Never Again: IRAQ’s 10 year Regrettable Anniversary and the Still ‘Uncounted’ Dead

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GAYA FERNANDO

It is the 10th Regrettable Anniversary of the Iraq War. The above image is credited to Gio McCluskey

Reading this amazing BBC piece Marwa’s Story, many sentences stood out and among them:

“There are no official figures for the civilian casualties of the war because the Americans and the British didn’t collate them and the Iraqi authorities couldn’t. But one estimate suggests that more than 2,200 Iraqis were killed in the week that Marwa was injured.”

I like the ring of Regrettable Anniversary: it’s a phrase that can be easily relevant to ‘our war’ though we have no date for the declaration of war. Yet we do have a date for the end of a tragic phase of war where shelling and end-of-war hostilities have claimed according to many sources thousands of civilian lives. In 2019 it will be the (Regrettable) Anniversary of the end of war with huge civilian loss of life and in 1993 it was the Regrettable Anniversary of 1983 and in between there were many Regrettable Anniversaries too regretful to mention.

Like Anapayan I think that Still Counting The Dead is a welcome first step in asserting that civilian life in great numbers were killed and there is no memorial to the dead.  There is no place to mourn the dead civilians and those who fell in battle in the ranks of the LTTE.  For many who live overseas it was a terrible grief to know that their relatives had died of shelling or in the case of the older citizens, fatigue in the constant move over the last phase of war.  Frances Harrison’s book of course has a limitation which the author acknowledges in that it is not representative of the entire war and those who lost life and limb over the decades of war.

Many take sides and fight over the fact that the Dead Died and in the absence of a full investigation and admittance they will not come in to help the living as though to help the living would be an insult to the dead.  Others assume the voice of the aggrieved citizen whose life was hell during the war and criticise all attempts to hold the State accountable for the loss of civilian life during the final stages of war.  Enormous amounts of money will be spent on campaigns and pickets to get the international community to hold Sri Lanka accountable for war crimes and good luck to them for all the international community will end up doing in that direction.  I am a cynic, sorry.

I know three families in the North personally in which, like Marwa, there are children who will not run again easily nor see again fully.  After much effort we concluded that the sponsored kid of mine will never see again with that eye and that the way the shell exploded, the eye is not salvable.

These are life-changing events and the survivors will struggle all their life.

There are other tragedies of being in the ranks of a terrorist organisation: I know personally of an ex-LTTE cadre, a daughter who implored her mother  in Toronto to speak to her after the end of war, to give her a contact number, address, and to accept her back as a daughter.  It was one of the worst memories I carried away with me after that first visit to Jaffna in 2010.  The image of despair and complete unnatural rejection and isolation of a young person. How could a mother do that? I could not understand it.  It silences you when you come away and changes you somehow forever, even as a mere witness.  The unimaginable happened and continues to happen as long as war continues to be waged and the survivor survives.

We may never know the final count of the dead but helping the survivors, especially the young people can give you enough of an idea on what war is like and charge you with helping the living.

In memory of the countless dead.  Let’s reach out to more maimed child survivors like Marwa who will never run again. For whom their mother’s fear and helplessness signaled the end of childhood.  RIP all the souls killed in useless war on this planet!

Please read Marwa’s story !

Comments

  1. You can read about the justification or injustice of the Iraq War
    Injustice of Iraq War

  2. Why don’t you write about the suffering the Tamils had to endure during the last days of the war and later in the IDP camps? And why don’t you interview people like Manjula who managed to escape the clutches of the LTTE and the SL military? I’m sure there are many of them living in Europe?

    http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/i-am-manjula-survivor-of-a-massacre/

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