Moral comparisons

How many pictures of innocent Iraqi children maimed by US forces have filled American television screens?

By DAVID J. FORMAN
April 22, 2006 22:02
4 minute read.
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'We are working hard to demonstrate goodwill to the people of Fallujah who incurred loses during the recent fighting," said Col. Anthony Haslam, commander of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, immediately after America devastated that city with its bombs. Such a statement, and the many more like it, is a perfect example that American policy makers are living in a fantasy world - trying to pull the wool over the world's eyes, and lulling their own citizens into apathy. The saturation bombing of cities in Iraq by US warplanes has claimed many more Iraqi civilian lives than have the terrorist acts carried out by insurgents. To talk about "demonstrating good will to the people of Fallujah" is ludicrous when the killing is often indiscriminate. Yet, what is so troubling is that Col. Haslam could get away with making such a comment without a peep from the American media, allegedly the most vigilant in the Western world. By comparison, Israel's press is a paragon of democratic virtue. On any given week you'll find a column such as this one from February 12 in Haaretz by Gideon Levy: "Soldiers spray her with bullets, killing a wanted Palestinian and three innocent people. They injure a pregnant woman." Accompanying these sobering words was a picture of a destroyed Palestinian home and portrait of that battered pregnant woman. Such open reportage is par for the course in Israel. CNN correspondent Ben Weiderman, during Israel's occupation of Gaza, reported: "In the latest Israeli operation in Gaza, an estimated 130 Palestinians were killed, 40 of whom were civilians, many of them children." Just the other day, in Israeli's recent retaliation against Kassam rockets, cameras guided us into a hospital in Gaza to see the damage done, showing Palestinian children bloodied and wounded - with the warning from CNN that some of these images may be difficult to view. Yet only a few minutes before that, Nick Robertson of CNN reported from Baghdad: "The (US) air force has struck 'safe houses' (supposedly terrorist hide outs) and a 'restaurant where insurgents gather.'" WHEN DOES one get to learn how many civilians have been killed in these massive bombings of "safe houses" and secret meeting-places? When has there been a specific accounting of innocent lives lost due to American attacks, either dispassionately by a CNN reporter, or passionately by someone from the US media like Gideon Levy? How many pictorial frames of innocent Iraqi children who have been mercilessly maimed by US forces have filled Americans' television screens? We in Israel face the scourge of terror on a daily bases. It has come into our buses, our restaurants, our malls. And yet, there is a persistent moral outcry by countless individuals and organizations against harsh treatment of the compatriots of those who seek to terrorize and murder us. Most recently a petition to Israel's High Court has been tendered against IAF bombing of heavily populated areas in Gaza. Sadly, most Israelis have not been morally exercised by the IDF's excessive actions perpetrated against Palestinians, but it is not because of a lack of coverage by the Israeli media. Yes, Americans were appalled at what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison, considered an aberration, perpetrated by a few misguided soldiers. But, what about the Pentagon's "outsourcing" of its torture practices to Saudi Arabia and Egypt? And what of the American soldiers who man the road blocks in and around countless cities and towns of Iraq? Who monitors their behavior toward the local Arab population as do those Israeli women of Machsom Watch who scrutinize IDF behavior toward Palestinians? "Embedded" reporters? More like official cheerleaders. Where is the American equivalent of B'Tselem operating in Iraq? There is barely any discussion of the restraints that America must apply in time of war. If you want to know why all of Iraq will soon be made up of "insurgents," it is not just because of Shi'ite and Sunni sectarian violence. It is primarily because the US army is killing Iraqi innocents at a staggering rate. One need not be a military man to realize how devastating is the collateral damage caused by dropping one huge bomb after another in Fallujah, Sadr City or Najaf. None of this relates to whether the war in Iraq was a good or bad idea. It has everything to do with the moral integrity of those who initiated and are waging it. There are always unavoidable civilian casualties in any war, but one would expect from the United States, which raises the flag of moral superiority - primarily expressed in its criticism of other countries, including Israel - that it would do its best to limit the death of innocents. Unlike Israelis, Americans have been anesthetized by government control of the media. They would be far better served if their media followed the example of Israel's, not just by exposing the suffering of Iraqis, but also by covering the story of American soldiers who have lost their lives and the devastating effect each loss has had on their families. Only such open and honest reportage enables people to express their moral outrage; not necessarily against any particular war, but against the manner in which it is being executed, which is a reflection of a country's moral integrity.

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