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Do Iraqis Count?

Deciphering The Alternative With Grant Finch

Do Iraqis Count?

Do Iraqi’s count, do they matter? In fact the more I ask the question I wonder, does anyone actually matter?

Before you make the obvious retort ‘of course!’ let me define the question a little more Following the O J Simpson trial, and his subsequent acquittal, both the prosecution and defense attorneys were interviewed. The prosecution was upset, because they had seen the trial as a test case for the rights of battered woman, and read the acquittal as demeaning of abused woman’s rights. The defense were elated because a black man had been acquitted of the murder of a white woman and man, and they read it as a precedent for black justice.

I was shocked. Neither legal team mentioned, or even seemed aware, that they were supposedly trying a case where a man had been accused of the brutal murder of two people. Rather this case had been, for both sides, an opportunity to promote their political agenda on national television.

I’ve often thought of this as I have watched other stories play out in the media, and realise that many times the human drama, though very real, and often painful for the individuals concerned, is but a backdrop for a larger political agenda.

Ironic that in a time when individual rights are paramount, individual humans matter less. Which brings me back to my question, ‘do Iraqis count?’

In the last 5 years over 4,500,000 people have lost their lives in fighting in the Congo. How much have you heard about it? When did you last see television images of the conflict?

In the last 2 years over 4,000 street kids have been killed in Rio de Janero. (More than those killed on both sides in the current ‘Intifada’) Do you recall seeing the grieving mothers, the children’s mangled corpses?

What about those killed in the continuous warring on the west coast of Africa.? Chechnya? Sri Lanka?. Indonesia? The list goes on, all people, all dying.

In light of this it could be that Iraqis do count. After all, less than 1000 civilians were killed in the recent war, yet look how much air play it got.

(Do you ever wonder why it is that certain conflicts get better coverage? Are the hotels better for the journalists? Better climate? Are these conflicts ‘safer’?)

Cynicism aside, was the war in Iraq and the global reaction it sparked primarily concerned with the plight of individual men, woman and children who inhabit that nation?

Every day now we see images and hear stories of the brutality and terror which informed the daily lives of Iraqi citizens. We hear of thousands killed in previous attempts to oppose Saddam, and could easily conclude that the numbers killed in this war would be less than those killed had Saddam remained in power. But nothing is said of this and I wonder, ‘do Iraqis count’? Depending on who you listen to, the war was fought to control oil, strategically position the USA, eliminate weapons of mass destruction, or liberate the Iraqi people. On the other side the war was opposed because it was another anti Moslem crusade, it would kill thousands of civilians, Americas global legacy was abusive, or the UN, more tempered and compassionate, had been ignored.

All politics. Iraq is just the latest backdrop on which to play out our political persuasions. Both opposing views would consider that their core concern is the greatest good for the greatest number. (in spite of attempts by some to paint their own position as morally superior).

Which brings us back to the question of whether Iraqis, or in fact anyone actually matters, and though it may be heresy to admit it, I don’t think we do.

Our age could be defined as the age of the individual, because of our concern for people as separate from the group, yet sentient individuals increasingly matter less.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise, because to have ‘human rights’ is to group all human thoughts and actions together, ignoring the fact that we are all unique. Sure there are many ways in which we resemble one another, especially the smaller groups with which we connect, but within that there is still no-one who quite sees the world and acts out their part in it in the way you or I as individuals do.

It is easy in such politicised times as these, to be so caught up with the rights of individuals that we fail to consider the ‘one’ individual.

To think of the ‘one’ easily clouds political rhetoric, which relies on ‘big’ ideas. It is not an easy place to draw tidy conclusions from. .But if human individuals matter, if Iraqis do count, perhaps we have to reframe the debate and means, whereby we endeavor to value that ‘one’ individual.

Grant Finch 2003

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