Ten years ago today in Baghdad

Ten years ago today in Baghdad a terror attack blasted apart the UN headquarters in Iraq... At the moment of the explosion Gil Loescher and Arthur Helton were sitting down to interview Sergio Vieira de Mello for their joint openDemocracy column....

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
19 August 2013

Ten years ago today in Baghdad, on 19 August 2003, a terror attack blasted apart the UN headquarters in Iraq, decimated the staff who had volunteered to try and reconstruct the country after the US invasion, murdered the head of mission Ambassador Sergio Vieira de Mello as well as 21 others, gravely wounded many more and initiated the terrible post-invasion conflict which still continues. At the moment of the explosion Gil Loescher and Arthur Helton were sitting down to interview de Mello for their joint openDemocracy column, having just come from a meeting with the American pro-consul Paul Bremer. His parting words to them was that the security situation was "under control". Arthur was also killed. Gil survived, but only just, losing both his legs. 

In December Gil wrote for us once again, 'I was not going to die in the rubble'. A year after the explosion, we published his second powerful reflection, Living after tragedy.

Gil and Arthur came together to collaborate on their column for us when they predicted a refugee crisis after any US invasion. They began in December 2002 with invasion imminent and wrote thirteen farsighted columns together in the following eight months which are listed here

I wrote an editors note on visiting Gil in hospital. We published a salute to Arthur by Guy Goodwin-Gill. We organised a showing of an extraordinary documentary 'Pulled from the Rubble' by Gil's daughter Margaret, showing the loving courage of Gil and his family in the face of his terrible injuries. You can read our interview with her about making the film. Mary Robinson joined us to introduce it.

Now, the editors have asked Adam Ramsay, who is joining the OurKingdom editorial team next month, to interview Gil and reflect on the experience of him and his family across the decade since the disaster. We will be publishing the profile shortly. I would simply like to add that, as I tried inadequately to say at the time, he is an inspiring example of courage, judgement and determination, Viva Gil Loescher!

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