal and campaign promises, Iraqi citizens say they're still caught in the same old story of frustration and fear. U.S. combat troops have now left the country, leaving behind an unfinished $53 billion rebuilding plan and some 50,000 personnel to advise and assist the populace.Meanwhile, President Obama is scheduled to speak about the end of America's seven-year military engagement in Iraq in a speech on Tuesday that will, among other things, officially change
the code name for the U.S. mission from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.
But the rosy "rebranding" of the conflict, as some have called it, is hardly playing well in the bazaars of Baghdad
and other embattled cities and towns where Iraqis of all stripes are scratching their heads over how charting
their own course can possibly be a good thing. After all, a snapshot of today's Iraq is grim, and perceptions of an
American retreat have the Iraqi streets rippling with anger and incredulity.
"What have the Americans accomplished for this country that they can now decide to just leave?" asks Hasnaa Ali, 42, a Baghdad schoolteacher who is heading home with a bag of groceries to prepare her family's iftar meal — the daily breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. "We don't have clean water or electricity. Prices for everything are very high. There is no security, no jobs, no housing." She adds, "If their goal in coming here was to grant us freedom and democracy, how can they leave us when we are sunk in blood and trash? How can they hand Iraq over to our Iraqi politicians? Does the American President think we will be safe with such politicians? I don't think he understands them as well as we do."
The U.S. insists that Iraqi security forces are continually improving. In a statement, U.S. embassy spokesman David Ranz in Baghdad said, "Iraqi's ability to chart their own future is a direct rebuke to those who would rule by fear, intimidation and violence. The United States will stand with the Iraqi people as they continue to demonstrate courage and resolve in the face of brutal attacks and tragic losses." That is little comfort to many locals. "The Iraqi people are eager to have a sovereign country, but at the same time they do not want the Americans' departure to lead to the spilling of Iraqi blood. No one here wants to see the return of sectarian war such as in 2006 and 2007," says Hameed Fadhil, a professor of political science at University.
Meanwhile, a new government has yet to form more than six months after the inconclusive U.S.-backed national elections. So far, the glacial pace of negotiations to build a working coalition has been an exercise in partisan squabbling, exposing Iraq's still deep sectarian rifts and the decline of Washington's political leverage. Despite almost daily announcements of increasingly complex electoral equations meant to break the deadlock, even optimistic predictions for the process run to weeks or months.
Worse, caretaker Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki put the country on a high terrorism alert after an onslaught of coordinated car bombings, shootings and suicide attacks struck police and security stations in at least 14 cities and towns on Aug. 25, leaving some 55 people dead and hundreds wounded. The timing and broad scope of the strikes, which were claimed by an al-Qaeda offshoot called the Islamic State of Iraq, has the government bracing for more. "These attacks are a serious and important indicator. We cannot allow the [al-]Qaeda network to reorganize itself again," Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammed al-Askari tells TIME.
Al-Askari says operations are under way in all the provinces to hunt down terrorism cells and quell the threat of more attacks. He says, "Our troops are ready," and predicts that Aug. 31 — the day Obama is scheduled to speak — will be "a normal day." Even so, last week's assaults have petrified the public and reinforced the dire assessments of Iraq's unproven security teams. Ahlam Saeed had her suspicions confirmed the hard way.One minute the 53-year-old widow with nine children was shopping in Baquba, capital of the once restive Diyala province; the next she woke up on a hospital stretcher, her leg severely damaged from a suicide bomber who had targeted a nearby police station. "If the Iraqi forces aren't even capable of protecting themselves, how can they protect us? How come a suicide bomber is capable of reaching the city market in Baquba? If he came from outside the city, how could he get through 20 checkpoints?" asked Saeed after the attack on Aug. 25. "I never
had any faith in our security forces, and I'll say it again: I don't trust them."
As a Baghdad trash collector, Ali Nasar, 26, has a unique perspective on a view held by many Iraqis. "When the occupation forces came to Iraq, it was good they got rid of Saddam [Hussein], but in fact everything got worse: security, electricity, water and garbage — which is good for me. But when they leave, nothing will be improved or return to the way it was," says Nasar. "No matter if the Americans are here or not, Iraq is a ruined country."
By Charles McDermid for TIME Magazine
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In a pastel-colored room at the Baghdad morgue known simply as the Missing, where faces of the thousands of unidentified dead of this war are projected onto four screens, Hamid Jassem came on a Sunday searching for answers.
