More heartbreak in Iraq yesterday as reported by the NY Times. On this completely ordinary day in sectarian-riven Iraq only twenty people were killed in Baghdad bombings. Only a few children were made father or motherless by the absolute and utter mess we’ve made of Iraq. But I thought I’d bring you a few images and a bit of the story of one of these families:
The Lazim family lost all four of its men early Wednesday morning.
A man walked up to them as they got out of their pickup truck at a house they were building and sprayed them with gunfire. The youngest, 12, was asleep in the back. Two bullets tore through his chest.
In the patterns of violence in this city, sectarian killings like this one — the Lazims are Shiites and blame Sunni insurgents — have become routine, barely registering as blips on the screens of the authorities, and sometimes vanishing without ever being counted.
But behind each number is a story of piercing loss, one of fresh hardships for those who survive and of vivid memories of their last moments with loved ones.
The four men — Jodeh, 50, and his three sons, Falah, 25; Salah, 20; and Ali, 12 — left behind a family of women: a wife, nine daughters and a daughter-in-law. On Friday, the first day of mourning, they dressed in long black abayas, some with sleepy children in their arms, and received relatives from Kut and Basra in the south.
Deprived of the $67-a-day total that the four brought in, the women have no obvious means of support.
On a mat in the corner of a spare room in Sadr City, a poor Shiite neighborhood of back alleys, open sewage and brightly colored flags, Jodeh’s widow, Ghazala Kamel, lamented her family’s fate. They might have survived: the pickup would not start that morning and had to be pushed to get moving. Her youngest son, Ali, said he was tired, but his father, knowing that just two days of work on the house remained, told him he had to come and help.
Ali had quit school two years ago to help support his family, a practice not unusual for poor Shiites here.
“I made them breakfast, rice and sauce,” she said, rocking slightly.
Mr. Lazim’s nephew Sattar Awad, a philosophy student with an open face, learned of the deaths when he called one of the brothers’ phones that morning, and a soldier answered saying he had been killed.
Those responsible were Sunni extremists bitter at losing power, Mr. Awad said. “They were pushed out, so they started to kill people to get control of the country back,” he said.
Mrs. Kamel, in the corner, was too consumed by sadness to offer a theory. “I buried these four with my hands,” she said, holding her hands in front of her and shaking them. “I saw them washing their bodies. They were so handsome. So handsome.”
Those who support the present policy will no doubt counter that Bush is not responsible for the fact that Iraqi extremists are willing to plunge their nation into civil war. After all, Bush didn’t spur this hate. It came up of its own based on decades of simmering resentment fueled by Saddam’s Sunni-dominated dictatorship. But the very fact that Bush didn’t anticipate that this would happen and plan a strategy to control it before it caused civil society to disintegrate illustrates his utter, criminal negligence. He didn’t anticipate Hurricane Katrian either. Yet it came and wreaked havoc. Leaders must be judged not just by what they do, but how they anticipate and avoid calamitous eventualities. Bush fails miserably on both counts. When will he pay the price?