Monday, April 25, 2005

BOB HERBERT writes about Marla Ruzicka, who died, an innocent victim of war, trying to help innocent victims of war. She chose to put herself in the midst of war, because she wanted to be a witness to the unimaginable suffering (unimaginable to most Americans, that is) that thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians have experienced since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began. And she wanted to help, as much as one individual could, to break through the Bush administration's policies designed to keep ordinary Americans from seeing the enormity of the harm U.S. policies have done and are continuing to do to Iraqis. Harm like this:

In a horrifying incident that occurred in the spring of 2003, an Iraqi woman threw two of her children, an infant and a toddler, out the window of a car that had been hit accidentally in an American rocket attack. The woman and the rest of her family perished in the black smoke and flames of the wreckage. The toddler, whose name was Zahraa, was severely burned. She died two weeks later.

But Americans never hear about most of these incidents.

The vast amount of suffering and death endured by civilians as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has, for the most part, been carefully kept out of the consciousness of the average American. I can't think of anything the Bush administration would like to talk about less. You can't put a positive spin on dead children.
There's been hardly any media interest in the unrelieved agony of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq. It's an ugly subject, and the idea has taken hold that Americans need to be protected from stories or images of the war that might be disturbing. As a nation we can wage war, but we don't want the public to be too upset by it.

So the public doesn't even hear about the American bombs that fall mistakenly on the homes of innocent civilians, wiping out entire families. We hear very little about the frequent instances of jittery soldiers opening fire indiscriminately, killing and wounding men, women and children who were never a threat in the first place. We don't hear much about the many children who, for one reason or another, are shot, burned or blown to eternity by our forces in the name of peace and freedom.

Obviously, Marla Ruzicka's death in one of the car bombings that happen pretty much every day in Iraq now is a personal tragedy for everyone who knew and loved her. But it's also a terrible loss for Iraqis. Because who now will go door to door interviewing families and documenting civilian casualties and working to show Americans the truths that their own government does not want them to see or know about?

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