How do you experience Iraq?

I wrote an essay yesterday titled, Collateral Damage. In it I opened with the same photograph reproduced three times of a pre-teen Iraqi girl mouthed ope’d in horror, clinging to herself, with the image of spattered blood puddled and dripping on the wall to her right and her father’s dead, bare feet to her left.  Someone’s hand is seen reaching to touch her father.  The little girl is alone in her own world of horror.

An astute reader alerted me to the need to place advance warnings on images of this type to allow people not to look, should they be disturbed.

Of course, I will honor that request, as I wish never to inflict pain or distress of any kind on anyone.

But I also have very mixed feelings about this.  Is it moral to be able to distance oneself from what is happening in Iraq?  Is it acceptable not to know and to experience what is being inflicted on victims of violence, whoever they may be, and for whatever societal sanctioned reason?

On this first Iraq Moratorium day, I’d like us to discuss the morality of immersion of and identification with the victims of violence.

To reiterate, for the purposes of this blogging community,on one hand, yes, I don’t want anyone to be shocked and unduly upset, and as I said, personally, I will be careful to give advance notice.

On the other hand, as one who has been in the trenches with blood on my hands, spattered on my clothes, flicked into my eyes and into my nose, and comforting and cleaning up the horror of violence as a part of my job and professional practice, I think it’s my duty to share what that experience is like, to the best of my ability, so that people make INFORMED decisions about supporting violence – whether that be war, police action (tasering, billy clubs, shooting, etc) or any type of societal sanctioned violence.

It is not acceptable for voters to turn their heads any longer, to avoid the landscape of blood and dying and death, to plug their ears to the cries of the victims, to close their noses to the stench of loosened bowels and bladders, and to close their hands and withdraw when the hands of victims are reaching out for comfort and for rescue.

What do you (collectively) think about this?


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  1. and let’s think on this together….

    • fatdave on September 21, 2007 at 20:43

    You paint a picture which is familiar to me though I wish it were not so. If an individual finds it conscionable to contribute to an action which they are told is necessary they have, I feel, a responsibility to know exactly what it is they are contributing toward. Those with knowledge of the reality should share their experience if they can bear to. Now more than ever perhaps. They have counselling now.

  2. that if wars were live broadcast and people had to see what was going on, what they were perpetrating on other humans they would not be so eager to kill, for crap made up or false claims of security and necessity. Our base nature is feed by sanitizing the realities of what we are doing. Collateral damage is a phrase which should not exist. Maybe it’s time we were upset and shocked by what is being done to real people who are in the way of our lust for power. Makes it not so easy to shrug and turn away. 


  3. that if we actually had the power to DO something about it….but weren’t doing it….it would be ESSENTIAL. But as far as this little neck of the woods, I don’t think there is anybody here that isn’t doing everything they can to stop the war.

    CONSIDERING all factors of course. There is always more that anyone can do up to quitting jobs and dedicating our lives….etc.

    I think publicizing the horrors of war to those who are TRULY in denial and who never let it penetrate is….as I said, essential.

    How do we reach them is the real question. This blog is the only answer I have come up with yet and it is OT a very good one on that level.

    • lezlie on September 21, 2007 at 23:11

    is of the little Iraqi girl with her parents’ blood all over her. It hurt my heart to think of the terror we had inflicted on that child. We tore her country apart and made her an orphan before her very eyes.

    I wonder if the 29 percent ever see these things.

  4. do so, who has seen comrades and friends die, who has seen the children and the animals and the destroyed bodies, buildings and lives, i must reiterate: forcing the views of violence and brutishness are not necessary, and may actually take away from the message.

    There are good reasons for choosing not to place photos, for not putting the images out there.

    What is served? What is served when a child sees those images and then has nightmares? Or someone who lost relatives? Or someone who served?

    I sincerely think that these images either allow or encourage or enable some sort of macabre voyeurism. The images tell the story of the horror of that moment in time to the person photographed; the true horror doesn’t translate or transmit through such photos.

    In terms of morality, I don’t think that choosing not to show the horror is distancing nor is it allowing people to distance themselves. It is about doing what is correct.

    As another poster said, ‘they have counseling now.’ Well, is it right or proper or moral to do something that could send someone to counseling? Or could cause nightmares in another child? Or in another adult? Where is the morality there?

    Shock value is… shock value. Does it help to present a message? I would argue that it isolates the shocker. The shocked may well ignore further messages.

    To quote aek, Is it acceptable not to know and to experience what is being inflicted on victims of violence, whoever they may be, and for whatever societal sanctioned reason?

    Yes, it is okay to not know. To force people to know and experience the brutality is brutality itself, is it not?

    As buhdy says, selective forcing, for those in denial… well, forcing people to do things doesn’t work too well. One cannot force another to have empathy.

    We should simply do what we think is necessary and appropriate to change a bad situation, but without causing harm to others. Causing harm to others makes us no better, morally, than those who enable the war.

    MLK and Ghandi were humble. The leaders in nonviolent social movements were not looking to cause a radical change of people’s minds, but instead a radical change of people’s behavior. Change the behavior, and attitudes will follow.

    In 1968, when marching down Beale Street, in Memphis, garbage workers carried a sign with a simple, yet profound message: “I am a man.” This is the sort of message we need to engender. Nonviolent, affirming.

    In terms of knowing what is going on in Iraq, the horrors that are there, photos will never do it justice. Movies will not do it justice. One can’t smell a photo or a movie, and one can’t feel the level of stress, rage, anxiety, fear, horror, or other emotions wrought by war without experiencing combat.

    Again, I am not advocating combat as a a means of ‘toughening up’ society, either. I fought so that my family wouldn’t have to, so that the horrors I lived through wouldn’t be visited on those I care about. I do what I can in my small way to stop this aggression. I don’t need visual reminders to keep me doing the next right thing.

    Just my .02 cents.

  5. I think it’s okay to let people know they my need to suit up going into diaries displaying the brutality.  Other than that though I don’t think anything needs to be held back.  We have seen what trauma and shock can do to people though so it is appropriate to label things, some people have anxiety disorders.  I’ve made up my mind though if my husband comes home in a casket good luck with that locking the casket shit, I’ll blow the lid right off that thing when nobody is looking.  I will know what was done to him in the name of democracy and freedom and fuck Dubya.

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