Death Don't Have No Mercy In This Land
Pause for a moment and take a good look at Ali Hamed. I would guess that Ali was six or seven years old, about same age as the tow-headed kid from down the street who as I write this is riding his new two-wheeler past Kiko's House, his Jack Russell terrier running at his side.
Ali's body is being prepared for ritual washing before burial. Ali was one of three children who died in a gun battle and air strike on Sunday night in
’s Baghdad slum. Ali may have been sleeping on a roof because it was hot and there was no electricity. Sadr City
Collateral damage is inevitable in any war, and I have no doubt that the helicopter gunner who pressed the trigger that launched the round that snuffed out Ali's life would be upset to know that he was not the head of an Iranian-backed kidnapping ring, who according to American officials was the target of a raid that turned into a full-blown battle, prompting the air strike, after the raiders were fired upon. Or even a Shiite militant. But then maybe Ali's dad was a Shiite militant.Those American officials said that 49 Shiite militants were killed, but no civilians. Officials at
seemed less mathematically challenged. They said that 17 people were killed, including an elderly woman and other children in addition to Ali, and 69 were wounded, including a number of children. Imam Ali Hospital
There were no
officials explained the apparent death-toll discrepancy by claiming that Shiite militants picked up the bodies of their own people to prevent American soldiers from gaining intelligence about them. U.S.
In hospital bedside interviews, two youngsters described what happened."The pilot shot me when I crossed the street to buy bread," said 11-year-old Ali Ahmad. "I have been hit by shrapnel in my chest."
"I was going to buy eggs for breakfast, then I was hit by a helicopter," said Murtada Naim, an 8-year-old who suffered chest and hand wounds.
Ali's misfortune notwithstanding, I also have no doubt that the toll could have been worse. But as the war has gone on – and on and on – there has not been a concomitant increase in civilian casualties despite a substantial increase in air strikes. This is because of improved accuracy and smaller munitions, some packed with only 100 pounds of explosives, so Ali was truly in the wrong place -- or on the wrong roof -- at the wrong time.
Sorry to burden you with Ali Hamed's 15 seconds of fame. After all, he is only one of 82,000 Iraqi civilians killed since the war began by one conservative estimate. But when I saw the kid from down the street riding his bike I just had to share.Photograph by The Associated Press