Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tragic Opportunity

It seems  Iraq has always been old news.  I remember Kathy Kelly, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, recounting an event from the mid-1990s when she was visiting a hospital in Iraq.  The media was following her as she was a well know activist, and was in Iraq in violation of UN Sanctions.  But, they weren't following her into the hospital: We've already done that story, they said when she invited them to come along to see the numbers of sick and dying children in the hospital.

How many times can one tell the story? How many times will a reader, accustomed to "breaking news" take the time to read again about an issue that seems far removed from them?  The corporate media is focused on the latest head-line grabbing story.  A car bombing, with many dead is worth a report.  The unfolding story of children --two children, then four, then eight and sixteen-- ever increasing numbers of children sick and dying from cancer  in a hospital  with ever-decreasing  medical capacity is not something the media is willing to write about. It's not necessarily something most people want to read about. And, to make matters worse, the children are sick, but many of them... look fine, i.e. you cannot tell by looking at them that they are dying.  It is a horrible thing to say, really.  Bloated bellies, skin hanging from napalm gets the message across in  a single, horrifying glance.

To say things--everything-- has been in rapid decline in Iraq since the first Gulf War and the imposition of US supported UN Sanctions is to grossly understate the facts.  Yet, throughout this period aside from a few committed journalists-- the late Anthony Shadid, Robert Fisk or John Pilger-- very few seem to notice or to care.  Iraq has been old news for twenty four years.  The story reads something like this:  We TRIED to help them, but they're hopeless.

But, now!  What I am calling a tragic opportunity.  All eyes are once again on Iraq: remember Iraq?  The coverage is the same, as if it were a sporting event.  The media has identified the teams:  Sunni, Shia and Kurds, we know the coaches and even the team "owners".  We hear daily of wins and losses, advances and retreats.  There is endless speculation about the possible outcomes of events.  What we don't hear about is the people struggling to live in this devastated country.

I hope our blog will bring you in touch with Iraq and with Iraqis.  We hope to share  our own thoughts and insights as well as those  from Iraqis and internationals who have been and continue to partner with Iraqis through  these terrible and terrifying times.

Drawing and photographs of Faisa Amir in her bed at Al-Mansour Pediatric Hospital, Baghdad 2004

Fiasa died of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia a few weeks after I took this photograph.  She was 8 years old.

The drawing is by her brother, age 10.

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