Sunday, 23 March 2003

This is the reality of war. We bomb. They suffer

Veteran war reporter Robert Fisk tours the Baghdad hospital to see the wounded after a devastating night of air strikes

click here to visit his website Donald Rumsfeld says the American attack on Baghdad is "as targeted an air campaign as has ever existed" but he should not try telling that to five-year-old Doha Suheil. She looked at me yesterday morning, drip feed attached to her nose, a deep frown over her small face as she tried vainly to move the left side of her body. The cruise missile that exploded close to her home in the Radwaniyeh suburb of Baghdad blasted shrapnel into her tiny legs ­ they were bound up with gauze ­ and, far more seriously, into her spine. Now she has lost all movement in her left leg.

Her mother bends over the bed and straightens her right leg which the little girl thrashes around outside the blanket. Somehow, Doha's mother thinks that if her child's two legs lie straight beside each other, her daughter will recover from her paralysis. She was the first of 101 patients brought to the Al-Mustansaniya College Hospital after America's blitz on the city began on Friday night. Seven other members of her family were wounded in the same cruise missile bombardment; the youngest, a one-year-old baby, was being breastfed by her mother at the time.

There is something sick, obscene about these hospital visits. We bomb. They suffer. Then we turn up and take pictures of their wounded children. The Iraqi minister of health decides to hold an insufferable press conference outside the wards to emphasise the "bestial" nature of the American attack. The Americans say that they don't intend to hurt children. And Doha Suheil looks at me and the doctors for reassurance, as if she will awake from this nightmare and move her left leg and feel no more pain.

So let's forget, for a moment, the cheap propaganda of the regime and the equally cheap moralising of Messrs Rumsfeld and Bush, and take a trip around the Al-Mustansaniya College Hospital. For the reality of war is ultimately not about military victory and defeat, or the lies about "coalition forces" which our "embedded" journalists are now peddling about an invasion involving only the Americans, the British and a handful of Australians. War, even when it has international legitimacy ­ which this war does not ­ is primarily about suffering.

Take 50-year-old Amel Hassan, a peasant woman with tattoos on her arms and legs but who now lies on her hospital bed with massive purple bruises on her shoulders ­ they are now twice their original size ­ who was on her way to visit her daughter when the first American missile struck Baghdad. "I was just getting out of the taxi when there was a big explosion and I fell down and found my blood everywhere," she told me. "It was on my arms, my legs, my chest." Amel Hassan still has multiple shrapnel wounds in her chest.

Her five-year-old daughter Wahed lies in the next bed, whimpering with pain. She had climbed out of the taxi first and was almost at her aunt's front door when the explosion cut her down. Her feet are still bleeding although the blood has clotted around her toes and is staunched by the bandages on her ankles and lower legs. Two little boys are in the next room. Sade Selim is 11; his brother Omar is 14. Both have shrapnel wounds to their legs and chest.

Full story...

No comments: