Dime a Dozen

Who’ll Notice If These
12 Street Kids Are Gone?

Take a good look at these faces. If we were to pull your heartstrings, picture them dreaming of being doctors, artists, teachers, even presidents of their countries. Chances are, however, they’ll never make it. Both statistically and in real life, it’s likely they’re already gone.
Despite their resemblance to kids you know, they only count as dehumanized figures of ignored treatises on the homeless, the war, infant mortality, hunger, prostitution, slavery. Not to break those strings, but you may pass daily by them and not even notice.
Yes, they have stories, and much good to contribute to the world, and who knows, maybe among them there’s someone who one day could even save your life. But that doesn’t mean much.
And yes, there are a lot of people who spend their waking hours, and sleepless nights, working and wondering what to do, so unrelated children will be cared for just as if they belong to families and loving friends and an empathetic society. But most of them do not, and won’t get a chance to even know what that means.

You’re still free to wonder about whatever happened to Alex or Indira, after they posed with their sleeping cots, and you may search on the Internet for the identity of those two Cambodian boys, sleeping embraced on a set of steps. We added the photographers’ names just in case.
You may also inquire around about those two girls, among thousands of others, who seemed so happy with the bottles of water they’ve retrieved amid the rubble of Gaza. Or you may wish that those two boys, who’ve crossed the border of Syria to Turkey with their families, have found shelter.
We won’t stand on your way. In fact, we’d even appreciate if you could help finding out who are those four American kids, sleeping in what seems to be an abandoned room, Continue reading

Bloody Throes

The Hiroshima Reminder
& the Age of New Killings

Capping a few particularly blood-drenched weeks for thousands of civilians around the world, today’s the 69th anniversary of the mass killing of almost two hundred thousand residents of Hiroshima, by the first ever U.S. atomic bomb attack. It sealed the end of the World War 2 and started the nuclear age.
Meanwhile, Israel’s has withdrawn for now its ground troops from Gaza, but bombs continue to rain over Ukraine and Iraq. Plus, 100 years ago last Monday was the beginning of WW1, while around the same time, 50 years later, the first American combatants were sent to Vietnam. Blood soaked time, indeed.
Yet, for a breed of beings that’s been waging war since its inception on this planet, we’re surprisingly coy to call this game of mutual extermination for what it is. When it comes to rile up the troops and send them to the slaughtering fields, we’re often like bad parents, and lie to them that it won’t hurt. But it always does.
We insist in giving the carnage a catchy name, and promise it won’t last, but it always does, no matter how jazzed up the latest campaign is marketed to be. Remember ‘Shock and Awe?’ Almost like what the schoolyard bully would promise to do with us, at the end of the classes.
The writer H.G. Wells, best known as one of the forefathers of modern sci-fi literature, could’ve spared his legacy from a tragic miss, when he gave that first international conflict a pompous sobriquet: ‘the war to end all wars.’ 37 million dead, and two decades later, he couldn’t believe the world was ready to have another go at it.
To bury Japan’s imperial dreams of taking over where Hitler’d left off, the U.S. leveled two entire cities – Nagasaki was destroyed three days later, with almost another hundred thousand killed -, using atomic power, and justified it by claiming that such a power could not be topped, and it’d be forever a deterrent against war.

WHERE LIFE’S CHEAP, WAR’S MOST FOUL
And yet, many more followed. Speaking of justification, the Vietnam War, perhaps the most traumatic conflict the U.S. got ever involved, was triggered Aug. 4, 1964, with a confrontation with North Vietnamese forces at the Gulf of Tonkin, by covertly operating American ships.
The incident prompted Congress to give an unfortunate carte blanche to President Lyndon Johnson, and later Richard Nixon, to escalate a war that even now remains difficult, to well, justify. Coincidentally, Nixon signed the end of the war in 1973, and resigned from office 40 years ago this coming Saturday.
What we didn’t know then was that the only thing that the atomic bomb could possibly sustain was fear. Out of it, another war lingered, the Cold one, just enough to reset borders and redesign political alliances. Once we were done with it, Continue reading

Who’s the Ass Now?

But They Blow Up
Donkeys, Don’t They?

When news broke in Gaza that the Israeli army had blown up a donkey, claiming it had been loaded with explosives by Hamas, it’s likely that few thought much of it. After all, way before Jesus got to Jerusalem mounting one, animals have been butchered for the sake of humans.
But for reasons that have little to do with biblical tales, and a lot with the way life cheapens at the sight of a gun barrel, a disturbing poignancy about such a minor casualty refuses to remain unnoticed, at least for those not concerned about their immediate survival.
That’s us, if you wonder. For while some may say that exposure to horror, to too much blood and gory, desensitizes and freezes our empathetic bones, we too refuse to swallow the brutality, however common, if only to vainly assert to ourselves that we haven’t gone completely numb. Not yet, anyway.
Horses, a better regarded member of the family, have had big roles in wars, of course, dutifully used to transport, terrorize, conquer, and run away from whatever human tragic folly is at hand. And so have elephants, camels, dogs, birds, pigs, rats, dolphins, and sea lions. All forced to slave and soldier on even where humans fear to tread. By the way, cats apparently refused to be enlisted.
But jackasses, or mules or burros or jennies or, well, you get the gist, despite their lower ranking, have been used mainly for work, not to be treated as bomb mule, pardon the pun. They have in fact this almost beatific status among impoverished communities around the world, to which they serve and are vital.
Asses are smart too, according to Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Speaking of Known Evils, Colltalers

