For the sailors on the US aircraft carriers steaming back to their home ports, the war is over, but for Mona Hassan it has just begun. Gesturing as if she were plucking out her own eyes, she wails, “I would take them and give them to my son.” Hoarse with grief, she pleads, “Take my eyes, take them! Who can watch their child like this, and live?”
Mona is grieving for her five-year-old son, Ali Mustafa Hassan, who lost both eyes when his three-year-old cousin, Hassan Ali Hussein, triggered an explosion by picking up a bomblet from a U.S. cluster bomb that had fallen into the garden outside their home in Baghdad. Now little Ali, swathed in bandages, lies wailing in a hospital bed, and Mona suffers inconsolably.
Mona Hassan is weeping, but George W. Bush is not.
Although the big military maneuvers have come to an end in Iraq, and some US troops are being redeployed to prepare for the next regime change, the deaths and injuries continue in Iraq. Indeed, they will continue for many years, even if not another bomb is dropped, not another rocket or artillery shell is fired, because the United States has already sown the land with countless thousands of unexploded munitions, including vast numbers of bomblets like the one that blinded little Ali, and in due course they will take their grisly toll, mainly on the curious children who stumble across them.
Already, however, the invading US forces have planted more than enough seeds to guarantee a bountiful harvest of sorrow.
Eleven-year-old Amer Mahmoud is among the many already victimized. He accidentally kicked a piece of unexploded ordnance as he walked through a field toward his home in outer Baghdad. The explosion ripped his leg to shreds, and the leg had to be amputated. “Everything in my life has changed,” whispers Amer from his hospital bed. “I cannot see now what my future will be.” Certainly much pain and probably a lifetime of desperate struggle await little Amer, and naturally he is afraid.
Amer Mahmoud’s life is devastated, but Donald Rumsfeld’s life is not.
Twenty-year-old Walid Hijazi may never sleep peacefully again. He will be haunted by the memory of how his baby sister, Rawand, died a hideous death in her father’s arms after her legs were blown away by the explosion of a US bomblet that family members had brought into their apartment, curious and ignorant of what is was. Rawand’s aunt, Suha Jamal, says bitterly “Rawand was the enemy of no American.” Tell it to Dick Cheney, madam.
Walid Hijazi and Suha Jamal will find their sleep disturbed by horrifying nightmares, but Dick Cheney will not.
Khalid Tamimi and four other members of his family were walking on a footpath in Baghdad when his brother, seven-year-old Haithem, spotted something interesting, picked it up and examined it, then threw it down. The bomblet’s explosion killed Haithem and his nine-year-old cousin, Nora, and seriously wounded Khalid, as well as Amal and Mayasa, the children’s mothers.
Khalid, Amal, and Mayasa Tamimi are wounded and grief-stricken, but Paul Wolfowitz is not.
Khessma Radi has been overcome with anguish. At the burial of her twenty-two-year-old son, Hashim Kamel Radi, she staggered from the graveside, wailing and beating her chest. All day she continued to beat herself unless restrained by her sister or her daughter. Hashim, a student, had been killed by gunfire from US aircraft while riding a bus home from Baghdad to Nasiriyah. “Our lives are full of fire and weeping,” cries Hashim’s cousin Hussain Urabi. “The United States is now doing the same as Saddam did, so how can we build civilization?” Ask Richard Perle, Mr. Urabi; he knows.
For Khessma Radi and Hussain Urabi, the future is grim, but for Richard Perle it is not.
By now the whole world knows about Ali Ismail Abbas. Twelve-year-old Ali was asleep in his home in Baghdad when a US missile struck and the explosion tore off both his arms and killed his parents and his brother. Lying in a hospital bed, terrified and crying, he asked a Reuters reporter, “Can you help get my arms back?” Well, Ali, you’re asking the wrong person. You should be asking Colin Powell; he’s very close to the seat of power in this world, so he just might be able to help.
Ali’s life, such as remains of it, is shattered, but Colin Powell’s life is not.
It has often been said that war is Hell, but the saying is only half right. In truth, it’s Hell for some and perfectly splendid for others. For Mona Hassan, Amer Mahmoud, Walid Hijazi, Khalid Tamimi, Khessma Radi, Ali Ismail Abbas, and thousands of others like them, all perfectly innocent of threatening anybody, life now holds the prospect of endless misery, but for George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Colin Powell, the powerful architects of that boundless suffering, the future looks bright.