In a blue plastic chair, he sat under harsh fluorescent lights and a clock that read 8:58 and 44 seconds, no longer keeping time. With deference and patience, he stared at the screen, each corpse bearing four digits and the word “majhoul,” or unknown:
No. 5060 passed, with a bullet to the right temple; 5061, with a bruised and bloated face; 5062 bore a tattoo that read, “Mother, where is happiness?” The eyes of 5071 were open, as if remembering what had happened to him.“Go back,” Hamid asked the projectionist. No. 5061 returned to the screen. “That’s him,” he said, nodding grimly.His mother followed him into the room, her weathered face framed in a black veil. “Show me my son!” she cried.
Behind her, Hamid pleaded silently. He waved his hands at the projectionist, begging him to spare her. In vain, he shook his head and mouthed the word “no.”“Don’t tell me he’s dead,” she shouted at the room. “It’s not him! It’s not him!”No. 5061 returned to the screen.She lurched forward, shaking her head in denial. Her eyes stared hard. And in seconds, her son’s 33 years of life seemed to pass before her eyes.“Yes, yes, yes,” she finally sobbed, falling back in her chair.
Reflexively, her hands slapped her face. They clawed, until her nails drew blood. “If I had only known from the first day!” she cried.The horror of this war is its numbers, frozen in the portraits at the morgue: an infant’s eyes sealed shut and a woman’s hair combed in blood and ash. “Files tossed on the shelves,” a policeman called the dead, and that very anonymity lends itself to the war’s name here — al-ahdath, or the events.
On the charts that the American military provides, those numbers are seen as success, from nearly 4,000 dead in one month in 2006 to the few hundred today. The Interior Ministry offers its own toll of war — 72,124 since 2003, a number too precise to be true. At the morgue, more than 20,000 of the dead, which even sober estimates suggest total 100,000 or more, are still unidentified.
This number had a name, though.
No. 5061 was Muhammad Jassem Bouhan al-Izzawi, father, son and brother. At 9 a.m., on that Sunday, Aug. 15, his family left the morgue in a white Nissan and set out to find his body in a city torn between remembering and forgetting, where death haunts a country neither at war nor peace.There is a notion in Islamic thought called taqiya, in which believers can conceal their faith in the face of persecution. Hamid’s family, Sunnis in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of New Baghdad, engaged in their own.
As sectarian killings intensified in 2005 and Shiite militias stepped up attacks, they hung two posters of Shiite saints near the apartment’s windows, shattered in car bombings and patched with cardboard. To strangers, they changed their tribal name from Izzawi to Mujahadi, hoping to blend in. They learned not to say, “Salaam aleikum” — peace be upon you — in farewell, as more devout Sunnis will do.
Burly and bearded, Muhammad was the most devout in the family, and perhaps the least discreet. He allowed himself American action films, “Van Damme and Arnold,” his brother recalled. But his routine was ordered by the call to prayer, bringing him five times a day to the Arafat Mosque.“We said, ‘Listen to us, just pray at home,’ ” Hamid recalled begging him.“It’s in God’s hands if I’m killed,” he said his brother replied.
On July 1, 2005, at 5 a.m., guns clanged on their metal front door like brittle bells. Muhammad’s mother opened it, and men dressed as police officers forced her back. Barely awake, Muhammad clambered down the stairs in a white undershirt and red pajamas. The men bundled him into a police pickup and drove off, leaving his 2-month-old daughter, Aisha, and his wife and mother, who cried for help as the headlights disappeared into the dawn.In all, 11 men joined the ranks of the missing that morning.
Willing to Help, for $20,000
Shadowed by militias, the family found that going to the morgue was often too dangerous, but as the weeks passed, Muhammad’s brother-in-law went anyway. He found nothing. The family gave nearly $650 to a relative who had a friend who knew a driver for a Shiite militiaman. A month later, he came back with no word, but kept $100 for his time. Another acquaintance offered to help for $20,000.
“Where were we going to get that kind of money?” Hamid asked.A chance encounter in August brought the family to the morgue. A neighbor had found his father among the pictures in the Missing room. He was one of the 11.Hamid is a quiet man in a city that does not embrace silence. Modest, even bashful, he is full of abbreviated gestures, questions becoming stutters when faced with authority.
Gingerly, he clutched a note from the morgue. No. 5061, it said, along with the name of the police station, Rafidain, that had recovered his brother’s body. He drove his family to the vast Shiite slum Sadr City, past a gas station named for April 9, the date of Saddam Hussein’s fall, and a bare pedestal where the dictator’s statue once stood.
Police officers in mismatched uniforms sprawled in chairs at the entrance, near a barricade of razor wire laced through tires, a car seat and a fender that suggested the city’s impermanence. “What do you want?” one of them barked at Hamid.
