You’ll recall this recent story in the Washington Post on how dozens of children are dying or being maimed each year because the US won’t bother to clean up UXOs in civilian areas. The US knows, of course, that many will die, but so what? (and that seems to be the attitude).
The story (which you definitely should read) puts the US in a pretty ugly light, so it seems very much as if the US military launched a propaganda campaign (which, BTW, would be illegal: no propagandizing in the US). The response the military has choose is not to clean up the UXOs, but to sell the idea that, actually, UXOs do come with some benefits: take or make a victim success story and let everyone know. This one, for example: we not paid for her new prosthetic and fixed up her missing eye, she also discovered a new talent, and she’s extremely good at it. So, though it’s perhaps not all good, there’s at least some good—thanks to the US medical team and our medical technology!!
It’s not hard to imagine some general demanding that his staff find a silver lining to that cloud, or else. The cost of the surgery for one victim is more than repaid by the value of the publicity and propaganda.
But assuming it is in fact a good-faith effort. But even if the US military pays for surgery, buys prosthetics, and conducts physical therapy and rehabilitation not for one but for all victims (except, of course, for those killed on the spot or died later from wounds), that truly is minuscule compared to the trauma inflicted on the innocent children who survive—even if not physically harmed, many are doubtless traumatized by seeing their friends or family members blown to bits.
In the meantime, the US public is all up in arms because GM’s ignition switch design (and cover-up) may have caused 13 deaths over the past eight years. Of course, those are deaths of US citizens and thus of much greater importance and higher value than the deaths of foreign children we’ve never even met, children we’re killing simply because we don’t want to bother to clean up the mess that we left behind.
That sounds harsh, but isn’t that exactly the attitude? It would sure look that way from a different vantage point—say, Europe, China, Japan, or … well, just about everywhere.
Here’s the actual note, from a column in the current issue of The Week, titled “It wasn’t all bad” (that is the actual title—I am not making this up):
A 7-year-old Afghan girl who lost her arm to an explosive has been enjoying her newfound talent for painting.Less than a year ago, Shah Bibi Tarakhail was playing outside when she picked up what she thought was a rock and threw it on the ground. The resulting explosion took her right arm and right eye. She was brought to the U.S. and fitted with a prosthetic, which she soon began using to create colorful works of abtract art. Arist Davyd Whaley compared her “mind-blowing” paintings to the work of Jackson Pollock.
Two obvious points: First, not all the maimed will turn out to have world-class talent—if, second, Davyd Whaley is to be believed at all. And even if he is spot-on, see the first point in the previous sentence. Wait!—no, three obvious points: Third, none of this surgery/talent show excuses (or is relevant to) the wholesale abandonment of UXOs that will inevitably kill and maim many civilians and the US military’s continuing refusal—even now, even today—to take the first step to clean up the minefields they created.
I guess I’m a little emotional about this, but I think that’s because of having to simply sit here while the slow-motion massacre continues, unable to do anything at all to stop it (see this post). I imagine this is how opponents of abortion feel. I don’t share their feelings because I don’t view the embryo as a person, so that situation is for me very different from this. (I do understand that people disagree on whether an embryo is a person or not, but that discussion will be held separately, if at all. In the meantime, consider this situation: a deadly fire is about to consume a room, and you can save either a 12-year-old girl in the room or a try of a dozen human embryos. Which do you choose?)