Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lambs of God: A Child's Crusade

Lambs of God:

A Child's Crusade
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 22, 2005

It's perhaps fitting that the leader of the new crusades should be seen as a simpleton. Almost childlike, George W. Bush has, over the tragic course of his reign, displayed a Fontleroian personality perfectly suited to one who would muster the young on a grand adventure. His foot-stamping insistence the game continue until he takes the ball home bodes ill for the young siblings of the soldiers now serving. Georgie likes this game and won't quit while he's winning. Losses? Aren't there are always more tin soldiers? Hasn't there always been more for George?

Across the world, in a place America's children are bound to, other children wait their arrival. Already, thousands have perished; scorched and rent by fire and steel, whithered by hunger and disease. Killed before knowing first love; torn apart from life; extinguished children, slain by children. Murdered to remain forever; not "lost," or even "stolen," not "preserved," or "delivered," but dead, gone forever promises never to be fulfilled. Finished.

Omar al-Ibadi, writing for Reuters today told of another child, finished on the side of a Baghdad highway with two bullets in his back.

"Adel Abed Hammed was a skinny 31-year-old so withdrawn he sometimes went days without talking to anybody and would let only his mother touch him. Mentally ill since childhood, he used to wander the streets of Baghdad alone. One day he chanced on some American soldiers who shot him dead after he took fright at a bullet fired over his head."

"I stayed up all night crying, waiting for him outside the house. I pictured him dead, with blood coming from his face."

Adel Abed's mother was waiting at home anxiously, as all who live there wait when minutes of missed appointments hang heavy with dread. Her wandering, curious "child" was overdue, she couldn't know his body had been scooped up by the boys who killed him, a little "claims card" left by the place he fell notifying kith and kin of his body's whereabouts.

“I wouldn’t feel such misery if he wasn’t so sick but that makes it double for me,” said his mother. “He was like a child.”

Almost childlike, Adel Abed's life held little promise for his aging parents. He would likely never know a love affair. He would never know achievement, or ponder the mysteries of the universe beyond his neighbourhood. Yet, the misery his grieving mother describes doubles because he was innocent. Innocent as the thousands finished before him yes, but innocent too to the knowledge of the greed and ambition, cunning and ruthlessness that ultimately killed him.

Adel Abed's mother sits with her family, wondering at the fate for her two living sons.

"He always used to go walking for hours." she says. "When he came home he used to tell me about what he saw on the road. I used to take him to the bathroom and wash him."

It was Adel Abed's neighbours, who witnessed his death, that brought the dire confirmation of Adel's fate to the Hammed household. They told her it happened this way:

"I saw Adel coming walking slowly towards the Americans from the other side. They fired a warning shot over his head. Adel panicked and ran to the other side of the highway. He’d just started running when they shot him with a couple of bullets. Then he fell to the ground. Four soldiers approached his body and checked him, then they carried his body to a Humvee and put him inside and took him away."

Shot from behind as he fled, Adel Abed Hammed finished.

The neighbours begin paying their condolence visits to the Hammed's for the mourning rituals; rituals that ring daily across benighted Iraq with unnatural frequency. And, across the world, another child whines for more toy soldiers to keep the game going.

Chris Cook is a contributing editor to He also hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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