Bringing a Battle to Their Kids

There are certainly many gut-wrenching scenes in the "Collateral Murder" Wikileaks video currently making huge waves on the internet.  Though even the hardcore U.S. military apologentsia are having a (relatively) hard time justifying the slaughter of the unarmed men who arrived on the scene of the initial massacre in a black van to evacuate a wounded Reuters photographer, the fact that two children inside the van were seriously injured by a hail of 30mm shells fired from the Apache helicopter gunship has been a particularly sensitive subject for the self-appointed defenders of the troops.

In classic blame-the-victim mode, one of the participants in the event who opined in the skies above Baghdad, "Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle" was echoed by the Weekly Standard‘s Bill Roggio who asked "And who drives their kids into the middle of a war zone anyway?"  Perhaps distracted by their deep concern for the children, it is almost as if they forgot who brought the battle and the war zone to Iraq in the first place.  True, years of U.S.-enforced sanctions in the 1990s had already killed an estimated half-million Iraqi children before the 2003 invasion, but I am pretty sure there were still some Iraqi children alive when this war of choice shocked and awed the newly liberated.  The difficulty for Baghdadi parents since Operation Iraqi Freedom nearly destroyed their city would be to drive their kids somewhere that was not the "middle of a war zone," especially since the safest parts of Baghdad, in the Green Zone, are off limits to them unless they are serving the occupiers in some capacity. 

Besides the obvious projection of blame onto Iraqis for the deadly consequences of the invasion and occupation of a country that never attacked the United States, there is a sickening sense of parental superiority inherent in these comments.  The Apache gunner (or pilot, it is difficult to tell which one makes the statement) and Roggio both condemn the would-be rescuers in the van, apparently not comprehending that sometimes parents are accompanied by their children when unforeseen circumstances require the parent to act.  For example, if I am driving down the road and see a gunshot victim bleeding to death on the sidewalk, should I just keep driving because my son is in the car?  Or because I do not want blood on my upholstery?  Clearly the people who were ultimately gunned down for trying to help were not so selfish.

Even if the occupants of the van were "insurgents" as the Apache crew presumed, the idea that they are reprehensible for risking the lives of their children would likewise cast blame on parents in the United States.  The legal age to enlist in the military in the United States — with parental consent — is 17, not necessarily a "child" but also not an adult.  Many American soldiers killed in Iraq initially joined the military at that age, though the youngest American soldiers to die in Iraq have been 18.  Therefore, even if the van rescuers were indeed carrying out hostile activities and risking their children’s lives (and there is no evidence that they were), they should not be criticized any more or less than their American counterparts who do the same.  However, no American laptop bombardier would ever condemn a parent for helping their 17-year-old child join the military, as long as it saves the chickenhawk and his or her ilk from having to sacrifice anything for the wars they so desperately cheer and promote (Though to be fair, Roggio, a veteran, is not necessarily included in that group).

For an American to defensively disparage Iraqis for "bringing their kids into a battle" is even more extraordinary when you consider that even in July 2007 no one under the age of 16 had even been alive at a time when the United States was not bombing, sanctioning, invading, or occupying Iraq.  As of today, no one under the age of 19 could even have a memory of such a time when Iraqis were not being collectively punished by the United States.  Clearly the well-being of an entire generation of Iraqis has been profoundly and constantly put at risk, not from Iraqi parents bringing them into a battle, but from Americans bringing a battle to them.

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Author: Jay Barr

Jay Barr is an attorney practicing in central Illinois. When he is not preparing bankruptcy or divorce petitions he is a daily visitor to Antiwar.com.