The family needed a letter from the police station, the first step in claiming Muhammad’s death certificate and finding out where he was buried. With Hamid beside her, the mother pleaded to let them inside. For five years they had looked for him, she said.The policeman glared at her suspiciously. “If you’re lying, I’ll put you all in jail right now,” he shouted.“My son is dead, and this is what you say to us?” the mother answered.The policeman turned his head in disgust.“Dog,” he muttered under his breath.
Slogans litter Baghdad. They are scrawled on the blast walls that partition this city of concrete. They proclaim unity from billboards over traffic snarled at impotent checkpoints. The more they are uttered, it seems, the less resonant they become.“Respect and be respected,” read the one the family passed, entering the police station.They followed Kadhem Hassan, the weary 60-year-old police officer in charge of records, whose office was around the corner from toilets piled with excrement.
“They keep throwing rocks at us at night,” he said, kicking shards of bricks away from the entrance to his office, near a slogan that read, “Heroes.”His office was bare but for a rickety desk and cabinets piled with curled, yellowing files. A fan circulated the heat; Officer Hassan had bought it for $20. Sitting in his chair, he endlessly shuffled files. In words slurred by missing teeth, he told Hamid’s nephew to go buy paper if they wanted a letter.
Eventually, he found the police report of Muhammad’s death.Dated July 3, 2005, it read: “We discovered 11 unidentified bodies, their hands bound from behind, their eyes blindfolded and their mouths gagged. The bodies bore signs of torture.”“All of us were victims,” Officer Hassan told Hamid, in an attempt at sympathy. “Who was the exception? No one was. Not the martyrs, not the policemen, no one.”
“If they just shot them, O.K.,” Hamid said. “But they beat them, tortured them and then they burned them. Why? And those guys” — the politicians, he meant — “ are just watching.”“Power and positions, that’s all they’re worried about,” Officer Hassan said.“Let me be honest,” Hamid said, flashing rare anger at no one in particular. “Just to tell the truth. It would have been better if we had stayed under Saddam Hussein.”The policeman shrugged and stayed silent.
A Bureaucratic Odyssey
From the Rafidain police station, carrying a letter on paper he had paid for, Hamid went to the morgue. His letter, said a clerk there, Ihab Sami, was incomplete.“The police don’t understand and neither do you!” Mr. Sami shouted at him.Quiet, Hamid shook his head and returned to Sadr City.“Come tomorrow morning,” Officer Hassan told him.He did. Sometimes with his mother, sometimes his nephew, he went back to the morgue, the police station again, the courthouse in Sadr City and the morgue. Over seven days, he collected papers, each with the number 5061.
Before the sun rose, on the ninth day after identifying his brother’s picture, Hamid drove his three sisters, Muhammad’s wife and daughter and his mother past Baghdad’s outskirts. American jets whispered through the sky. As the sun rose gingerly, Hamid’s car passed the tomb of the Prophet Job.
Before the sun rose, on the ninth day after identifying his brother’s picture, Hamid drove his three sisters, Muhammad’s wife and daughter and his mother past Baghdad’s outskirts. American jets whispered through the sky. As the sun rose gingerly, Hamid’s car passed the tomb of the Prophet Job.In Hamid’s hand was his brother’s death certificate.
“Corrected,” it read simply.Only the caretaker knew where Muhammad’s grave was; he had sketched its location on a hand-drawn map in a red leather book bound by yellow tape. Three stacks of bricks covered in hastily poured concrete marked it. “Unknown, 5061, July 2, 2005,” it read. Next to it was 5067, 5060 and so on, hundreds more, stretching row after row, so cluttered that some of the dead shared a grave.
The women stumbled toward it, throwing sand on their heads in grief. Their chorus of cries intersected with the Shiite lamentations of a nearby funeral. Muhammad’s wife grasped the marker, as though it was incarnate. His sister kissed the cement.
“How long have we looked for you, my son?” his mother screamed, tears turning the sand on her face to mud. “All this time, and you’ve been suffering under the sun.”She shouted at Hamid and the others.“Please dig him out! Let me see him. It’s been five years. Hamid! We haven’t seen him. Show him to me, just show him to me for a little while.”
She turned to Muhammad’s daughter, Aisha.“This is your child!” she yelled.Wearing pink, Aisha paid no attention. Too young to know grief, she played with dusty red plastic carnations, glancing at the rest of the dead, anonymous like her father.Hamid stayed back, his tears turning to sobs.“There is nothing left to do,” he said, shaking his head.
