Human life matters, when the United States says so

By Louay Fatoohi

youAMAZING, News of Russian aggression against Ukraine dominates the news. It is also understandable that the suffering of the innocent victims and civilians of this war has been at the center of the reports. Unfortunately, this focus on casualties has not always been the focus of reporting on other wars by these same media. Specifically, when the United States is the aggressor, the aggressor’s agenda takes center stage and only the human side that gets attention is the military personnel who started the war. Welcome to the story of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and, of course, Palestine. Welcome to a world where the importance of human losses depends on the identity of the aggressor.

I lived in Baghdad during the first Gulf War in 1991. I experienced firsthand the relentless bombardment and was one of the millions of Iraqis on whom the United States, supported by client nations, chosen to release their new military technologies. I saw and heard “smart” and less-smart bombs falling on every neighborhood in my city, as was happening all over the country. I saw the devastation they caused. I visited the al-ʿAmiriyya shelter where more than four hundred civilians, mainly women and children, were literally cremated while hiding from the bombing raid The United States knew it was a shelter for civilians. I don’t know what military honors bombers received.

At the time, I did not follow the way the war against Iraq was portrayed in the Western media. You could only listen to certain Arabic broadcasts from certain radio stations. Not that it would have helped with the rain of bombs, the lack of electricity and water and the shortage of food. What the media in the bombing countries called these unsolicited heavenly gifts was not very interesting or useful. But, of course, I was aware of the main objective of the Western media before, during and after the war: military victory.

When the second Gulf War broke out in 2003, I had been living in the UK for over a decade. This time, I didn’t physically have the terrible experience of seeing my country turned into a devastated war zone in the blink of an eye. On the other hand, I witnessed what the media of my adopted country, which had been used in the military action of the United States, and other Western media made of the destruction of my native country.

“Many, if not most, news readers, political analysts and media pundits were talking about cutting-edge technology, dominating the enemy, winning a whirlwind victory, overthrowing a much-felt dictator, ridding the world weapons of mass destruction, etc. What the “shock and awe” of thousands of tons of high explosives would do to women, children and the elderly would not appear in news reports and tables It’s not something you would naturally think of, is it?

When the human cost of war has been mentioned, the focus has been on the casualties of the invading armies, with only occasional quick reference to the Iraqi people. After all, the American and British armies were making sacrifices for the Iraqi people. What an altruistic, almost romantic situation. Really. The great people of Britain came out in their millions to protest the war, and the millions of Iraqis certainly did not invite Bush and Blair to bomb their country. None of this made a big difference. After all, these weapons of mass destruction had to be destroyed. What if they didn’t exist? Well, something had to be destroyed.

Two decades after the second Gulf War, we now have the same media reporting yet another invasion, but the aggressor this time is not the United States. It’s a game changer, and it is indeed a game. This time, the suffering of Ukrainian civilians is getting massive media coverage and airtime. It is of course normal that these innocent people, their victims and their losses, as well as the destruction of their country are in the center of the news. But why was this not the case in 2003? Are Iraqis inferior human beings? The fact is that in wars the value of human life is determined by the identity of the power behind the aggression. The Iraqis didn’t matter much because the aggressor was the United States, while the Ukrainians matter, as they should, because the aggressor is Russia. This is why the Western media could only afford to mention in passing the many weddings and innocent human gatherings in Afghanistan that American rockets and bombs regularly wipe out, justified as operations targeting a terrorist or two. And besides, there are people in Palestine other than the Israelis.

A major source of anger in the Western media and politicians is the fact that the new war is taking place in Europe! “Why and how? ask these puzzled experts. Isn’t that the kind of thing that usually happens in the Middle East or in an Islamic country? That’s why these Russian idiots shouldn’t be allowed to go to war. Wars should be left to those who know where and against whom they should be fought. They should be left to the war experts.

The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the editorial position of Kashmir Observer

  • Louay is a prolific author who has published over twenty-five books in English and Arabic on Islamic studies

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