Monday, April 7, 2003

A MASH unit south of Baghdad:

A walk through the intensive care tents offered snapshots of the battle for Baghdad. One American tank driver lost his pinkie to a secondary explosion in an abandoned Iraqi tank he had just blasted. He was grateful to be alive. A soldier who lost three comrades in an accident at the airport was mentally replaying the event, wracked with guilt. A 21-year-old Iraqi student with a broken arm and swollen, bloody feet choked back tears as he recalled his parents and two sisters, who he said were killed when a U.S. tank ran over the car carrying the fleeing family. "Why did God let me live?" the student, Ali Adel Odha, asked through an interpreter.

In Baghdad:

The United States says it is taking precautions to avoid civilian casualties, but Baghdad's hospitals are packed to overflowing with wounded residents of the capital. One of them is Ali Ismaeel Abbas, 12, who was fast asleep when a missile obliterated his home and most of his family, leaving him orphaned, badly burned and missing both his arms. "Can you help get my arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands?" Abbas asked. "If I don't get a pair of hands I will commit suicide," he said with tears spilling down his cheeks.

And may I save you the trouble?

Ah, yes, civilian casualties, part of the "moral calculus" of war. Of course.

And there is no question that there is a profound difference between the Coalition view of these matters and that of the Iraqi: We try to minimize civilian casualties, and we treat, not only the wounded civilians, but the Iraqi POW's as well. They threaten civilians into combat roles, torture and kill POW's, and are fighting in a support of a regime in which dissident civilians would be deliberately tortured, dismembered or have their families members killed one way or another. There is also no doubt that for the West, the waging of war has "progressed" far beyond what is was fifty years ago, when the Allies purposefully killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, not only in Japan, but in Europe as well.

But the answer to this is not to ignore the civilian casualties (as every one of the supposedly "liberal media" television news outlets are doing) or reason human suffering away in our blasted "moral calculus." The answer is to never forget the reality of human suffering - the reality of human suffering under Saddam, and the reality of the human suffering that occurs in this process called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Too many antiwar activists ignore the former, and too many war proponents, even of the Catholic variety, refuse to seriously engage the reality of the latter.

Prove me wrong.