An hour later, the family pulled away in Hamid’s car, his mother’s cries still audible. “Let me take your place,” she moaned. It turned onto a ribbon of black asphalt. For a moment, the car caught the glint of the sun, then disappeared behind the countless tombs.Behind them was 5061. With a brick, they had furrowed a line into the marker. With a bottle of water, they had washed it, revealing a newly white tile in a sea of brown.
By ANTHONY SHADID, The New York Times.
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I am deeply confused by the claim in the article The Deaths that Chilcot Forgot and published by the Morning Star, that according to Iraq Body Count only 106,000 violent deaths have occurred within Iraq since 2003, a figure that is contrary to everybody who actually works inside of Iraq, when even according to the Iraqi
Government themselves, there are now, at minimum, over three million orphans within Iraq.
Couple that with the fact that over one million widows have been created since 2003 and in 2006/2007 alone
, at the height of the sectarian tensions, there were an estimated 3.000 deaths “reported” per month and these
figures do not even include the estimated 1.5 million Iraqi deaths caused by the UN imposed sanctions .
Majority of the hospitals have also been unable to keep an accurate record of Iraqi deaths, due to shortages and with civilians also being fearful of collecting the deceased from mortuaries because of the various death squads, the reality is that Iraqi deaths caused by the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, is likely to exceed even the one million number, that is universally recognised by all consistent organisations and international bodies.
As Iraq Body Count only include the deaths which have been “documented” by the Western media , the denialism that now exists surrounds the fact that many undocumented deaths do include those who have died due to a lack of medicines, trauma related suicides, shrapnel and combat induced injuries, along with birth defects and still births, caused by displacement and the use of chemical and biological weapons.
by Hussein Al-alak and published by Iraqi Solidarity News (Al-Thawra). Hussein Al-alak is chairman of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign UK.
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The lead article "The Deaths that Chilcot Forgot", that was published by the Morning Star on 28th August* regarding the Iraq Body Count statistics on Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion, makes the point that "... the
true figure is expected to be much higher."
The IBC figure of 106,000 deaths, are, in fact, risible. At the upper end of Iraq mortality, resultant from the
US/UK-led onslaught, is the 2006 Lancet study citing 655,000 deaths (2003-2006.) The World Health
Organisation estimated an upper figure of 223,000 (March 2003-June 2006) stating a real possibility of
underestimate, due to "high levels of insecurity" making some areas inaccessible, added to many people moving
around to escape conflict. "... in the absence of comprehensive death registration and hospital reporting,
household surveys are the best we can do", stated co-author Mohamed Ali, a WHO statistician.
The death toll, never the less, they recorded, was: "massive." The revised ORB figure (Jan 2008) states (March 2003- August 2007) " is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000." Allowing for a margin of error, upper figure "could be 1,120,000."During 2006-2007, the central morgue in Baghdad alone reported receiving an average of 3000 bodies a month, with more, some months, in orders of magnitude. Thus, one morgue alone, taking the 3000 figures, equals 72,000. During the worst of the fighting in Najaf, bodies were reported buried in hotel and hospital car parks, in their hundreds, it being too unsafe to venture to the cemetary. In Falluja, whole football pitches became grave yards.
Given that the UN cites a million widows since 2003, that surely means a million dead men. And between three and five million orphans - the sums are truly holocaustal.When the then US Ambassador to the UN., Madeleine Albright stated on "60 Minutes", in May 1996, that half a million children had died of "embargo-related causes", that figure stayed, year after woeful year, at half a million. Yet children were dying at an average of 6,000 a month, never to be acknowledged. IBC seem to be repeating this pattern with invasion-related deaths.
"One owes respect to the living; but to the dead one owes nothing but the truth", wrote Voltaire. Indeed. For what must be numbers of genocidal proportions, it is incumbant on the living, to at least offer honesty to those killed in our name, in an illegal invasion.
by Felicity Arbuthnot and published by Uruknet.
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Several years ago, leaders in Washington shaped an entire advertising campaign to invade and occupy Iraq. The set of lies and accusations that later proved false were the backbone of the American script. And now, as then, many media outlets are repeating the American version without flinching.
Therefore, Obama's statements and moves, announcing with much fanfare that he is fulfilling his promise to withdraw troops from that country are cheered by that same news media that once also "saw" Saddam's relations with al Qaeda, weapons of mass destruction and other false arguments of those who then were never heard from again.
It was George Bush who declared in the past that "the war has ended" and now we are repeating the same song after the announcement of Obama. And all this prepared with a triumphant victory speech and presenting the current situation as the final victory of the United States.
