The Hess Report

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Difference Between Us and Them 

I don't usually do current events, but this picture affects me greatly, and to me is one of the iconic images of the Iraq war. You can click the image for a much larger version. It's worth it.

The man is Major Mark Bieger. His patrol was attacked by a suicide car bomber in Mosul several days ago. According to someone who was on the scene, the terrorists could have chosen to wait for the American units to progress further down the street, but chose to stage their attack when the American's were passing a group of about twenty waving, jumping children. In the words of the photographer:

"Major Bieger, I had seen him help rescue some of our guys a week earlier during another big attack, took some of our soldiers and rushed this little girl to our hospital. He wanted her to have American surgeons and not to go to the Iraqi hospital. She didn't make it. I snapped this picture when Major Bieger ran to take her away. He kept stopping to talk with her and hug her."

I feel personally touched by this picture, because that would be me. If I were in the military, my education would have made me an officer right off the bat, and knowing how I do things, I would probably be about where Major Bieger is in his career right now. That would be me running with that girl. Stopping to comfort her when she needed it. Watching her die.

That's why a picture like this one breaks my heart. I've held my sick daughters just like this - their feet sticking out the bottom of the blanket. You put your face close to theirs so you can talk to them in a low, calm tone, telling them that they'll be okay in a little bit. You show them the confidence on your own face so they know not to be scared. I know that's what he was doing.

Like so many of the greatest works of art, literature, this picture of this moment in time brings together the exuberant innocence of childhood, the courage and compassion of humanity in the face of adversity, the extreme barbarity of which we are also capable, and the inevitability and finality of death.

I just deleted an anonymous comment (brave, that) due to some links to a domain that I'd rather not link from my blog. I'll reproduce a copy and paste of the comment, though, with the links excised (1st Amendment! 1st Amendment! cry the ignorant):

oohh, dead children, lets look at some more dead children caused by the Iraq war:

...links deleted...

Cheap bastard. When did you suddenly start caring about the children of Iraq?

People like you make me vomit. One child killed by an insurgent attack, and suddenly all the children killed by OUR bombs are forgotten, and you point to the insurgents and say "animals!"

There is no difference between "us" and "them"... but there is a difference between "me" and "you"
My response: I've cared about them from the beginning. As soon as our soldiers and Marines went in, I started collecting toys, sanitary goods, etc., both at home and at work to ship over to the kids there. So I've put both my time and my own personal resources into helping the children of Iraq. If I'm "cheap", what does that make you? Does your sense of angst about the evil of Amerika count as karmic help for the children?

To the point, though, did some of our bombs kill or horribly wound civilians, including women, children, the elderly, and the infirm? Of course. Did we target them deliberately? No. Do the terrorist insurgents in Iraq target women and children deliberately? Yes. Big difference.

There is indeed a difference between us and them: we regret that we fight an enemy that chooses to hide amongst the innocent, increasing the chances of the loss of innocent life. They're tactics (terrorism) necessitate civilian attrocities, in order to weaken the moral resolve of their enemy, hoping to coax it into overwhelming retaliation which then would turn the populace against the coalition. Fortunately, our military leadership is smarter than that and has not played into that particular trap.

Perhaps I wrote poorly, but I believe that in this particular piece, though I do feel sadness for the dead child, my empathy was evoked specifically by my identification with the Major, and my thoughts about what being in situations such as that must do to a person of good conscience. I do not find it a credible notion that the terrorist captains on the ground have any remorse whatsoever about such things. By all accounts, they are hardened, brutal people.

The only thing I agree with you about is that there is a difference between you and myself. The difference is that I recognize the fact that my country has, at great expense in both dollars and American lives, developed the most surgical, non-collateral-damage-making military in the history of the world. It's not perfect, but it's the best yet, and always working to be better. If that fact is irrelevant to you, then you are basically disqualified from rational discussion.

And I hope you had a bucket nearby when I made you vomit. That'll mess up your keyboard.

Further comments that use abusive language, do not address these points directly, or link to nasty sites (note that I left the silly iraqbodycount link stand - it's not a bad site, but does not in my opinion demonstrate what you think it demonstrates) will be deleted in their entirety, without further comment. If you just want to spew filth, get your own blog, link my post, and have at it.
thankfully I am also counting myself as one of the "different" people. The poster that comments "oohh, dead children, lets look at some more dead children caused by the Iraq war" would be better off with HIS head in the vomit bucket and suck some in, maybe then, if ever, I believe he could join the human race and contribute.
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