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    Middle East
     May 23, 2007
In Iraq, nobody is accountable
By Ali al-Fadhily

BAGHDAD - Killings, crime, lack of medical care, the collapse of education - the list goes on. But with the occupation by US-led forces now into its fifth year, and a supposedly democratic government in place, no one knows whom to hold accountable for all that is going wrong.

It is the occupation forces, particularly the United States and Britain, that must be held accountable, many Iraqis say.

"It is good of these people to discuss accountability for theft, but

the most important thing to account for is Iraqi blood," said Numan Ahmed, a human-rights activist from the Adhamiya neighborhood in Baghdad.

The British medical journal Lancet has reported that by last July, 655,000 people had died as "a consequence of the war". It has reported that the risk of death among civilians is now 58 times as high as before the US-led invasion in March 2003.

"By now a million Iraqis have been killed for no reason, and many millions disabled or badly injured just because of some thieves in Baghdad and Washington," Ahmed said. "We are prepared to reveal the documents to condemn them even if takes us a lifetime."

But Iraqis have no means to take action against the occupiers.

The US has not accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has the power to investigate complaints of genocide. The United States took the view that the court could conduct "politically motivated investigations and prosecutions of US military and political officials and personnel".

US opposition to the ICC is in stark contrast to the strong support for the court by most of America's closest allies.

With no doors of justice open to them, many Iraqis are taking to unlawful ways to hit back at occupation forces and government targets.

"The only way to do it is at gunpoint," said Ali Aziz, 32, from Ramadi, 100 kilometers west of Baghdad. "They invaded us at gunpoint, and we find it ridiculous to talk about any other way of getting back what belongs to us."

Aziz said he had lost several friends in attacks by US soldiers. "The whole world is dealing with this in a hypocritical way, and there is only us to claim our rights the way we find proper."

Human-rights group al-Raya filed a case in a court in Fallujah against US forces in 2004, after a massive military crackdown. About three-quarters of all buildings in the city were destroyed or heavily damaged during the US assault that November.

But US-backed Iraqi security forces have targeted the rights group. "The secretary general for the organization has now been arrested by Fallujah police for reasons that we are not aware of, and the organization is not functioning anymore," said a senior member of the group, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It is not the right time to talk about accountability when daily killings by US and Iraqi soldiers are still ongoing. God knows if it will ever be possible."

A case for accountability could well be made. A judge from the United States wrote at the time of the trial of Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1946: "To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

The US-led invasion of Iraq was judged by then-United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan on September 16, 2004, as "an illegal act that contravened the UN Charter".

The lack of accountability appears now to be leading to greater support for armed resistance against occupation forces.

"What accountability are you talking about, sir?" said Abu Jassim of Fallujah, who lost four members of his family when a US bomb destroyed his home during the first US offensive against the city in April 2004. "Americans are criminals, and the whole world is covering up for their crimes." They will be held accountable, he said, by Allah and by "the heroes of the Iraqi resistance".

Iraqis are also angry over destruction of their civilian infrastructure, for which no one has been held responsible.

"The US crime of deliberately crushing Iraqi infrastructure must be looked at as a crime against humanity," said chief engineer Jalal Abdulla at Baghdad's Ministry of Electricity. "They did not have to do this to support their military effort, but they did it just to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths for no reason but cruelty."

Others vent their frustration against what they see as an impotent United Nations. "The UN should be the place for asking those Americans why they committed so many crimes in Iraq," said Baghdad resident Malik Hammad.

Ali al-Fadhily, the IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, a US-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.

(Inter Press Service)

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