We don’t view war in the right way. Our television networks discuss strategy and show pictures of bombings, artillery fire and advancing troops. Rarely do they show pictures of the victims, and particularly of the children who are killed, maimed and orphaned. But war is about children as well as about soldiers and strategy. Take, for example, the story of Ali Ismaeel Abbas.
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. 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). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.