Hey, stop killing those children! Kill these children instead! Part I

Editorial: This is about the incongruities and hypocrisies of the UK government's attitude to the killing, disabling and orphaning of children

Half a million dead children – a price worth paying: Since May 27th this year we have repeated reports of 'massacres of the innocents' referring to the brutal murder of children in Syria (as in the Independent Newspaper of that date). These alarming and believable accounts are bolstered by indignant protestations from UK and US politicians in whose mouths butter would not melt. 

I am surely going to add my (small) voice to any campaign to end the killing, wounding and maiming of babies, children and teenagers in 'just' or 'unjust' struggles and disputes between adults (usually men), but there is a vicious hypocrisy here. This stance of wanting to defend and protect innocent children (and which ones are guilty?) is just a cynical political ploy used to massage the public towards current foreign policy – to generate popular condemnation of whoever is the anti-West 'baddy' of the moment.

When there are reports that government forces in Syria have killed and maimed children (and their families) our politicians cry 'foul' and strut about in an important outrage as though their hands were not equally bloodied. When it is us in the West killing and disabling children and creating orphans in other countries, we disguise it as 'collateral damage' or 'a price worth paying' and we do not even bother ourselves with counting the bodies or listing how many thousands of children we have disabled.

Yes, we do have the blood of children on our hands. We also massacre multitudes of innocents when it suits us and will surely do so again. When UN sanctions against Iraq were in place from the 1990s, after we had crippled their power stations and bombed water and sewage facilities, while we were cruelly keeping hospitals deprived of equipment and medicines, hundreds of thousands of children died – the world's children – just like yours and mine. The three following quotes are from Robert Fisk*:

  1. A Harvard team of lawyers and public health specialists, after visiting forty-six Iraqi hospitals and twenty-eight water and sewage facilities, stated in 1991 that deaths among children under five in Iraq had nearly quintupled, that almost a million were undernourished, and 100,000 were starving to death. Their research found that 46,700 children under five had died from the combined effects or war and trade sanctions in the first seven months of 1991. (p. 864-865)
  2. By 1996, half a million Iraqi children were estimated to have died as a result of sanctions. (p. 865)
  3. In May 1996...Madeleine Albright (then US Ambassador to the UN) had told us that sanctions worked and prevented Saddam from rebuilding weapons of mass destruction. Our then Tory government agreed, and Tony Blair toed the line. But when asked by an interviewer if the 'price' – the death of half a million children – was worth it, she had replied to the world's astonishment: 'I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.' (p. 1113). My italics.

It is profoundly sad that the lives and wellbeing of children count for nothing when politicians (mostly parents themselves) embark on aggressive foreign policy – in the case of Iraq to topple the regime and secure oil. Our politicians, who would surely like to convince us they care about 'our' disabled children, are happy to turn a blind eye to what they are doing to children 'over there' – who, presumably they consider to be less important than our own, and entirely expendable in a 'good' cause.

 *The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk. Published by Harper Perennial as a revised edition in 2006.

The second part of this 3-part comment is entitled 'Our most callous crime against children to date – but don't worry, we are working on a bigger one' and is about damage to children from depleted uranium weapons.   

Your comments are welcome.

Peter Limbrick

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