Thirty-two dead and over 110 wounded people have been added to the list of bombing victims in Iraq. Two suicide bombers were responsible; strapped with explosives they blew themselves up, killing and maiming their innocent victims in a second-hand clothes market in Tayaran Square, central Baghdad last Thursday.
What do we know about the victims? They bought and sold second-hand clothing. Among them were workers who offered their services and wares at the lowest prices, poor and simple citizens who sold what other people did not need any more at prices that do not keep them from going hungry. However, they persevered and sat in the square to sell in order to preserve their dignity and so that they would not be accused of begging.
Apart from the two young men responsible, Omar and Ali, the rest of those killed are nameless. Their lives have been reduced to statistics that, if someone is keeping record and documenting this incident, will be added to the list of the other victims in Tayaran Square from the bombings in 2018 and 2019. They will be added to the victims across the capital and other Iraqi cities, whose numbers have exceeded a million since 2003. Their lives were the price of change, liberation or the fall of Baghdad. There is no independent investigative journalism tracking victims' lives and publishing their details for them to be remembered. Journalists themselves are victims of crimes of another kind.
What do we know about suicide bombers? Except for the chilling bombings and their use of their booby-trapped bodies to spread death and destruction, almost nothing. There is always an enemy at hand, though, and the spread of rumours and conspiracy theories, as well as distrust of the security agencies.
The government's statements help us to point our fingers in its direction. Just one hour after the bombings, a security official stood in front of the cameras in the square and said that they were carried out by two suicide bombers who possibly or definitely were Daesh. This was said without any investigation, gathering of evidence or closing of the site to prevent contamination of the evidence or the trampling of the remains of the victims scattered around the square.
With amazing speed, a team of street cleaners arrived and cleaned the ground as it had never been cleaned before. Instead of waiting for the investigation team to arrive, the square was washed clean of the blood and body parts of the victims mixed with the remains of the suicide bombers, leaving no physical or forensic evidence for the police and security agencies to comb through, as they do in the rest of the world, in order to help identify the perpetrators.
"Security" officials began issuing statements that the Iraqi people have by now memorised by heart. These statements are prepared in advance and align with the agenda of the parties issuing them politically and in the media. In an exclusive statement to the Washington-based Alhurra television channel, founded by the CIA, the spokesperson on behalf of Iraq's joint operations command, Major General Tahseen Al-Khafaji, said that it was a "terrorist act perpetrated by a sleeper cell of the Islamic State", adding that the security forces are pursing the perpetrators and those who helped them. This is what Washington and its current policy makers want to hear so that they can justify their continued special operations in Iraq under the pretext of "fighting terrorism".
The general's statement reflects those of Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and the measures he intends to take as Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. They are statements that need to be examined for any sincerity and effectiveness. Al-Kadhimi chaired a meeting of the leaders of the security and intelligence services "to discuss the attack and its consequences", and ordered the formation of an investigation committee, which was added, as usual, to hundreds of investigation committees that were formed previously and buried by corruption. He also ordered changes in the security agencies' teams responsible for the "Tayaran Square accident". It is a measure that may seem encouraging at first until it becomes clear that it is, in fact, a game of musical chairs.
The same people were rotated into different positions without being held responsible or accountable for deadly negligence. And why did the prime minister describe the massacre as an "accident"? How can anyone describe the killing of 32 people and the wounding of 110 by two suicide bombers as an "accident"? This is the language of the occupier, which has always described its own crimes, violations and systematic killing of Iraqis as "accidents".
Al-Kadhimi did not stop there. He used language intended to reassure the US in the "war on terror" and create instability that necessitates foreign intervention when he said that the battle against terrorism is ongoing and long-term, and that he would not back down or ease up in fighting it.
His domestic promises, meanwhile, were exaggerated in terms of the state's capabilities and the efforts of the security and intelligence services to punish those behind this cowardly attack. He added that they will do their duty to rectify any complacency, laxity or weakness in their ranks, hinting that he also stands with the people in their quest for fair and just elections. It is a trap into which many political analysts have fallen when they looked at the Tayaran Square massacre as a terrorist attempt to hinder the elections scheduled for October, whereas what is known from the past is that it is one of the aspects of the US-Iran terrorist conflict spreading into organised crime gangs to take each other down. Iraq has lived through this sort of thing since the US invasion in 2003, and the latest massacre will not be the last.
It is worth going back to last July in order to examine Al-Kadhimi's sincerity in what he said during the period when activists were being assassinated, especially the killing of well-known political analyst Hisham Al-Hashimi, whose murder was caught on surveillance cameras and published by the local and international media. On 7 July, Al-Kadhimi promised that "Iraq would not sleep" until Al-Hashimi's killers were brought to justice." We will not allow anyone to turn Iraq into a mafia state," insisted the prime minister. Nobody, he added, is above the law.
Then as now, Al-Kadhimi ordered the formation of a judicial investigation committee and dismissed the security commander responsible for the area where Al-Hashimi was assassinated, saying that he too would be investigated. What was the result? Nothing. No results from any investigation have ever been announced or made public, and the criminals have not been arrested. The killing was chalked up to "armed parties", as is the case of thousands of similar crimes before and after.
It is important to document and record Al-Kadhimi's statements and claims, especially in which he declares his responsibility before the people, as "Prime Minister and Commander of the Armed Forces", as well as his continuous failure to fulfil his promises and duties. The most important of these duties is to protect citizens' security, implement the law and bring about justice as well as economic and political stability. It is the duty of independent media and those working in human rights and national parties, meanwhile, to present the government as it is: a failed and unreliable government made up of militias and gangs with partisan disguises that feed on corruption, violence, crime, poverty and illiteracy. This warrants Al-Kadhimi's dismissal and prosecution for his failure to fulfil his duties as he continues to shield the criminals from accountability.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 25 January 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.