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  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 8:22pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 2:48am

Victims of war must be humanised, too

As a parent, my heart goes out to the mother and father of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. A family photo of the vibrant, smiling young boy was prominently featured in major US newspapers and some foreign publications as well.

As a journalist, I understand the need to humanise a tragedy, so the victims do not become just another set of statistics.

But I question why the US media rarely publish photos of children killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of children have been killed or maimed by US-led forces. Effectively, they became mere statistics in the US "war on terror".

Just last week, a Nato air strike killed 10 Afghan civilians and four insurgents. These included five boys and four women who had the misfortune of living next to a house where insurgents were holed up.

Wouldn't it be more fair-minded if the American news media made more effort to humanise the innocents killed as collateral damage by US-led forces in a war that their government has been waging for more than a decade?

Were those Afghan boys worth less as human beings than Richard? Do their parents and relatives, assuming they survived the air strike, not grieve as much as Richard's parents?

If US newspapers had regularly splashed photos of Afghan children killed by drones or airstrikes, I am sure Nato and US forces would have been much more careful in their use of force that might kill many civilians.

Such killings are not isolated, but regular. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released in February a report accusing US-led forces of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children, and the detention of dozens of minors in Afghanistan, over the past four years.

Washington quickly rejected the report, saying most deaths were caused by insurgents.

The UN committee's report followed alarm expressed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in April last year that 110 children were killed and 68 injured in air strikes in the war-torn country in 2011, double the figure in 2010.

The world should remember that these dead children deserved a bright future as much as Martin Richard.


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This article is now closed to comments

In a world of increasing rationality and fairness, exceptionalism has little room. I am enlightened once again by Alex in connecting what within or beyond our grasp that justification of action is just so. Journalists or readers/viewers may have modulated response to killing of children affected by the origin; domestic or foreign. I am not sure if these victims – casualty of wars or causes should best be remembered by honoring or counting them statistically. It is best from our rationality and fairness in raising condemnation of the exceptionalism response by bystanders.
Dai Muff
So I guess "as a journalist" you also object to the local and Chinese media highlighting the death of a Chinese graduate student, rather than talking about people killed elsewhere? I guess that when the world was reporting on June 4th 1989, you were also saying "Why don't they tell us how many are being killed in Afghanistan today (some by Chinese supplied arms)?" instead?. "As a journalist" you surely have gathered by now that news is essentially parochial ... in your own dear paper, in Hong Kong as a whole, in mainland China, as well as internationally. Or is this just "anti imperialist" ranting?
Thank you AL
So often you’ve expressed my feelings
with professional clarity in your admirable style
thus reducing the burden in my self-assumed writing agenda
and saving readers from my acrid alliteration
The world mustn’t be deceived
to neglect innocent victims of imperial aggression
Mr. Lo is talking about humanism. You are trying to arouse ideological hatred by irrelevant comparisons.
We must maintain a proper perspective when making comparisons. Hundreds of thousands were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 4 millions were displaced from Iraq alone. Bombs, however accurate, are still meant to knock out power plants, bridges and kill people in them, all for the attritional purpose of causing intolerable hardships.
Now to your favorite topic, June 4, 1989, a day of infamy in China when hundreds died unnecessarily.
Did you see the pictures of PLA soldiers incinerated to a crisp by some rioters? I did. Newspapers didn't publish them. Reuters was in possession of some of these pictures. Mothers of Tiananmen have every reason to grieve for loss of their children. But so do the mothers of soldiers lynched by the mob. Just a few days before, we all watched on TV soldiers and students fraternizing and exchanging pleasantries.
Had not the riot been contained that day, countless lives might be lost.
Mr. Lo looks at a common cause for humanity. You look for ideological reasons to stew hatred.
I know some want China to implode because it makes them feel good. Never mind a collapsing China under violent turmoil might cost a hundred million lives. Hateful people want so badly to be proven ideologically correct. How different are they from Hitler or Tojo?
Are you on the side of these Hong Kongers, who want to keep this hatred alive?
Dai Muff
"Arouse ideological hatred by irrelevant comparisons." That is precisely what the commentary I am answering does. It's absurd and self-serving to describe the awareness of the parochialism of news as somehow "stewing hatred", particularly when YOUR only interest in it is a nice bit of West-bashing and defence of using the PLA against students. But you show your colours clearly enough.The fact is Chinese are mostly concerned with what happens to other Chinese. French are mostly concerned with what happens to other French. And so on. I do note that Chinese earthquakes get much greater coverage in the Chinese media than others in South East Asia. Why do you think Americans should be any different? It's looking like a fine example of "Do as I say, not as I do". It is not earth-shattering new knowledge that ALL human beings have "circles of concern", from the family, to the community, and so on, and so on.
Unlike you I don't think that China would "implode" if it lived up to its own rhetoric on democracy, serving the people, and fighting corruption. In fact, I believe a strong country is one that allows and reflects and acts on genuine internal criticisms. You see, unlike you, I TRUST the people.


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