As I was cleaning my refrigerator and carting out trash, I had C-Span2 on in the background (C-Span2 turns into BookTV every weekend) … George Weigel droned on about the Pope and bemoaned the absence of a Biblical presence in modern-day Europe …
Then there was another program, featuring a rod-thin, harsh-voiced woman, her bony hands grabbing a podium. The bottom of the screen said her name is Nina Berman, “Author & Photographer || ‘Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq.'” (And there’s a book by the same name available at Powell’s.)
“A lot of them are blind,” she said. “One Army Ranger is blind. He sees nothing but black all day and black all night, and titanium holds his brain inside his skull …”
She went on. “Here is a photo of a quadraplegic who is not counted among the 15,000 (or so) combat-wounded because he wasn’t wounded in combat. He was in Tikrit driving a tank, and his commander ordered him to knock down a wall adorned with Saddam’s portrait. As his tank hit the wall, a piece of concrete flew in and severed his spinal cord. …”
The Web site for the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum — which is exhibiting Berman’s photographs — was easy to find, and it’s a remarkable Web site. Nina Berman’s show is at the museum in Chicago until April 30, 2006. There are also a 30-year anniversary selection of works from the permanent collection, and “Things We Carried,” an exhibit that may be rented. Also on display through May 1, 2006: Trauma and Metamorphosis II (that’s a snippet of the image on the right). (Scan the home page to see all.)
Then I glanced through the latest stories at Memeorandum. Besides all the reports on the NSA revelations, there was a major piece today in the Washington Post by Ellen Knickmeyer on Iraqi civilian deaths. And it’s those pristine airstrikes — that Rummy is so proud of — that are killing so many civilians, and that are on the increase, reports Dahr Jamail. On Nov. 27, I wrote about the the uptick in the aerial war, as reported by Seymour Hersh, in an attempt to cut back troop casualties.
“These people died silently, complaining to God of a guilt they did not commit,” Zahid Mohammed Rawi, a physician, said in the town of Husaybah. Rawi said that after roughly one week into Operation Steel Curtain, which began on Nov. 5, medical workers had recorded 97 civilians killed. At least 38 insurgents were also killed in the offensive’s early days, Rawi said.
In a Husaybah school converted to a makeshift hospital, Rawi, four other doctors and a nurse treated wounded Iraqis in the opening days of the offensive, examining bloodied children as anxious fathers soothed them and held them down.
“I dare any organization, committee or the American army to deny these numbers,” Rawi said. …
Today, The Nation‘s David Corn talked about the WaPo story in a piece titled “Silent Night”:
This reminds me of a pet issue I adopted during the Afghanistan war. At that time, the Bush administration and the Pentagon often refused to acknowledge civilian casualties. Time and time again, a bomb would end up blasting apart a home, a business, a wedding reception, and men, women and children would be blown to bits. Rather than admit wrong, the Pentagon routinely denied any such thing had happened, often claiming that all its ordnance had fallen upon Taliban fighters and no one else. Reporters would then visit these sites, talk to eyewitnesses and local leaders (who usually were anti-Taliban) and discover that the allegations of misguided (and lethal) bombing were quite credible. Meanwhile, the Pentagon would ignore or misrepresent the facts as long as it could. On rare occasions, it might concede something had gone wrong. Then, the Bush administration would do nothing to make it up to the innocent victims. Concurrently, reports of the bombings and dead civilians would be broadcast far and wide through the Muslim and Arab worlds–often in far more explicit detail than an American would see within the US media. It’s arguable that these images and reports had much to do with souring (or further souring) much of the Islamic world on the United States.
In war, shit happens. But any just warrior is obligated to minimize civilian deaths, to acknowledge wrong when it happens, and, if possible, to do all that is possible to make up for the damage done. …
Any just warrior would. And so would any just U.S. citizen. It’s the least we owe U.S. soldiers who will, as Nita Berman said tonight, carry the psychic as well as physical wounds the rest of their lives, as will the Iraqi and Afghani civilian survivors to whom we owe the same lifelong commitment of caring and compassion.