When you see the pain, hear the sorrow, smell the trace of death — you realize it is time to pay attention and learn from what you are witnessing.

People in need don't care about philosophy; they care about relief. And the people of Iraq hope for a future free of the fear that has kept 24 million people in check for 35 years.

My journalistic intention was to show how everyday people have been affected by the Iraq War; how they have been forced to deal with consequences, and how healing will not come easily.

The past haunts them, as loved ones are discovered in mass graves and old wounds inflict fresh pain. Violence and killings of Iraqis and U.S. military in the streets of Baghdad are real signs that the war drags on. Security continues to be a major concern.

The ruin of infrastructure by years of neglect, combined with U.S. bombings and extensive looting, means daily hardship unimaginable to most Americans. It has forced many Iraqis to live without water and electricity. As the nation's list of immediate priorities grows longer, Baghdad's hospitals house hundreds of patients whose unfulfilled needs for medicine and proper care have rendered them casualties of war.

Faces in this country are hard, worn beyond their years, but a neverending spirit seems to squeeze through the cracks. Iraq is a complicated land with an elaborate culture steeped in thousands of years of tradition. Its people deserve better. Those who suffer the most in war are those who are least involved in the conflict.

A decade later, approximately 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by violence, over 4,000 Americans have perished, and incalculable billions of dollars were spent with little return to show for the investment.

Peter Tobia photographed the Iraq War from April 2003 to July 2003 for the Philadelphia Inquirer.