Victims of war must be humanised, too | South China Morning Post
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  • Jan 26, 2015
  • Updated: 10:05pm
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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