February 18, 2006
Let's Talk About Iraq Losing Its Innocents
February 17, 2006
At 7:30 this morning, a 3-year-old girl was scheduled for routine surgery at Children's Hospital of Orange County. She has a name you won't remember and is from a town you've never heard of. A pediatric surgeon was expected to need a couple hours to bolster the girl's abdominal wall.
There's no particular need to be worried about her condition, unless it bothers you that she most likely was injured by a shell from a U.S. tank in Iraq. Or that it happened, according to her father, as she and other children were having a tea party.
The Los Angeles man who spearheaded the effort to bring the girl here says the incident occurred last May as U.S. troops were fighting insurgents in the town of Al Qaim near the Syrian border.
This newspaper's reports last May described the town as part of a cluster of insurgent strongholds, prompting a strong Marine presence. A Times story quoted a local Iraqi as saying he didn't like the Americans' presence but disliked even more the threat from the foreign terrorists. A Marine on the scene told our reporter that no civilians had been killed, but the injured girl's father disputes that. He told the Orlando Sentinel last year that the explosion killed two of his children and three others.
My intention today isn't to argue the war or rehash why we got into it or predict how it will end.
It's to wonder aloud why, in our national discussion about it, we never seem to talk very much about the innocent Iraqis who have died because of it.
I'm no pacifist. At the war's outset, I was a fence-sitter. But isn't it fair to ask — considering it's a war whose value and rationale are now so hotly debated — why we so seldom hear about civilian casualties?
What happened to our national conscience? What happened to our willingness to discuss unpleasant things like injured children in a country we chose to attack?
Tackling the subject wouldn't even mean that any of us would have to decry the war. A discussion of it might lead to the conclusion that civilian — including children — casualties are of course deplorable, but an inevitable result of war.
But how many of us have taken time to do that?
President Bush finally put a figure on civilian deaths in December: 30,000. Other groups have said a more realistic figure is a multiple of that, but let's accept the president's number. Then let's factor an unknown number of thousands of injured.
Including children at a tea party.
Cole Miller is the Los Angeles freelance writer who organized the Iraqi girl's trip to America. Her first stop was an Orlando, Fla., hospital, where she had shrapnel removed from both eyes. A doctor there knew Ali Kavianian, who will do the surgery at CHOC.
In an interview with the Orlando newspaper in November, the girl's father said he appreciated the efforts of various Americans to help her but felt compelled to identify U.S. troops as the source of the blast. He said they were the only ones with the firepower to do the kind of damage done to his home.
Miller, who says he opposes all wars, thinks Americans haven't focused on Iraqi civilian deaths because TV hasn't shown them. The war remains a faraway distraction to many Americans, already consumed with the rigors of daily life, he says.
I think it's more fundamental. As a decent society that links its historic identity to its goodness, we don't want to contemplate our bombs killing children in a war whose underpinnings have shifted.
This isn't pleasant stuff to think about. It becomes less pleasant as the reasons for getting in and the prospects for getting out grow less certain.
Fact is, no one knows if our best hopes for Iraq will pan out. From what I can tell, it could go either way. The proverbial flip of a historical coin.
Is that good enough for us, as we contemplate injured children?
Oh, the girl's name?
In case you're interested, it's Alaa' Khalid Hamdan.
Yes, let's Talk About Iraq Losing Its Innocents !
A reflection from Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, Iraqi engineer, member of the BRussells Tribunal.
Thanks to the internet I was able to read your article in Amman Jordan, before most of the people in LA had time to look at the paper. I am an Iraqi engineer who ran away from the "liberated" and "Democratic" Iraq.
The case of Alaa' Khalid Hamdan is only one out of the thousands and thousands of cases happening in Iraq. She is very fortunate to have some good hearted American who brought her to the US for treatment. It is good people like you who are courageous enough to take her case to enlighten Americans of what is being done in their names.
Around Christmas last year I wrote a message to Helen Thomas of the HEARST NEWSPAPERS in which at the end I addressed the question of the faceless nameless Iraqis who have been killed unjustly. America claimed that it was Saddam rather than the sanctions that caused these unnecessary deaths of children under the age of 5 years. Similarly it is American "liberation / occupation" that caused of nearly 300,000 un-necessary death of children under 5 years of age.!!! Here’s an excerpt of that message:
" One of the biggest insults to human "intelligence" is his claim that "30,000 Iraqis, "more or less," as Bush put it, have been killed and thousands more wounded." The UNICEF study have suggested that nearly 500.000 child under the age 5 have died from 9991-1996 from bad and deteriorating health, sanitary and food conditions due to the sanctions imposed on Iraq. That is an average of 100.000 children under the age of 5 a year!!! With worse conditions now than any time in the past, one could safely assume that at least 100.000, if not more, children under 5 are dying every year because of the "liberation"!!! That alone would mean nearly 300.000 child in 3 years!! I know that will shock the conscience of Americans but these are facts that Mr. Bush doesn't want Americans to know. Mr. Bush is leaving the American people wondering aimlessly in the bush."
I know that it is very hard to swallow such assertion in America. Would America accept half of that: 150,000 ? would America accept quarter of that: 75,000? Even this figure is much much higher than the 30,000 "more or less" which Mr. Bush claimed at the press conference.
This paragraph in your article disturbed me "A Marine on the scene told our reporter that no civilians had been killed, but the injured girl's father disputes that. He told the Orlando Sentinel last year that the explosion killed two of his children and three others." It is an example of how American military is trying hard to mislead the American public. They fight their war on "terrorism" with 2000 pound bombs on houses frequented by "terrorist". These very very "smart" bombs kills only "terrorists" and are trained not to kill civilians who happen to live in the house! According to the American Marines Alaa's two brothers, both children, were "terrorist" so are the other 3 children! I may be dumb but not too dumb to accept that allegation!!! Someone is lying here. I bet my life it is not Alaa's father!!!
Americans could continue sleeping with a clear conscience, believing that their elected government could not kill innocent people like Alaa’s brothers. Someday they have to wake up to reality but then it will be too late! The US has a very well "lubricated" media covering Iraq. My neighbors and friends at CNN Baghdad showed me how bad news never gets covered. I challenge your office, and all the American media in Baghdad to publish pictures of destroyed buildings in Baghdad that still have not been "reconstructed" yet after nearly 3 years of "liberation". I hope they have the courage of telling their readers that we the Iraqi engineers were able to reconstruct most of what was damaged in 1991 in less than one year!!!.
Every time you watch CNN from Baghdad, LOOK at the multi story building on the right side of the screen. This building has a few broken windows, may be burnt from inside ... but structurally sound. I know that no work is being done to fix it yet. I do not believe that we need Halliburton or KBR to change the glass or fix the window frames or put a lick of paint!!!
Sorry, Dana, for this long message. I thank you for having the courage to publish Alaa's case.
Baghdad, Iraq. currently living in Jordan
Member of the BRussells Tribunal Advisory Committee