Ali is 12 years old. He is in Kindi hospital in Baghdad with both of his arms blown off by a missile. His mother, father and brother were killed in the attack. His mother was five months pregnant. Ali asks the reporter from Reuters, “Can you help get my arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands?” It is heartbreaking.
The reporter for Reuters, Samia Nakhoul writes, “Abbas’ suffering offered one snapshot of the daily horrors afflicting Iraqi civilians in the devastating U.S.-led war to remove President Saddam Hussein.”
Or, take this report which appeared in The Guardian in London: “Unedited TV footage from Babylon Hospital, which was seen by the Guardian, showed the tiny corpse of a baby wrapped up like a doll in a funeral shroud and carried out of the morgue on a pink pallet. It was laid face-to-face on the pavement against the body of a boy, who looked about 10.”
The report continued, “Horrifically injured bodies were heaped into pick-up trucks, and were swarmed by relatives of the dead, who accompanied them for burial. Bed after bed of injured women and children were pictured along with large pools of blood on the floor of the hospital.”
At the hospital, a stunned man said repeatedly, “God take our revenge on America.”
But on American television we see none of this. The newscasters chatter endlessly about strategy and victory, and engage in inane ponderings about whether Saddam is dead or alive. Their human-interest stories are about American or “coalition” casualties. There is virtually nothing about the victims of the war, including children like Ali.
We need a new way of understanding war, in terms of children, not strategy. We need to understand war in terms of its costs to humanity rather than in terms of victory alone.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have our newscasters talking to pediatricians as well as political pundits, to professors of international law in addition to retired military officers? Wouldn’t it be meaningful to have reporters speaking to us from Baghdad’s hospitals as well as from their positions embedded with our military forces?
Ali Ismaeel Abbas told the reporter who visited him, “We didn’t want war. I was scared of this war. Our house was just a poor shack. Why did they want to bomb us?”
Lying in his hospital bed, Ali told the reporter, “If I don’t get a pair of hands I will commit suicide.” Tears ran down his cheeks.
The next time you hear our newscasters, our political leaders or our pundits celebrating our “victory,” think about 12 year old Ali in his hospital bed. He is only one of potentially thousands of children who have paid the price in life, limb and loss of parents in what Dick Cheney calls “one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted.”
* David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the editor of Hope in a Dark Time (Capra Press, 2003), and author of Choose Hope, Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age (Middleway Press, 2002).
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How easy it is to detach oneself from all this horror even for us who are in the peace movement, how easy to go to bed and forget. and yet I force myself to read over and over again about this little boy who lost both his arms, and I think of my own boy who runs and plays without a care. What is there that makes this world so full of mean spirited men like Bush and the deplorable Powell and company? I know that hate is not a good feeling but when I read this I hate until it makes me sick.
At the risk of seeming like a sentimental slob (when the scope of this tragedy is so wide and so deep)—is there any way we could get some medical and financial help to this unfortunate child? (and be sure it gets to him?) i know nothing we do can undo what Rumsfeld et al have done to him and countless others, but i feel we should make a real effort to reach out to the victims, not just en masse, but individually, so they know that we do not share the lack of values that characterizes our leaders. thanks for your wonderful piece.