USS Cole and the Other Untold Tragedies
- The USS Cole and the other untold tragedies
Published Wednesday October 18, 2000
By Hebah Abdalla
As we watch the bodies of American sailors return home
and await the latest reports on the investigation of
the explosion on the USS Cole, we may feel an
overwhelming sense of frustration. The American media,
in their rush to provide the most comprehensive
coverage of the bombing have overlooked a key element
to the story.
Newspapers and the television news networks have only
briefly mentioned the fact that these sailors were on
their way to enforce sanctions on the Iraqi people.
But the American public will never hear the deadly
effect these sanctions have had on more than a million
innocent men, women, and children.
Instead, we will only hear the stories recounted by
family members of those sailors killed in the
explosion. We will see the anguish in the faces of
those who still await word on their missing sons,
brothers, husbands and fathers. We will see
photographs of the dead and hear about hopes,
aspirations and dreams that were dashed on that
fateful day. We will look on as the injured hobble off
military planes and on stretchers with the assistance
of medical personnel. We will receive live reports of
somber memorial services, some of which will be
broadcasted in their entirety.
This morning, the NBC today show conducted a live
interview with Randy Kafka, an injured sailor from the
USS Cole. He openly wept as he spoke of the men he
worked and played with on that ship. He made the point
that these men died serving their country.
Certainly, these men did put their lives at risk to
enforce U.S. policies abroad. But what about the
people who have died as a result of the U.S. led
sanctions? Most of those who have died in Iraq did not
have the choice of serving their government because
they were under the age of five.
But we will never hear about their tragic stories. Not
one single funeral will be covered by an American
television network, and we may never see a photograph
of any Iraqi who died as a result of the sanctions.
These are stories that are undoubtedly more tragic and
heartbreaking and must be told.
It is doubtful we will here live interviews any time
soon from Veterans for Peace, former soldiers who know
about the tragedies in Iraq and have launched a
signature campaign to see an end to these deadly
We will not hear from the numerous groups of American
delegates who were firsthand witnesses to the horrors
in Iraq. We will not see the tears of mothers who lost
their children to diarrhea and malnutrition because
water purification plants have been destroyed and
chlorine for water purification is banned by the
We may never see the images of Iraqi children who are
packed four to a desk in classrooms with broken and
missing windows. It is a little known fact that glass
and other spare parts have become a scarcity over the
last ten years.
It is a shame that journalists have not taken the lead
in questioning the U.S. policy toward Iraq. The
stories would be easy to tell. Reporters wouldn't have
to walk far to get their stories in the streets of
Baghdad and Basra, where electricity is available only
three hours a day, even when temperatures soar well
over 110 degrees.
So why has this tragedy of epic proportions been
ignored? U.S. journalists have failed to provide fair
coverage because of an inherent bias that
systematically leans toward the U.S. government. It is
doubtful that any of these White House correspondents,
who arrive in their White House offices and enjoy the
luxuries of traveling with U.S. officials both
domestically and abroad, have gone beyond their inner
circle of Washington's elite power structure to get
their news. Many American journalists are unwilling or
perhaps unable to go beyond the daily diet of
government news conferences, news releases and spin
doctoring. More and more, these journalists are
sounding like government spokespeople. Although
Clinton faced a litany of reports about his sexual
behavior involving a White House intern, little has
been done to question him on more serious issues,
particularly his Administration's hypocritical
policies toward the Middle East.
There have been a few exceptions. Perhaps the most
memorable one was an interview with Madeleine Albright
in May of 1996 on the popular television news program
"60 minutes." When asked whether the cost of the lives
of over half a million children was worth it in order
to get rid of Iraq's President, Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright, then US Ambassador to the UN,
replied "It's a hard decision...but we think the
price...is worth it."
Unfortunately few reporters from major news
organizations have done much more before or since then
to question the Administration's policy toward Iraq.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her State
Department cronies will argue that the sanctions will
only help Iraqis rid themselves of a ruthless
dictator. However, the last ten years have shown that
such a strategy has failed. How many more innocent
children must die before the American media will
The policies of the U.S. government are not unlike
those of the Nazis who surrounded Leningrad during a
three-year siege in which more than half a million
people died a slow death of starvation. Like the
Americans in Iraq, the Nazis used their formidable air
force to ensure that supply lines to Leningrad
remained cut off. It is the duty of journalists to
remind the American public of this horrific chain of
events as history repeats itself.
Undoubtedly there will come a day when the American
public will realize our leadership failed to provide a
just and equitable end to this ongoing crisis. Perhaps
there will also be a day when journalists realize
their deafening silence was a form of complicity.
(Hebah Abdalla is editor of iviews.com.)
"From what we earn, we can make living, what we give however makes a life."
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