Mosul Iraq

After the liberation of Mosul, an orgy of killing

My note: what if one cannot even become a refugee? and is killed?

In the war against Isis, they found a cause, the camaraderie of a close-knit tribe, and something akin to patriotism. They saw themselves as the defenders of the nation, warriors of a just and pure cause against an absolute evil. The cause allowed them to feel they were above the state – they did not answer to a gang of corrupt politicians in Baghdad. They have stared death in the eye many times, and that gave them the right to decide what is right and wrong.

“Sometimes we do things and we know we are breaking the law,” the commander told me one afternoon as he sat sipping his tea. He lit a cigarette and continued: “My general tells me: ‘Don’t bring me any prisoners – if you know they are Daesh, then deal with them from your end.’ My soldiers call me and say: ‘We have found a man’, and I tell them: ‘Kill him.’ I ask myself sometimes: what am I doing? Who am I to end the life of a man? I tried to consult a cleric who fights with the security forces. He said that if the prisoner was not armed, it is better to be cautious and hand him over to the state. But then who are those who are going to pass judgment on him? What qualities does the judge have that I don’t? And who appointed the judge? You’ll tell me it was the state – but who gave the state the right to rule over people? It wasn’t given by God, so I have the right to end the life of a man as much as the state has. But then, we are openly breaking the law, and if they catch me I will be strung up.” When he finished, the cigarette in his hand had burned away, and he lit another.

Like many other frontline units, the commander’s battalion had suffered heavy losses. Many of his veteran officers had been killed, and those who replaced them were killed, too. Those who survived carried the scars of major injuries, and the mental scars of a decade of war.

The commander and his men knew that the silence of guns in this ruined country did not mean peace; it simply meant the end of one kind of war and the start of another. Like those trapped in a long, destructive relationship, they were tired of this war, but feared its end much more.