Here is a picture that was posted by the AP on July 2, 2007 (AP/Hadi Mirzban) and found its way onto Yahoo’s “The Week in Photos June 29-July 5,” but thus far it seems to have alluded all the other major news institutions including the New York Times and the Washington Post:
The caption tells the tale: “A 4-year-old Iraqi child cries as older boys stage a mock execution in Baghdad on Monday, July 2. Apparently influenced by ongoing violence in the country, children’s games mimic the war. One of the more popular games is acting out clashes between militias and police.”
I simply don’t know how to react to this. The guns look all too real, as does the pain on the middle child’s face. The smile, however, is perhaps the most troubling of all. It should tell us that this is all a game — not much different, perhaps, from the games of “cowboys and indians” that many in my generation played in the 1950s and early 1960s. But then I recall the smiling faces from Abu Ghraib and the smile of youthful innocence and pure joy seems all of a sudden perverse and obscene. I wonder how we might react if these were contemporary pictures of children from the inner cities of New York or Los Angeles playing “cops” and “gangs.” Perhaps that’s why it didn’t show up in major news outlets.
Wow, this is one that really should be plastered all over the place… While the art world desperately tries to divine what Burtynsky is (or isn’t) telling us with his photography, here’s an image that cuts to the chase and still has so much to say on so many levels, that it’s effectively censored! This one has no curtain to hide behind, it exposes each and everyone of us. Let’s see… that’s the US/Israel on one side, Islamic fundamentalists/terrorists on the other, and Iraq/The Middle East caught in between. Or as you so accurately point out, we don’t have to look past the shores of our own inner cities…
This is truly a chilling photograph – one that hopefully won’t be forgotten, for I think it says much of the folly of the Iraq war.
Much of the horror, as you point out, comes from the older boys smile – he seems to be enjoying this activity that so closely resembles the brutality that surely has ensnared, if not his parents or siblings, someone close to him (a neighbor down the street blown up by a car bomb, a shiite school teacher abducted by sunni insurgents, etc.).
Also, this photo is made all the more sad by these facts: (from AP)
“The chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than anywhere else in the world since 1990, according to a report released Tuesday, which placed the country last in its child survival rankings.”
(and this from “FOREIGN POLICY’s” blog PASSPORT)
“A recent CNN report brings attention to these “silent victims.” CNN cites a World Health Organization study that found that 30 percent of children surveyed in Mosul, and 10 percent of those surveyed in Baghdad, showed signs of PTSD. Examples of traumatic experiences children have suffered include a fourth-grader whose father and uncle were killed before his very eyes, and a 16-year-old girl who was abducted, raped, and forced to sleep next to a dead body.
Traumatized children grow into very troubled adults. What does that say about the future of Iraq? In the coming decades, it will become a nation run by psychologically damaged people, if the country isn’t stabilized soon.
For a preview of what to expect, just look west to the children of the second intifada. Today, they are a nihilistic generation of young adults, filled with little hope and much despair.
The Middle East is filled with demographic time bombs. The latest may be the Iraqi trauma time bomb.”
We have failed Iraqi children.
O…and hi professor Lucaites. Congrats on the blog, it looks great! Hope your summer is going well.
Thanks Devin. I hope you come back to the site. Your comments are always welcome. Hope your summer (what’s left of it!) is going well as well.
When I saw this picture ( http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2007/07/18/baghdadahmadalrubayeafpgetty.jpg ) my mind came back to your commentary. Also, this quote is haunting:
“I am Shiite,” Ali said. “My uncles and cousins were murdered by Saddam’s regime. I wanted desperately to get rid of him. But today, if Saddam’s feet appeared in front of me, I would fall to my knees and kiss them!”
…My only answer is silence.
I’m speechless as well.
[…] of the earliest posts I did here at NCN was of a photograph of three Iraqi children staging a mock execution with toy […]
[…] photographs of children in the Middle East—Israeli, Pakistani, and Iraqi children in particular—playing with toy guns. Such images operate in a somewhat allegorical register as they invoke one or a […]