Skip to comments.Suffer the children [Iraqi children deaths - Media bias]
Posted on 06/19/2003 9:35:52 PM PDT by victim soul
Suffer the children
JOHN Pilger was far from the only journalist to believe -- incredibly -- it was our fault that Iraqi children were dying in their hundreds of thousands.
Oh, no. Time magazine in 1998 even reported on the parade of children's corpses that Saddam Hussein staged through Baghdad's streets to persuade Western journalists of our guilt, and warned of the "anger and despair of Iraq's people". But I mention Pilger because you may have seen his documentary, Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq, which screened on SBS in 2000 and is perhaps the best example of the wicked myth that is now being exposed by ashamed Iraqi doctors.
In Pilger's film, the Australian-born activist "journalist", who was recently the subject of a fawning exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, is shown touring a Baghdad hospital's children's ward.
The footage is harrowing, and the tragedy is real.
There are skeletal children just hours from death, children catatonic with pain, children too weak to blink.
And there's an Iraqi doctor who silkily explains that many such children could have been saved -- if the United Nations hadn't imposed sanctions on Iraq that stopped these children from getting food and drugs.
Pilger, who has built a career in demonising democracies like ours, believed it. Believed it greedily. Thanks largely to our sanctions, he said, "at least 200 children are dying every day". The "viciousness" of our embargo -- imposed to stop Saddam from building more weapons -- could be called a "genocide".
IT is a sign of the naivety and self-congratulatory self-loathing of our cultural elite that Pilger was by no means unusual in endorsing such an evil, almost incredible, accusation of the West.
"The American insistence that sanctions against Iraq be continued has led, by reliable accounts, to the slow death of at least 500,000 children," purred the ABC's Phillip Adams.
"It is estimated that half a million children have died as a result of the sanctions," declared the ABC's Foreign Correspondent.
Even at the start of the war in Iraq, correspondents such as A Current Affair's Jane Hansen made their pilgrimages to Baghdad's children's hospital to show us the dying that was, they implied, at least in part caused by our sanctions.
And intellectuals here -- too eager as always to believe the worst of us -- believed this, too.
The sanctions caused "the deaths of children on a scale far exceeding that caused by any military weapon in history," wrote Malcolm Fraser in a letter co-signed by Chris Sidoti and Peter Garrett -- people happy to think we're so evil that we also stole Aboriginal children, keep refugees in "concentration camps" and rape Mother Earth.
And the prominent Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, a regular ABC guest, not only claimed perhaps "a million" Iraqi children were dying from our "madness", but said "mass funerals for babies -- 70 in one cortege on the last count -- made their way through Baghdad".
B UT now for the truth -- because the peddlers of such corrosive hate-speech must be exposed and shamed, if not into silence then into moderation.
Iraqi doctors now say what our intellectuals and our reporters should have felt in their bones. Iraq's children were dying not because of us, but because of Saddam. And even the parades of dead children were part of a monstrous hoax.
Dr Amer Abdul a-Jalil, the deputy resident at Baghdad's Ibn al-Baladi Hospital, has told the London Telegraph that "sanctions did not kill these children -- Saddam killed them".
"Over the past 10 years, the government in Iraq poured money into the military and the construction of palaces for Saddam to the detriment of the health sector," he said.
"Those babies or small children who died because they could not access the right drugs, died because Saddam's government failed to distribute the drugs."
As the hospital's chief resident, Dr Hussein Shihab, confirmed to Newsday: "We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed. Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. I am one of the doctors who was forced to tell something wrong -- that these children died from the fault of the UN."
Dr Azhar Abdul Khadem, a resident at Baghdad's Al-Alwiya maternity hospital agreed: "Saddam Hussein, he's the murderer, not the UN."
In fact, Dr Oasem al-Taye, who now runs the Baghdad Children's Hospital, said last week that after Saddam's fall he'd found plenty of medical supplies and equipment at a hospital once reserved for leaders of Saddam's regime.
"They were willing to sacrifice the children for the sake of propaganda," he said bitterly.
THE parades of dead children were part of that same propaganda.
Doctors say hospitals were forced to keep the bodies of babies who had died prematurely or of natural causes for up to two months until Saddam had enough to stage a parade of the little corpses, with women bussed in to act as "mourners", screaming insults at the US in front of television cameras.
"All 10 hospitals in Baghdad were involved in this and the quota for the parade was between 25 and 30 babies a month, which they would say had died in one day," Dr Hussein al-Douri, deputy director of the Ibn al-Baladi hospital, told the Telegraph.
Muslims traditionally bury their dead immediately, so keeping the bodies of the babies added to the grief of their parents.
"The mothers would be hysterical and sometimes threaten to kill us," said al-Douri, "but we knew that the real threat was from the government. They would have killed our families."
Why didn't more commentators understand this?
Why didn't they assume we might expect such crimes, such lies, from a savage dictatorship?
It is not enough to say such folk had no way of knowing the truth, given Iraqis were too terrified to tell it. Some people did try to expose the hoax, but few would listen -- just as Left gurus like Noam Chomsky refused to believe Cambodian refugees who tried to tell us of Pol Pot's genocide.
In 1999, for instance, Saddam was caught smuggling baby milk and children's medicines to India.
Last year, the BBC interviewed an Iraqi refugee who told how the parades of coffins were run. And human rights groups warned for years of Saddam's depravity.
But too often, it seems, our intellectual class preferred to hear the stories that confirmed its prejudices against the West. See, even now, how eagerly it believed the lie that Baghdad's antiquities museum had been cleaned out by looters -- perhaps even by the barbaric Yanks.
WHAT made this phenomenon worse is that under Saddam too many Baghdad-based correspondents were too scared to tell the full truth about him.
CNN has now admitted censoring reports of Saddam's brutality that could get its Baghdad correspondents into trouble, and the ABC's Mark Willacy conceded he faced a dilemma: "Do you fully report what you're seeing and what you're hearing or do you hold back in case you get deported?"
The answer for the diplomatic correspondent of Britain's Channel 4 News was to hold back.
"There was one occasion when we did censor ourselves," Lindsey Hilsum admitted last week.
She'd decided not to report that the US was right -- that she'd seen for herself on the night of the deadly explosion in a Baghdad market that Iraq was indeed hiding missile launchers in residential areas.
"If I'd said that, I think we would have been thrown out the next day," she said.
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. I wonder if we even dare recognise true evil any more.
This is one small gain we can take, then, from the war in Iraq. What we learn now of the horror that gripped Iraq may end our dangerous and wilful ignorance.
There is such a thing as evil in this world, after all. And, believe me, it isn't us.