10 years after US-led invasion, peace evades Iraq

At least 65 killed, 240 injured in attacks in capital

Deadly blasts rocked Baghdad Tuesday on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion that toppled the Saddam Hussein regime.
Deadly blasts rocked Baghdad Tuesday on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion that toppled the Saddam Hussein regime.

BAGHDAD — Iraq closed a painful decade just as it began: with explosions reverberating around the capital.

Beginning in the early morning Tuesday with the ­assassination of a Ministry of Finance official by a bomb ­attached to his vehicle and ­continuing for hours, the ­attacks were a devastating ­reminder of the violence that regularly afflicts Iraq.

And they somehow seemed more ­poignant coming on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, which is being marked in the West by new books, academic studies, and polls retesting ­public attitudes a decade later.


By midmorning, the familiar sight of black smoke rose above a cityscape of palm fronds, ­turquoise-tiled mosque domes, and squat concrete buildings. By evening, the numbers stacked up: at least 65 dead and more than 240 wounded in separate attacks that included 16 car bombs, two adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and one ­assassination with a silenced gun.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Most attacks hit Shi’ite neighborhoods, and their targets were varied: restaurants, a bank, a vegetable market, and a parking garage. Others were near a courthouse and a university, and some seemed to have no other target than innocent passersby.

Many Iraqis say they are worried about an increase in sectarian tensions, and, while there were no immediate claims of responsibility, the ­attacks were carried out in the fashion of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgent group left weakened but not vanquished by the US military.

Harder to measure was the number of lives interrupted.

A couple of hours after a car bomb struck outside his apartment building in the Shi’ite neighborhood called New Baghdad, Shwan Jameel rummaged through the clothes and blankets, sprinkled with shards of glass, that were scattered around his spare bedroom until he found a blue nylon bag filled with memories.


Inside were business cards of former bosses, badges he used to go into the Green Zone when he worked as a security guard for the US occupiers, and letters in support of a visa application to immigrate to the United States that he said had never been answered.

Jameel’s family was unharmed by the morning’s blast, and he was able to conjure his sense of humor. Holding up an old badge showing a more ­chiseled version of himself, he said, ‘‘This is me, Tom Cruise.

‘‘I’m just smiling because it’s too crazy. Life is funny here.’’

But several people were killed or injured in that attack, including children in a minibus on their way to school. The ­kebab restaurant downstairs was severely damaged, and workers were already repairing windows and doors.

In the apartment next to Jameel’s, now a mess of broken glass, scattered belongings and twisted window frames, a woman in a black abaya wailed, ‘‘Too much hurt, too much pain. Where should we go?’’


No one was hurt there, but the six children were terrified.

‘We’ve got nothing, and it’s getting worse and worse. Our country is not developinglike others.’

‘‘Poverty, hunger, pain,’’ said their mother, Layla Alwain, ticking off the features of her life. ‘‘We’ve got nothing, and it’s getting worse and worse. Our country is not developing like others.’’

Iraq’s agonies unfurl at an unpredictable but relentless pace. Weeks of calm pass and a sense of normalcy returns, and then with certainty the cadence of everyday life, governed by traffic jams and electricity blackouts, is violently interrupted.

‘‘Yes, I am trying to get there,’’ screamed a man into his cellphone, near a row of blast walls near this city’s Tahrir Square. ‘‘I know about the bombings. I’m OK, but the roads are blocked. What can I do?’’

But with violence so familiar, attacks can seem to barely disturb the broader contours of daily life for those not directly affected.

In the traffic snarl outside the checkpoint entrance to New Baghdad, campaign posters for coming elections hang like taunts of the democracy that cannot seem to take hold here.

A man approached car windows selling red-and-yellow squeaky alligator toys, just as a minivan passed from the ­direction of the bombing, a wooden coffin wrapped in a blue blanket fastened to its roof.

In Shula, another Shi’ite neighborhood, a white truck ­arrived in the early morning at a vegetable market, with a load of pea pods hiding explosives.

The result was a tangle of charred steel rods, rotting peas covered in a thick swarm of flies, and angry Shi’ite men ­determined that Iraq not slide back into widespread sectarian violence.

‘‘I don’t think it will get as bad as before,’’ said Ali ­Minghash, 30, who works at the vegetable market. ‘‘In each house now you have pain, and we don’t want more pain.’’