by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in Baghdad
Wednesday March 19 2008
Khalil began to hate the Americans long before they invaded Iraq in March 2003. On February 13 1991, when the US-led air assault on Baghdad was in full swing, his family took cover like hundreds of other Iraqis in a shelter in the Amiriyah neighbourhood of Baghdad. The Americans bombed the shelter that night. More than 400 civilians were killed, among them all of Khalil’s family.
“I woke up one morning and I was an orphan,” he tells me as we stand beneath a tree in the wasteland that is west Baghdad. “My whole family died. I will never forget the morning we were looking in the rubble for my mother and sister and brothers. I will never forgive them.”
Afterwards, he moved in with his uncle’s family, who brought him up.
Khalil is now a heavily built man whose dark hair droops down almost to his eyebrows. He was a police officer under Saddam, and began fighting the Americans when they first entered Baghdad almost five years ago.
As we stand under the tree, all around us are the traces of Khalil’s and other men’s work over the past five years: charred carcasses of vehicles, pockmarked walls, coils of barbed wire wrapped in dozens of plastic bags.
He opens his shirt to show me evidence of the war he has been fighting. A long, purple scar runs along the top right side of his burly chest. “This was a shrapnel wound I received when airplanes bombed a house we were fighting from,” he says. Next he rolls up his sleeves and shows me two indentations in his left arm. “These are just bullets,” he says.
from the archives: