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We Care About Elizabeth Smart, Why Not the Kids of Iraq?


Earlier this week America received good news.

Elizabeth Smart, 15, was discovered alive, unharmed, and in good health. She was apparently abducted nine months ago by a mentally deranged homeless preacher, Brian David Mitchell. Today the newspapers all across America ran photographs of a smiling and rosy-cheeked Elizabeth, her father Ed, and younger sister Mary Katherine. Today America celebrates the return of this innocent child to her loving parents.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, people were not so happy with the fate of their children. In the days before Utah police found Elizabeth Smart, Anglo-American aircraft bombed Basra, Iraq, a not uncommon occurrence. Six children in Al Jumohria, a poor section of town, were killed while they slept.

“I walked down the street where the missile had struck in the early hours,” writes John Pilger, “it had followed the line of houses, destroying one after the other. I met the father of two sisters, aged eight and 10, who were photographed by a local weddings photographer, Nabil al-Jerani, shortly after the attack. Their bodies were unlike the other four children, who were blown to bits, their limbs and flesh in the overhead wires… These two little girls were left intact. In Nabil’s photographs, they are in their nightdresses, one with a bow in her hair, their bodies perfectly engraved in the rubble of their homes, where they had been bombed to death, murdered, in their beds.”

These horrid photographs were published in the UK Mirror, not the New York Times. In Britain, where the press enjoys more freedom than it does in America, the people are overwhelmingly against Bush’s Iraq attack.

In general, America is unaware of the dead children of Iraq — children killed in our name by Bush and Blair and other war criminals. “Look closely at their images on these pages,” Pilger advises, “they are the faces of a stricken nation of whom 42 per cent are children. When Blair speaks about the ‘moral case’ for sending hundreds of missiles against this nation of so many children, as well as new types of cluster bombs and bunker bombs and microwave bombs, and shells tipped with pure uranium, a form of nuclear weapon, the images of the two sisters provide an eloquent commentary on the Prime Minister’s Christian ‘morality’.”

It would seem, as well, there is scant Christian “morality” in America, even as our unelected president claims to be a servant of Jesus, the King of Peace.

Why do so few of us care about the children of Iraq? Are they any less precious than Elizabeth Smart? Why do polls (CBS News/New York Times) indicate an unbelievable 55% of Americans have reached the conclusion that the US must invade Iraq? Are the people who participate in such polls cold and calculating monsters — like their president, whom so many seem to admire, if we are to believe other polls that bother to track such things — or are they brainwashed, do they simply tune out the reality of what Bush’s invasion will ultimately mean: tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, nearly half of them children, killed or seriously injured, maimed for life, traumatized? We don’t read about such stark possibilities in the New York Times, nor does Sean Hannity discuss them on Fox News.

Many of us, if we even bother to glint to truth, are too busy “making a living” or watching sit-coms. Life’s complicated enough without taking the weight of the world upon our shoulders. Besides, Saddam is an evil man. He has bio and chem weapons, never mind that Reagan and Dubya’s daddy sold them to him.

If a bomb like the one dropped on Al Jumohria were released over the neighborhood in Salt Lake City where Elizabeth Smart lives, if it resulted in American kids blown to bits while they sleep, what would the good American people say, what would they do? Wouldn’t they want to track down the cold-blooded murderers of such a heinous crime and bring them to justice? Is it possible more than a few, especially the parents and relatives of the murdered kids, would take the law into their own hands and hunt down the perpetrators and string them up to the nearest tree? Is it fair to say most Americans would consider the pilots and bombardiers of such a hellish operation terrorists? Are Palestinians who attack IDF troops or Israeli settlers to avenge the murder of their loved ones terrorists? Or is their one standard for Americans and Israelis, another for Arabs?

Is Elizabeth Smart’s life more important than any number of Iraqi kids?

Unfortunately, we have become a nation of good Germans. In Nazi Germany, average people looked the other way when the Gestapo dragged off neighbors who happened to be Jewish, or Marxists, or homosexuals, or leaders of the local labor union. They knew what Hitler did in Poland, on the Russian front, to partisans in France and Holland and a dozen other places in Europe. The German people weren’t stupid — they knew what Hitler was all about. Hitler told the German people they were better than all other people. Bush tells the good American people Arabs envy them for their Playstations, their SUVs, their freedom to go to McDonalds unmolested. They hate our civilization, our way of life, these backward Arabs. Bush tells Americans these things and Americans believe him. In order to demonstrate their agreement they paste plastic flag decals on everything.

