Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Worthy and Unworthy Victims

In April 2003, the United States dropped four hugely powerful bombs on and around a compound in a residential district of Baghdad. Purpose: To kill Saddam Hussein and his two sons, said to be meeting there.

In fact, the only ones to die in the U.S. airstrike were just ordinary Iraqis. At the time, and since, these civilian deaths elicited little interest or concern compared to rampant speculation by Western opinion- and decision-makers (both in and outside the U.S.) as to whether or not the Iraqi dictator and two sons had actually been killed in the bombing raid.

The dismemembered bodies of the dead Iraqis in the Baghdad suburb were a non-issue, really; unnecessary to even list them as "unfortunate" collateral damage. They were, to borrow a phrase often used by Professor Chomsky, unworthy victims.

We need only recall how cavalierly Madeleine Albright, the U.S. Secretary of State, dismissed the deaths of half a million Iraqi children in a May 12, 1996 broadcast of an interview she did with Lesley Stahl on the public affairs programme “60 Minutes.”

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it. [sic].”

A little over a year later, Madame Albright toured Yad Vashem, Israel’s great Holocaust memorial museum. She inscribed the following in the guestbook:

"As your guest in this sacred place, moved by love, I pray for an end to intolerance [sic], the nurturing of knowledge and a coming together in peace. Madeleine Albright. September 10, 1997."

The news coverage of the event that I watched on American TV did indeed show us a woman who was visibily moved by the Yad Vashem exhibits. I saw her dab away tears.

And, I thought: Now there is a lady who can distinguish between worthy and unworthy victims.

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