Skip to comments.A terrible victim, but also why we went to war
Posted on 04/08/2003 2:46:34 PM PDT by MadIvan
The price paid by children such as Ali is justified
You want to pick him up and hug him, but the lightest touch would harm him further. Stumps are all he has for arms and there are deep burns to his abdomen, lower chest and possibly his back and legs.
The face of 12-year-old Ali Ismail Abbas, bandaged and beseeching, will be one of the terrible, enduring images of this war. The natural human instinct is to flinch and turn away. But all of us who supported the war, and especially those, like me, who championed regime change to alleviate human suffering, must do the opposite. We must look hard and face the question: how can any war be worth such terrible pain?
The honest answer is that this war is worth it. This even though Alis prognosis must be gravely uncertain. Survival is in the balance for a child of his age with second or third- degree burns. The physical harm combined with the loss of his immediate family leaves even a formerly lively youngster with immense survival difficulties.
Twelve years ago I entered a dusty courtyard close to the Iraqi border in southwest Iran. I saw another boy, Amar, with similar burns covering his entire face and body. He, too, had lost all his family. Amar was alive only because of swift action by skilful and generous Iranian surgeons who had grafted large flaps of skin from his back and legs on to his face, hands and front. In the aftermath of battle they had no anaesthetic and had had to hypnotise him so that they could operate. His rehabilitation continued in Guy's hospital, London. Twenty-six operations later and despite enormous pain and continual nightmares, Amar, now my foster son, has emerged healthy, strong and nearly six feet tall; athletic, and, yes, a handsome and forthright young man.
The defining moment for us and our family with Amar came in the darkness of a Friday evening drive to Devon when a small voice in the front passenger seat said in a reflective tone: Ive got a family. Ive got friends, Ive got a computer. Im all right. For Ali, too, that moment might come.
No decent person likes war; and those of us who know and love the region approached this war with heavy hearts. Ali, and many others who we know will suffer, is the reason why. But Amar gives the mirror image, the reason for the use of force as the lesser of two evils, when force is used to destroy dictatorship or to stop genocide after all other options to free a tormented people have been tried and failed. This war is one such case.
For Amar and Ali are victims of Saddam Husseins ruthless destruction of civilians in his pursuit of power. Saddam is a modern Moloch engorged with the human blood of his tortured and slaughtered innocent child victims. In Ali's case, his family's home was surrounded by military installations, clear and obvious targets in case of war.
And war was inevitable because Saddam continually sought territory belonging to his neighbours. Each time his invasions failed, he turned his vicious wrath on his own people. In 1988 he chemically bombed the Iraqi Kurds as well as setting in motion the genocidal actions leading to the near-complete destruction of the Iraqi Marsh Arabs and the famous marshlands.
In 1991 the northern and southern uprising that followed Saddams disastrous defeat in Kuwait and the allied withdrawal from Iraq were as ruthlessly put down. Amar's family, Shia from the South, fell foul of that destruction. His boyhood looks and freedom were wiped out by a chemical weapon, probably napalm, dropped by an Iraqi bomber.
Saddam and his monstrous regiment of torturers and executioners have relentlessly used pregnant women, small boys and their families, Marsh Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Jews, Christians, Iranians, Iraqi Shia and Sunni Muslims and others who incurred his hatred as human shields and sacrifices. His forced departure leaves in his wake four million refugees and hundreds of thousands of victims of his genocide.
The ferocity of the latest allied coalition force assaults should serve as a continuing lesson to other dictatorships that the world will not stand idly by and watch such slaughter.
But what happens when the bombs stop falling? The long-term rehabilitation of Iraq will demand significant input from the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the UN Refugee Agency and other international bodies. But the essential ingredient without which all else will fail is the Iraqi people. Their own capacity to come to terms with a bloody and terrifying past and to create a future which guards minorities and assures that no new Saddam seizes power will be the test for a Middle East of growing but different democracies, and one free of all weapons of mass destruction. The success of the Iraqi example becomes an imperative.
War is the only way to put an end to the suffering caused by Saddam. Ali and other dead and wounded civilians are the terrible and tragic price that has to be paid. None of this will help Ali burned, damaged, and without a father or mother to comfort him as he pleads with us to help get my arms back. He asked, do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands? I hope that the West answers his plea.
Excellent assessment. May the Iraqi people have that strength and tenacity.
wow...I promise I will never feel sorry for myself again. Hope this kid can somehow salvage a life worth living.
Sometimes it's a cure as well. As in 1945, 1991 and 2003. The '91 cure was only partial, but ask the people of Kuwait if it was worth it.
British company offers to make artificial arms for orphan Ali
The clinic which makes prosthetic limbs for Heather Mills McCartney offered yesterday to treat an Iraqi boy who lost both arms in an explosion in Baghdad.
Ali Ismaeel Abbas, 12, was injured when a missile destroyed his family's shack, killing his parents and eight other relatives.
His case was brought to the attention of Dorset Orthopaedic Company, based in Ringwood, Hampshire. David Hills, the clinic manager, said he would like to provide Ali with two artificial arms at cost price - less than half the standard fee.
"This is a humanitarian issue," he said. "We all feel a certain amount of guilt for what's going on in Iraq, even if we know that this war is necessary as a means to an end. All of us within the company have discussed this and feel it would be an ideal opportunity to help.
"There would be no profit involved. We just have to cover the cost of the components we don't manufacture."
The clinic was involved in a similar gesture during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. A young girl lost her entire family in a "friendly fire" incident and was later found by a charity trying to farm her family's land with one arm.
It has also worked with Mrs Mills McCartney since she lost her lower left leg in a road accident in London in 1993.
In Ali's case, Mr Hills said the most suitable option would be to give him a split hook limb for each arm. "The hook opens and closes so he would be able to pick up anything from a needle to a pint of beer. He would also have interchangeable hands for whenever he doesn't want to use the hooks."
Ali, who is also suffering from serious burns, is being treated in a hospital in Baghdad.
"Can you help me get my arms back?" he is said to have asked reporters. "Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands? If I don't get hands I will commit suicide." His case was raised with Dorset Orthopaedic Company by Cathy Harris, a commercial lawyer based in London who was touched by his plight after seeing his picture in The Daily Telegraph.
"When I saw the picture and read the story I couldn't help but feel I had to do something to help him. Providing him with prosthetic arms is the least we can do," she said.
The prosthetic work required would take three to four weeks and would usually cost £3,000 per limb, but the clinic is prepared to undertake the task for £1,400 per arm.
At least one offer of financial assistance has come in already, from an Indian Maharani. Rajmata (Queen Mother) Gayatri Devi, of the former Jaipur state, said that if it was possible to give Ali artificial limbs, she would pay the costs.
Florian Westphal, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned that it would be necessary to decide whether Ali's interests would be best served by bringing him to Britain, and said that moving him from Baghdad could be fraught with difficulty.
But he added: "We are heartened by the public interest in this case. If there is an effort under way which is aimed at helping the boy, we would be all in favour of that. Every single bid to help children like him is important."
Ask and ye shall receive, Baroness Nicholson.
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