OPINION

Keeping the oath

The decision by the joint US-British forces to resort to massive air strike campaigns will inevitably render the Iraqi civilian population the true, tragic victims of the ongoing war. It is not just the thousands of innocent people who are being killed by the bombs and the tens of thousands who are wounded or handicapped. It is also the pitiful fate of survivors who have lost their homes, property, livelihood, and even those basic goods that would enable them to resume their lives when the conflict is over by keeping them from succumbing to poverty and hunger in a devastated land. If criticism of America before the war centered on Washington’s snub of international law and transnational bodies, the intensifying bombardments since the outbreak of the war have catapulted the civilian drama onto center stage. The destruction of buildings, roads, the water system and the inhabitants’ supplies is, in fact, a war on civilians, intended to put extra pressure on Baghdad. These strikes are not the result of «human error» but are systematically being carried out on purpose. The logic of violence wipes out all humanitarian concerns – provided there were any in the first place. The powerful bombardment of Iraqi cities, the lethal explosions in Baghdad’s marketplaces, and the extreme thirst of the residents of Basra all paint a picture of a disheartened population and cast a long shadow of guilt over the United Nations and other international organizations. Even though this war was decided upon and launched against the will of the UN, it should not remain passive, but should fight a tough political battle to save the lives of the Iraqi people, limit the civilian losses, alleviate the effects of warfare and prosecute the criminals of war – even if they come from the victors’ camp. The unfolding humanitarian drama in Iraq comprises a cultural trauma for the countries that take pride in respect for human life – and it must not be forgotten that the attacking powers have made a significant contribution to this oath. The international community and its institutions must try to live up to that oath. Otherwise, the ostensible liberation of the people of Iraq will be its brutal death sentence.