Dozens of people stood outside the gutted buildings in the Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada, desperately searching for missing relatives. Volunteers sifted through the ashes looking for human remains. More than 300 died on the night of July 3 when ISIS set off a car bomb
at a time when the area was crammed with shoppers.
Those who died were Muslims -- Sunni and Shia -- and Christians, a cross section of Iraqi society.
A few weeks before, I was crammed into a hot Iraqi army Humvee, driving into the city of Falluja with battle-hardened Iraqi soldiers who had been fighting ISIS for almost two years. And the fighting in Falluja still raged.
In March last year, I watched as doctors in a hospital south of Tikrit struggled frantically to save a fighter severely wounded in the battle to drive ISIS out of the city.
It was too late. He died.
The point is this: Iraqis fight and die every day in the war against ISIS. As do Syrians, and Libyans, and Egyptians and others.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump began his much-anticipated address on how to fight ISIS
Trump started his speech devoting more than 300 words to describing in detail specific ISIS or ISIS-inspired attacks in the United States and Europe. Attacks he said had taken place "outside the war zones of the Middle East."
But he used only broad strokes, without specifics and many fewer words, to address the suffering ISIS has inflicted elsewhere, specifically on the Muslim world, where the war against the extremist group is raging.
In Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Shylock asked, "if you prick us, do we not bleed?"
Trump doesn't seem to realize that the people of the Middle East, most of who are Muslim, have bled a river's worth of blood. They are on the front lines of this war against ISIS.
Long, complicated history
I won't go into the historical background the led to the creation of ISIS. The story is long and complicated and goes back decades, and there is plenty of blame to go around. The Middle East is complicated, and even by Middle Eastern standards Iraq is particularly complicated.
But campaign speeches don't do complicated.
What's not complicated, however, is the antipathy a majority of Iraqis, and Muslims, have toward ISIS. Its dark, nihilistic ideology is repugnant and that is why they fight and die.
The people of Iraq and Syria have been traumatized.
Iraq has suffered through wars and hardship and upheaval since the early 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed since the country's civil war began in 2011. Millions in both countries have been displaced or driven into exile.
ISIS is a nightmare, but only the latest.
In his speech, Trump said, "All we got from Iraq -- and our adventures in the Middle East -- was death, destruction and tremendous financial loss."
That statement may perhaps be true.
But ponder what the people of Iraq and Syria have experienced in recent years: death, destruction and tremendous financial loss on a scale most Americans, and certainly not Trump, could ever imagine in their wildest dreams.