Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Now It’s Coffin Bombs in Baghdad

The Independent

A few hours before Lord Butler of Brockwell was attesting to the “good faith” of Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq, Sabr Karim paid the price for working for “new Iraq”.

The father of seven and a senior auditor in Iraq’s new Industry Ministry–his job was to scrutinise the lucrative contracts given to businessmen to rebuild the country–arrived home in the Saadiyeh suburb of Baghdad with his family’s breakfast of milk, cream and bread from a local grocery store. That’s when two men in a pick-up coolly fired two bullets into his stomach and two into his head. His children found him lying on the pavement, one leg still in his car.

In Iraq, the funeral tent is traditionally pitched in the street outside the victim’s home, but when I went to pay my respects yesterday it was blocked in by cars to prevent suicide bombers driving a vehicle into the tent–and not without reason. For when Sabr Karim’s brother and son-in-law went to the family’s mosque to collect a coffin for the dead man, someone had left a bomb inside. Another day in the life –and death–of “new Iraq”.

Sabr Karim had worked for the Industry Ministry for 30 years. “He was a very honest guy,” his brother Yahyia said. “He took care of the government’s money and in the past few months, as you know, there were millions of dollars in contracts going through the ministry. His job was to check this.

“Yes, he had received threats. He never talked about them. He was a silent man. He loved his family and he was a fluent English speaker; he read law books and he went to the mosque. He was a very private person.”

The details of Sabr Karim’s murder were as horrifying as they were routine, and–in today’s Iraq–familiar. He had gone shopping for breakfast on three consecutive days–routine is a fatal mistake for anyone in danger here–and when he returned before nine he did not see the car parked on the corner in which three men, one talking on a mobile, were watching. Neighbours later recalled that when one of the men closed his phone, another vehicle–a Nissan pick-up –suddenly appeared.

“They obviously didn’t know Sabr or the area, but they were told he had arrived,” Yahyia said. “They arrived immediately and were very professional killers. Two bullets in the stomach and two in the head. Then they drove away so fast no one had a chance even to shoot at them. Just think–Sabr had seven children.”

Sabr Karim’s eldest son, 20-year-old Akram,sat beside us. “For 35 years, we have lived in a closed society,” he said. “And now we are told we can have democracy–but this is freedom and liberty for killers. It cannot be done like this.”

But Sabr Karim’s murder was only the beginning of the family’s torment. His son-in-law, a vet who asked that his name not be published, told me what happened next. “We went to the mosque to get a coffin for Sabr and we brought it home here and put him in it and took it to the mortuary to get autopsy papers. Then we took the coffin back to the mosque and said we would want it next day for the funeral. But when we returned in the morning, we opened the lid and a bomb was connected to a battery inside it.” The bomb did not explode.

US troops later investigated the incident–apparently concerned someone might have been using coffins to store bombs which might later be used against them–and detained two of Sabr Karim’s cousins, Fawzi and Hussein Abdal, as witnesses. They have still not been released from al-Biyah police station. “What are we to think?” Yahyia asked me in the funeral tent. “Do you people realise what hell we Iraqis are living through?”

Iyad Allawi, the American-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister for whom, ultimately, Sabr Karim worked, announced yesterday the creation of a new “Directorate for National Security” to enforce law and order. It was a title with which all Iraqis are familiar. Saddam Hussein had a “Directorate for General Security”; when Mr Allawi was asked if ex-Baathists would be employed in his new organisation, he replied that his security men would be “professionals”–and all Iraqis knew what that meant.

There was chicken and beef for the funeral lunch outside Sabr Karim’s home, and yoghurt and fresh vegetables and strong, hot tea. Some of the visitors suggested there was so much corruption in the Ministry of Interior the police would not try to follow up the murder. And the murderers? There were a few careful allusions to Sabr Karim’s work–could this have been an inside job, a contractor who did not want his theft of state funds to be discovered–or was it just another attack on a civil servant working for the US-backed government? And why should there be a second attack on the family, the macabre bomb in the coffin?

The Karim family are Shias, living in a largely Sunni area of Baghdad, and Sunni-led insurgents have denounced all who work for Mr Allawi’s administration as collaborators. This is not something the family chose to mention yesterday. But as I left the tent, a cousin of the dead man came to me. “Mr Robert, thank you for coming but please go quickly now. There are people from outside this area who are here and some of the people who do live here have very strong views. Iraqis know what I mean. People are watching us and we are frightened for you.”

So I left–quickly–with the memory of what Sabr Karim’s youngest son, 11-year old Mohamed, with big, framed glasses, said. I had asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He paused and then said: “I want to be like my father.”

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail