Iraqis happy to see Blair squirm over war report

Iraqis praying on Wednesday at the site of a suicide bombing attack which took place on Sunday in Baghdad's Karrada neighbourhood. At least 280 people were killed. Many Iraqis blame their suffering on bad decisions made by the US and Britain.
Iraqis praying on Wednesday at the site of a suicide bombing attack which took place on Sunday in Baghdad's Karrada neighbourhood. At least 280 people were killed. Many Iraqis blame their suffering on bad decisions made by the US and Britain.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

13 years on, their country is wracked by terrorist attacks and many cities lie in ruins

BAGHDAD • As Britain looked back on its decision to go to war in Iraq 13 years ago, Mr Thamir al-Shemmary went to the funeral of his brother and two nephews, killed over the weekend in Baghdad's deadliest terrorist attack since that war began.

Mr Shemmary had a question for Mr Tony Blair, the former British prime minister whose decision to join the invasion came under critique in the Chilcot Report, released in London on Wednesday after an exhaustive war inquiry .

"Who will compensate me for the loss of my brother and his children?" he said. "Trust me, I am bleeding from the inside."

With Britain consumed with reli- tigating the familiar history of the Iraq War - the false intelligence assessments, poor post-invasion planning - Iraq is consumed with the consequences of that history.

Wednesday should have been a joyous celebration of Aidilfitri, the holiday after the holy month of Ramadan that is normally filled with family gatherings, games, sweets and lavish meals.

But many Aidilfitri celebrations were cancelled, replaced by funerals, prayer services and candlelight vigils for the victims of Sunday morning's devastating car bombing in a busy central Baghdad district full of cafes and stores.

The Health Ministry yesterday said 281 people were killed.

Widen the lens more broadly over Iraq, and a panorama of suffering that most Iraqis attribute to bad decisions by the United States and Britain comes into view: More than three million people displaced from their homes because of fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); cities in rubble; a barely functional government facing a severe financial crisis; Iranian-controlled militias that seem more powerful than the Iraqi army.

Many Iraqis took all that into account as they watched the debate and news reports over the Chilcot Report.

Some Iraqis took a modicum of satisfaction in seeing Mr Blair called to account for his decisions.

Mr Blair made a statement on Wednesday in which he said he took "full responsibility" for any mistakes related to the war.

"Today I feel so happy," said Mr Salim Hamid, 44. "It is like a wedding to me to see the person who destroyed my country being nervous because of being asked a lot of questions."

Mr Hamid said he wished he could throw a shoe at Mr Blair - a grievous insult in the Arab world - just as an Iraqi journalist did to President George W. Bush when he visited Baghdad in 2008.

Some noted that the number of British war deaths, 179, was distinctly fewer than the number of Iraqis killed on Sunday alone.

Mr Haidar Sumeri, an Iraqi analyst who made the comparison on Twitter, wrote in an e-mail: "It highlights the degree of irrelevance of Iraqi suffering in the West."

He continued: "People see another bombing in Baghdad, roll their eyes, make a comment about how bad it is there and move on. No one really likes to think about how we got here, how we can change the situation or learn from what happened so it doesn't happen again."

It is not that many Iraqis did not welcome the chance to be free of Saddam Hussein and his cruelty. Many reflect back, saying that before the war, they were hopeful and enthusiastic about the prospect of change.

But now, they feel betrayed by the mismanagement of the occu- pation, and the leaders who came after.

"We were expecting to be the best state in the world and now we have become the worst state in the world," said Mr Hussam Yohana, 30, who lost his cousin, Maher, a perfume shop owner, in Sunday's bombing.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'Iraqis happy to see Blair squirm over war report'. Print Edition | Subscribe