Bill Sykes' Newsletter
An ex-Brit gives his views-(without fear
or favor)---of the American Scene
A letter of unusual intelligence.
A London newspaper article came across my desk
the other day that I found so intelligent in content,
and so well written, that I’m going to give it pride
of place in this news letter.
Dateline: 20th April 2003.
Source: The Observer.
The author: Mary Riddell.
The title: "Blinded by myths of Victory".
To avoid contravening any copyright, I understand that
I can use up to 200 words, so I will try to extract the
I find that Ms. Riddell has such an insight into humanity
and such a delightful way of expressing in prose the relationship
of history to justice and heritage that I would have liked
to publish the article in its entirety.
Before I publish a couple of paragraphs of her article
I will indicate in my own words the gist of the subject
Riddell uses as an illustration and centre piece, the
tragedy of a young Iraqi boy, Ali Ismail Abbas, aged twelve,
who lost both arms, when his father, pregnant mother and
his brother were killed by coalition bombs, and the dreadful
conditions and consequences that this boy is facing.
Ali has only one question: "Will I grow new arms?"
These are the disturbing images of war that are so easily
sidelined and which sensitive people do not wish to see,
to hear, or even think about.
Quote: "Nor is Ali a sting to Western
consciences, he is their balm. Despite the correct insistence
of Unicef that he should be the figurehead of all Iraqi
children, the spotlight on a single child distracts from
the countless numbers who die this Easter because the
miracle workers of the west cannot switch on their electricity,
or offer clean water, or bring oxygen and aid to the fly
borne wards where mattresses stiffen with other peoples
Quote: "These children are receding
already from a public gaze invited, instead to focus on
rebuilding Ali, "Will I grow new arms" he asks,
and the question seems more fanciful in an age of marvels,
than a reconstruction under which Shia, Sunni and Kurd
can build a federal and liberal democracy to inspire a
region and a world."
"Donald Rumsfeld possibly the greatest philistine
since Gengis Khan’s grandson, who burned Baghdad
in the thirteenth century, dismissed the carnage as if
destroying the audit trail of civilization mattered less
than ripping out Saddam Hussein’s 24-carat shower-fittings.
Such insouciance does not simply suggest a cultural nihilist
with the curatorial instincts of Homer Simpson. It implies
the wish to deny the truth. Lying is contagious."
Comment: The subject matter then turns
to the demise of international law, which opens the door
for an opportunity of convenience for attacking any country
not built in the image of America, and suggests that Mr.
Rumsfeld is so unwise to care so little for old vases
which outline the birth of civilization.
Ms. Riddell suggests that Iraqi’s resurrection
from the ashes of war indicates that the way forward lies
not in the myths of victory but in banishing self delusion,
and suggests that on resurrection day it is time for our
pious religious leaders to face the devastation this conflict
has wrought, for if they do not take heed there may be
no safer tomorrow.
I have tried to interpret, and place Ms. Riddell’s
words of superlative wisdom, worthy of comparison with
a Shakespearean play, into an acceptable essay. Please
forgive me if I failed.
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