Last week I had to put down my newspaper in the Metro for a long time. The front page news photo — connected with the story “U.S. Role Deepens in Sadr City ” — was this:
Two-year-old Ali Hussein is pulled from the rubble of his family’s home in the Shiite
stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, April 29, 2008.
(Karim Kadim/AP Photo)
It might have been a more cropped version. Certainly all I looked at was the boy, Ali Hussein, aged 2. According to the caption, he died at the hospital he was brought to. Reacting to the photo in a letter to the editor this weekend, Virginia mom Valerie Murphy  was upset, writing:
We know that a war is going on. Must you use a photograph of a dying Iraqi 2-year-old, especially on the front page?
I can think of no other reason for putting such a picture on the front page than to stir up opposition to the war and feed anti-U.S. sentiment.
You have sensationalized a child’s death and subjected young children to inappropriate images. From now on, I will preview what’s in your paper before my children see it.
Because after all, it’s all about the children.
As another great Virginian once said, “It is well that war is so invisible, or we should grow weary of it,” or some similarly repellent comment . This ought to be (yet another) “Napalm Girl ” photo of the Iraq War, but it’s gone MIA from the Internet since then, except at the photojournalism analysis site BAGnewsNotes , Glenn Greenwald , and the Kansas City Star .
It’s a small miracle it ever appeared at the Washington Post — it’s less of one that you won’t find the front page photo they used there now.* Meanwhile lead editor Fred Hiatt was writing this weekend that Somalian chaos proves we’re right to be creating Iraqi chaos, or something like that . Hence my reposting of the photo, which I hope falls under “fair use” given that I’m discussing it here.
Did the pilot who dropped the bomb intend to kill Ali Hussein? No. Did the commander who gave him the order take sufficient care to avoid that? I don’t know — though dropping a bomb in a populated neighborhood ought to be a last resort, even for a highly critical mission. Let alone this one. Did the commander-in-chief who continues to wage this war take sufficient care to avoid it? Definitely not. Did the people who voted him into office twice, or who ever supported a needless war? Also, no. Did this or does this war and occupation serve any discernible legitimate purpose? Not in my opinion.
I’m among those who ever supported this war — so some of little Ali’s blood is on my hands too. At the time, I thought I was advocating protecting my own child and others from future attacks, ones worse than 9/11. Instead, if anything, I’ve made them more likely.
And if a Ms. Murphy speaks for any appreciable number of others, or if we passively allow this war to continue, we may collectively deserve the “terror nation” epithet Rev. Wright so controversially bestowed. Just as with Senator Durbin’s comments once about abuses at Guantanamo, what was said is not unthinkable. It’s not impossible. It may or may not always have been the truth, but it may be the truth now.
My own little Maddie turns 10 today. I love her dearly. I know this boy’s father must have loved him, too — look at him, he’s an angel even in his final moments. There’s nothing I can do for either of them but ask forgiveness — and do whatever peaceful thing I can think of to help bring this war to an end.
* A zoomed out shot of the same scene, from a different angle, is part of the online photo slideshow for the story.
UPDATE, 5/10: The father speaks  (ABC News):“You attacked civilians’ houses crowded with people for the sake of a few militants,” said Hussein’s father, his face in tears. “A considerable number of people were killed for the sake of killing four.”
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