Some intend to present the current situation as close to stability, but the only thing that has stabilized is that there is a situation of war, close to a low intensity war, the result of which Iraq and Afghanistan have once again changed their roles. If for some years the Iraqi centrality placed Afghanistan in a secondary role, now, according to U.S. strategy, the roles may be reversed.
Recently, a local journalist pointed out that there were some signs that could substantiate this alleged stability. It was mentioned about the gradual recovery of Abu Nawas, the famous area of the capital on the banks of the Tigris which concentrates a good apart of the nightlife, or the road to Baghdad to Tikrit or linking the capital to Najaf, two-routes that a few years ago were classified as "very dangerous" and apparently its traffic has "normalized." But, at the same time, he admits that the extraordinary installation of sixty military checkpoints on the road has been instrumental to the situation.
The desperate search of the occupants for a picture of victory, a picture that from the beginning of the occupation resists them, makes them present "another" reality of Iraq, in line with the script designed from Washington.
Nevertheless, Iraq shows another reality. After three wars, thirteen years after the criminal embargo with the bombing of the U.S. and Britain and the last seven years of foreign occupation, we find a failed state, unable to provide the people with necessary services and run by a political lobby that uses the umbrella of so-called "security" to hide all their miseries and shortcomings.
And if the recent occupation has been the final push that has put Iraq on the brink of the abyss, we should not forget that the previous steps (embargo and seizures) have been keys to destroying the country. Well beyond the current situation, genocide against the Iraqi people is the direct result of implementing these strategies.
Today, "thanks" to these policies, the agricultural sector, once one of the pillars of the Iraqi economy, is destroyed and the population is forced to abandon their fields and consume imported products with the rising cost that this entails. The IMF has also "collaborated" in the impoverishment of Iraq. Its actions have made the price of gasoline soar, when in the past its purchase was subsidized by the state.
Environmental degradation and its implications for the population also tends to erase the picture. The effects of depleted uranium used by the occupants during the period prior to the invasion, or those who inflicted all the restrictions of the embargo are part of that "new reality" with fatal consequences. Furthermore, the destruction of the agricultural sector has brought an increase of desertification and sandstorms that sometimes force the closing of public buildings and airports due to the lack of visibility.
And other aspects of Iraq, since there are thousands of exiles (and their difficulties in returning), internally displaced persons, unemployment, almost daily attacks, the fear of "the other" (a direct result of the sectarian politics of these years), or uncontrolled privatization of all strategic sectors of the country "disappear" from the guidelines set from Washington in dealing with the alleged U.S. withdrawal.
With an incompetent and corrupt political elite, with an army in the process of reconstruction, but unable to assume its role without the support of the occupants, and a clear institutional deadlock, to speak of normalization in Iraq is a sarcasm.
So the fine print of the Obama announcement calls into question the statement made. How can you claim that U.S. combat troops are leaving Iraq? Anyone who defends this thesis does it for ignorance or for a specific special interest. The truth is that 50,000 American soldiers will remain in that country who have conveniently changed their name (combat troops are now going to be called assistance brigades). Calls have emerged for permanent bases in Iraq like mushrooms and Washington has no interest in abandoning them. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad is one of the largest worldwide, with very mixed personnel.
To all this we must add also the presence and the arrival of thousands of "mercenaries" and other members of private security (sometimes also presented as advisors). And do not forget that the absence of an Iraqi armed force causes the local army to depend entirely on the "air services" of the U.S. (which will last at least until 2018), or the role they have to play in so-called 'units of special operations" that will remain in Iraq.
The occupation of Iraq is illegal under international law, something that many have wanted to forget. The consequences of the strategy of the occupants is a suffering Iraqi society, with fatal consequences.
This self-proclaimed victory leaves behind a trail of blood, a country devastated, ravaged, plundered and divided. A society that will take a long time to heal the wounds, but that today closely collaborates to demand the withdrawal of all occupation forces from its territory.
Above all, it presents to us a country that is still the center of interests and maneuvers of foreign powers, all ready to capitalize on the situation to their advantage. In this sense it will be necessary to see the maneuvering in the coming days with countries like Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and realize that the U.S. is willing time and again to implement "covenants against nature" in defense of their interests, and especially at the expense of the people of Iraq, who will continue to be affected by the tragic consequences of their politics.
Other players will also attempt in the coming months to profit from media attention, especially before the news about the country goes off to focus on Afghanistan instead, and plunges Iraq into a kind of "low intensity warfare" that erases it with a pen stroke and the wires of the media.
by Rekondo Txente, Rebelión and published by Pravda.
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