Fallujah’s Collateral Damage


Mainstream media reported that many Iraqi civilians were outraged over the US Marines’ claims that most of the hundreds of casualties in Falluja were insurgents. Actually, mainstream media did not; Patrick Cockburn here on CounterPunch did. The mainstream media is paying little to no attention to any of the Iraqis who have perished in the occupation. They use lifeless language such as “stability”, “effort”, “situation”, “civil defense”, “new assaults”, and “elements” to describe “the situation.” Colin Powell recently employed the term, “reconstruction activity”; Halliburton is now an “energy-services firm.”

Who dropped those bombs and who killed the “gunmen”? Oh no, the passive voice must be used to cover these active atrocities: bombs were dropped and “gunmen” are killed. There. Such cold, ambiguous words and fuzzy phrasing in a time of so much death. Government institutions and corporations count on their own vagueness and verbosity to misplace the truth and assure their own survival.

Baby: pronounced bay-bee. The word itself is a delight to utter; it lives. Baby brings forth the feeling of a baby’s fleshy, tender cheek touching mine as I try to burp her. When you hold a baby up in front of you and you smile at her, you can see that she is smiling back at you even if her pacifier is covering her mouth. Her eyes scrunch and get bigger at the same time. If she gets too excited, the pacifier will fall out her mouth as she coos with bliss. When I say the word baby, I see green, yellow, blue, and pink pastels that make up the color of the rooms in their nurseries, their stuffed animals, and their clothes.

I worked the night shift at a discount retailer last summer that sells more baby products than any parent would ever need. My job was to unpack and hang the tiny attire up for display. The infants department was quite small, but there were many clothes. Awww, look at these little pants, shirts, shoes, socks on the tiny hangers or packaged in the petite plastic containers, I would gush. And some of my co-workers would do the same if they saw a particularly cute pajama set, raincoat, or hat. Sometimes, they would put a specific piece aside and buy it in the morning after work, when the store opened. Almost all of the other women had children, some had grandchildren. Some of the women were coming from their first jobs to work their second while their babies were home sleeping. Watching a sleeping baby is in itself euphoric. This baby looks like he is in peaceful slumber: http://english.aljazeera.net/

The last time I saw a picture of a dead baby was also the first time that I ever saw a picture of a dead baby; it was after Timothy McVeigh, among others, bombed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma.

One could convince herself that this baby was indeed sleeping if it were not for the burns on his face and the fact that, though covered up, he is laying on the ground. His skin still looks soft, doesn’t it? Did this baby laugh the morning before his death? An hour before his death? And what do Iraqi babies wear? Are their clothes miniatures versions of what Iraqi adults wear? And did his parents survive? If not, how did his relatives feel when they saw his clothes at home after his death? Is the home still standing? What color was the last blanket that was bought for him? I do not know the answers, but I do know that when all babies make tight little fists, they have a strong grip. What was the last thing this baby gripped? And when babies see something of interest, the first place it goes is in their mouths. I remember my aunt holding my cousin’s baby when he was four months old; he was trying to bite the bright patterns off of her shirt. When a baby is laughing, she sounds like she is up to no good, and those around her start laughing. And my friend told me several years ago that when her son was a baby, he was easier to take care of before he could walk; she could leave him in his carseat and go use the phone or wash the dishes. But when he started walking, she could not leave him unattended. This baby does not look like he was old enough to learn how to walk.

The US media will not say the word baby in their reporting on Iraq, but you will hear the word baby on Oprah, Dateline, and Friends because American babies on TV “produce revenue.” Bush did not utter the word baby in his recent address to the nation. The US media will not show the picture of this dead baby or the pictures of many more babies, children, mothers, and the elderly who have died in this occupation. The White House could not explain away more than one image of a dead baby, whether Iraqi, Afghani, Palestinian, Canadian, or American. No matter what her ethnicity, a baby’s aura is more powerful than white supremacy. Show the pictures and you will have an angry public. If they show these babies’ pictures as many times as they have said that dead phrase “weapons of mass destruction”, the occupation would end.

I have never held a dead baby. I hope that I never have to. But if a baby near me was killed, I would want to. I would wrap him in a blanket to make sure that he stayed warm, tenderly rock him, and keep telling myself that he was sleeping. And I would wonder who would do such a thing and why?

BRANDY BAKER can be reached at: bbaker@ubalt.edu

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Brandy Baker is a Green National Committee delegate for Maryland.