The two brutal events that have seized worldwide headlines this past week – the newest flareup in the age-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the downing of the Malaysian commercial airline over Ukraine – have visited their victims with the prospect of a lifetime of grief and regret.
To everyone else not directly involved, however, even a qualified analysis of these tragedies can become a minefield of self-important punditry and rancorous radicalism. To navigate such a path with a minimal sense of justice and impartiality is simply no longer an option.
The magnitude of these events have also the ability of covering up, even if only for the duration of a 24h news cycle, all other tragic, ongoing miseries festering around the world, from the street trenches of Aleppo, to raging firefights in Kabul, to the Central American refugee children crisis in the U.S., to widespread hunger, poverty, and environmental woes that won’t fail to exact their grim tolls, just because we aren’t looking.
After all, it is all too human to prioritize our attention, and set sights on a few targets at a time. That doesn’t exempt or redeem anyone from the objectionable crime of dozing off or zooming out of the catastrophes all around us, so to get some sleep, literally or figuratively.
But even invoking the word human seems out of place, when you think about the ferocious shelling of Gaza, incited or provoked as it may have been by the Hamas or the Israeli extreme right, or to count among the victims of Flight MH17, dozens of children and important AIDS activists.
That’s when tragedy crushes our tenuous grip on reality and reaches out to a realm of pure, unjustifiable and hopelessly irredeemable terror, and any attempt to make sense out of ruthless fate or shameless political motivation is not just utterly naive, but also absolutely abhorrent.
We can’t avoid rushing to judgement based on the emotional jolt we all felt upon learning that some 300 travelers may have been blown out of the sky by mistake, at the very least, or because of some downright evil calculation. Nor can we stop ourselves from jumping at possibly the wrong conclusions when picturing people running for shelter in Tel Aviv, or trapped in Gaza, with no way to hide from the raining bombs.
Taken apart, however, these two sources of incredible heartache gracing our thoughts today have little in common, beside their complexity and deep roots. And, obviously, the apparent lack of any short term solution in the horizon, which signals to their long lasting endurance.
To avoid jumping at rushed conclusions about Israel and the Palestinians, one needs to look farther back into the past. It’s hard to pick a breaking point, though, Continue reading

Fallen Boys


Where Children Are
Killed & No One Cares

The original, moving tribute to Ahed Atef Bakr, Zakaria Ahed Bakr, Mohamed Ramez Bakr, and Ismael Mohamed Bakr, ages 8 to 10, killed by Israel’s shells at Gaza, was done by Israeli artist Almir Shiby.
We took the liberty of including the heartbreaking picture of the grief stricken father of one of the boys, taken by Hosam Salem. If nothing is done to stop this carnage, we’re all guilty by association.

The Deadliest Season

Beware the Newest Growing
Casualty of War: Journalists

While a precarious ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians hangs on the balance, there’s another tragic consequence among the conflict’s casualties: the breakdown of one of most basic precepts of modern warfare, that of the protected role of journalists covering the action.
Coinciding with claims that Israeli forces may have deliberately targeted alleged pro-Hamas reporters at a media center in Gaza, a new International Press Institute report puts at a record 119 the number of journalists killed around the world so far this year while doing their job.
Even though in every war, there’s a gray area intersecting the work of media-accredited reporters with that of P.R. professionals paid by one side or another, according to the Geneva Convention, all parts involved share responsibility over the lives of anyone covering an armed conflict.
Thus, any violation or deliberated attempt to restrict a reporter’s role during wartime is liable to internationally sanctioned punishment. The increased number of journalists being harmed, or even considered enemy combatants in contemporary warfare, should be cause for alarm to everyone who ultimately benefits from their courageous and often unfiltered coverage.
The convention was a civilized agreement, reached by almost all nations around the world in 1949, that aimed at both protecting the profession of war correspondent, and at establishing clear and humanitarian rules of warfare. Perhaps because much has changed since WWII, many governments took upon themselves to rewrite such rules, and the result has been disastrous.

SHOOTING THE MESSENGER
After its aircraft hit two Gaza media buildings on Sunday, wounding eight journalists, Israel first denied that they were the target. Then a military spokeswoman added a disturbing comment, saying that ‘the journalists … were serving as human shields for Hamas,’ which many took as a justification for the action.
It was all the more disturbing since last week, after three news organization employees were killed by Israeli missiles, the same spokesperson had said that ‘the targets are people who have relevance to terror activity,’ a wondrous sentence in its menacing vagueness.
In the 2008-2009 war against Hamas, Israel had already bombed the same buildings it blasted Sunday, under the assumption that Islamist militants were operating out of them. The viciousness of the most recent attacks bodes very poorly for Israel’s public image in the U.S., despite President Obama’s support to its actions.
Even though Israel can boast being one of the few countries in the region where there’s freedom of the press, the international community was aroused by how it chose to frame the argument: that the professionals that were wounded were in fact Hamas militants. That’s because whether they were or not is irrelevant in the context of the bigger issue.

NO EYEWITNESS CAN BE BLIND
The important distinction missing here is that journalists, while reporting for media organizations, have a commitment to be objective and present the facts with accuracy as they see them. Where their personal allegiances lie in the political spectrum should be irrelevant to the quality of their reporting.
Apart from that, they are also entitled to their own opinions, as citizens Continue reading