Saturday, July 01, 2006

Every Day's Like Thursday

When I write 7/7, you'll know exactly what I'm referring to. A year on, the tragic deaths of 52 people in London is still very much in people's minds and rightly so.

In Iraq, attempting to identify the deaths of civilians by the date on which they occurred would be entirely pointless. Today, on 1/7, a car bomb has killed at least 62 people in Sadr City. This time next week, 1/7 will mean nothing to you or I.

In response to this attack, our Prime Minister will not announce the need to change the rules of the game. He will not consider it necessary to radically alter direction or policy. He will not make constant references to 1/7 as a reminder of the seriousness of the challenges we face. In fact, he may not even mention this attack at all and if he does it will be to play down its significance. He certainly won't be talking about the deaths of these people this time next week, never mind next year.

This contrast between the apparently huge significance of the killing of people in London as compared to the insignificance of the killing of people in Iraq reveals much about the way we as a society treat the deaths of "others".

If people in the UK were being killed at the rate they currently are in Iraq, it would be considered the biggest crisis this country has faced since WWII. The calls for an immediate plan of action would be deafening. When it happens it Iraq however, its apparently not a big deal and those who show concern are accused of exaggerating the scale of the problem.

It is, in reality, almost impossible for us to imagine what it's like to live in in the midst of violence of that magnitude and regularity. But, perhaps those who seem so keen to play down the level of violence could at least try. How would you feel if this sort of thing was happening in your neighbourhood? Would you be comforted by the fact that the situation is more stable in some of the surrounding provinces? I have to say that I'm sure that if I was looking at the scattered bloody remains of a family member, friend or neighbour, it would be no comfort at all.

There are those who believe that the "pessimists'" underlying assumption is that the Iraqi people are too primitive to be able to sort out their problems and live in a peaceful democratic country. This is misleading spin encouraged by a Whitehouse desperate to misrepresent the many valid criticisms of their failed policies. I've no doubt that many people genuinely believe it to be true but they are mistaken.

Iraqis are human beings just like you or I. Just consider the situation. Your government has completely failed to provide security for your neighbourhood. Your friends and family are under attack simply because of their religious/political affiliations. This has been going on for years. Your neighbourhood has formed an armed militia to protect itself as best it can. A car bomb kills 62 people at your local shopping centre and you know from which community the bombers came from. What do you do?

Most human beings, sadly, will react violently if they have the means and Iraqis are no different. Extreme situations breed extreme responses. History shows just how easily such a situation develops into a vicious circle of violence and yet more violence. This, tragically, is the situation faced by Iraqis every single day.

This is the reality of life in Iraq. It is result of the policies of Tony Blair and George W. Bush. Their violent intervention into a society they didn't even begin to understand, justified by a threat which didn't actually exist, has had horrendous consequences which were entirely predictable to those who did.

And then there's this. I don't have the words.

Perhaps, one day far in the future, Iraq will become a peaceful democratic country. But, three years on from the invasion, with conservatively tens of thousands of Iraqis dead and no sign of the violence abating, if it does, it will be no thanks to the two men who instigated the violence whilst having not the slightest idea how to stop it.

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