Did Raafat Ghussein, the 18-year-old art student of Palestinian-born Lebanese parents, hate our civilization in the few short years of her life before she died in the Libyan city of Tripoli, one of 55 victims of a Reagan vendetta against Muammar Qaddafi? When Raafat’s parents, Bassem and Saniya, attempted to sue Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for civilian deaths during the air raids, an American judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson, dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous,” and characterized the case as one that “offered no hope whatsoever of success.” He then fined Ramsey Clark, who helped Bassem and Saniya Ghussein file the lawsuit, for wasting his time. “I will only return to America when I know someone will listen to me and say: ‘yes, it was our fault your daughter died, and I am sorry.’ So long as they think my daughter’s death is ‘frivolous,’ I won’t go back,” Bassem told The Christian Science Monitor.

Even if an apology were forthcoming, Bassem may want to stay in Libya — America is no longer a welcome land for Arabs. John Ashcroft has demonstrated as much. So have other Amricans who can’t tell the difference between an Indain and an Iranian when they assault them on the street.

Is it possible we don’t care about Raafat Ghussein, or the 10,000 Iraqi children who died in February, 1999, from entirely preventable diseases (as documented by UNICEF), or the 14,396 children, age five and under, who died of diarrhea, pneumonia and respiratory infections, and malnutrition over a two month period the same year, all because Clinton, a popular US president, insisted the Iraqi people must suffer and die for the political sins of their leader? Isn’t the death of more than 500,000 Iraqi children over a ten-year period — the direct result of a brutal sanctions regime imposed by the US and the UN — an immense, even unpardonable crime against humanity? Shouldn’t George Bush Senior, Bill Clinton, and George Bush Junior be brought before the International Criminal Court and charged with crimes against humanity? If Americans want the head of Osama bin Laden on a stick, why not George Bush’s, or his father’s, or Clinton’s?

Is it possible Osama bin Laden is correct — we are immune to hypocrisy, we are arrogant and immoral?

Sadly, on the day Bush attacks Iraq, the American people will be guilty of supporting a leader who engages in mass murder — just as Hitler and Stalin and the German and Russian people were guilty of the same. Ignorance is no excuse. Believing Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal is no excuse.

We know what will happen on the day Bush attacks Iraq — our newspapers, televisions, websites tell us, Bush and his demented Pentagon advisors waste no time informing us. They tell us about new and more deadly daisycutters, they even release videotapes of these new bombs, which pack the wallop of small nukes. They tell us about the feverish pace of cruise missile production. They talk causally of “mini-nukes” and how we must use them without hesitation. They discuss “shock and awe,” tell us the first 48 hours in Baghdad will be like nothing we’ve ever imagined. Bush’s advisors and “experts” tell us these things with the bureaucratic dispassion of Adolf Eichmann. We don’t seem to care. If it gets too hot we simply roulette on over to M-TV or ESPN. Instead of thought, we check out what the Osbournes are up to.

We know what they are going to do — and yet when the pollster calls we tell him yes, Saddam must be eliminated, no matter the cost, and the UN and the rest of the world (especially the French) can take a long hike into irrelevance. Bush offers no proof of Saddam’s threat, and yet large numbers of us say he’s a good man doing what’s right. Like good Germans, we follow mindlessly in lockstep behind this new Fuhrer who will surely lead us down the path to destruction.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi girls — as precious and loved by their parents as Elizabeth Smart — will die horribly by incineration, blunt force trauma, decapitation, evisceration, starvation, and disease in the days, weeks, and months after Bush unleashes the most awesome and frightening war machine the world has ever devised. Unperturbed, most of us will go about with our “civilized” lives, blind to the immense and unimaginable suffering of average Iraqis.

Bush, of course, will never face the ICC. Chances are slim he will be impeached. We can only hope he will lose his job come a year from November. In Britain, meanwhile, it appears Bush’s accomplice in potential mass murder, Tony Blair, may indeed lose his job if the UN does not back the Iraq attack and the US and Britain go it alone. Forty of his MPs are calling for him to resign — to make way for someone who will “stand up to President Bush,” as the Mirror put it. Obviously unconcerned with Blair’s mounting problems, Rumsfeld said Washington still expects “a significant military contribution from the United Kingdom,” regardless of what the people of Britain or rebellious PMs have to say about it. Bush will have his war, no matter what — even if Tony Blair is taken out in the process. Rumsfeld has spoken.

So when Fox and CNN roll the footage of jets launching from aircraft carriers — or cruise missiles pluming into the midnight sky with their murderous payloads — think of Elizabeth Smart. Think about how she is lucky to live in the most “civilized” nation in the world. Be thankful we have finally licked the “Vietnam Syndrome,” which is say too many of us no longer care if 50,000, 500,000, or 5,000,000 people must be condemned to miserable and wholly unavoidable deaths in order for Bush and the elite he represents to make a point. Think about how we have become good Germans — and good Christians like Bush. Think about how our government is capable of committing genocide while we go to the mall and shop until we drop.

Don’t think about what it will eventually mean.

KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent online gallery. He can be reached at:

We highly recommend regular visits to Nimmo’s website, Another Day in the Empire


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KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, is now available from Dandelion Books. He can be reached at:

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