SINCE 1759

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Baghdad, Post-Surge
Sanitize This

Notice not only the age of the girl, but the unintended details of the death scene: the white cloth that at first looks like a wedding dress, the bloody wrap around her head that likely hides the injury that killed her, the fact that she's lying on what looks like an enormous towell, as if to soak up whatever bled, the still open eyes, and finally, that strap: why the strap around her arms? She hadn't died instantly. She was being immobilized in attempts to save her. Picture the suffering and fright she went through, picture the suffering her father is going through. The irony: this is the song that played on my computer, randomly, as I was formatting this page. (Yes that's Eric Idle's voice, and yes it's the soundtrack to one of the Magic Kingdom's attractions.)

The journalistic details: "An Iraqi man weeps next to the body of a dead child killed in an explosion at the morgue of the general hospital in the northeastern town of Baquba some 60 kms from Baghdad on November 16, 2008. A suicide car bomb exploded at a police checkpoint in Iraq's volatile Diyala province today, killing at least 15 people, including seven policemen, a security official said. Police Major Hassan al-Kurawi said another 20 people were wounded. STR/AFP/Getty Images."

From Andrew Sullivan: "This must be the most heart-rending and disturbing face of the day I've ever posted. My policy is to err on the side of showing everything - from the Nick Berg beheading to the worst abuse of prisoners under the Bush-Cheney interrogation policy. We need to see the evil that we unwittingly unleashed in Iraq and the evil that will doubtless take hold the minute we leave. It is part of the moral equatio in deciding what must be done now. And it is not easy. As an advocate for withdrawal, I do not want to deny the moral costs it may involve."


The innocent; the children, the old people, the young policemen lying in their own blood, the relatives made instantly insane with grief.

Seeing/ knowing of these events, I’d like to humbly suggest an exhortation for us all. The exhortation starts with “Never never never never ever ever ever …” then, you please personally fill in the blank with whatever will preserve your sanity whilst allowing you to keep speaking up, acting up, never standing down about egregious matters.

For me, I think mine would go, “Never never never never ever ever ever … let the slaughter of innocents be taken to the cultural desert and buried in an unmarked political grave… and “Please, never never never never ever ever ever …” allow me to become inured, no matter how events in war grab and twist my tripes.

It’s so much easier to be inured, I think. So much easier. Mullen and I talk alot late a night about what a withdrawal from Iraq may pressage, what slaughter of even more innocents might occur. We both remember the fall of Saigon intimately, people trying to throw their children over the walls of the embassy to save them, people trying to cling to the sled legs of the American helicopters in a desperate attempt to escape Saigon’s immanent bloodbath, but falling to their deaths instead.

If you would, please join me in praying for this father and mother of this little Iraqui madonna. In the photo, that is the child’s father. Please pray for all of us to be somehow impossibly wise, to be granted unlimited miracles in Iraq and Afghanistan and throughout the entire world. I am praying for you too, for your sanity, for your heart, for your endurance. That’s a promise.

Below is a scene we don't often see, not because it doesn't happen, but because newspapers rarely choose to show it. The irony again. No soundtrack necessary here. The details: "Imam Hashim Raza leads mourners in prayer during a funeral for Mohsin Naqvi at al-Fatima Islamic Center in Colonie, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. Naqvi was a Muslim, a native of Pakistan (he emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 8 years old and became a citizen at 16) and a U.S. Army officer. He was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol last week in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)"

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