The Recycled War Victim

US/Iraq?  Israel/Lebanon?  Iran/Iran?

by Brenda Heard

“What happened to this baby?” was the recent Facebook comment on a gruesome photo of a dead baby.  The answer posted was simply “a victim of war.”  But it should be noted that the infant has also been a victim of mistaken identity.  With uncertainty still lingering, what we can conclude is that we have been too quick to perpetuate mistakes, possibly propaganda.

I thought I’d seen the image before.  Sad as it is, I couldn’t remember the context—perhaps it was Lebanese or Palestinian.  So I checked.  And within just a few hours of internet tracking, it became clear that this baby is better identified as merely symbolic of the cost of war, any war.  And perhaps, more importantly, the image should underscore our personal responsibility to challenge the narratives we encounter from the myriad sources of media.

Based strictly on my internet research, the image seems to have originated in September 2005, in a report by the Iraqi Islamic Medical Society.   It was accompanied by two other images to illustrate the reported shooting of a pregnant Iraqi woman in Mosul by US military forces.  The report stated that the eight-month old unborn absorbed the impact of the bullet and died; the mother survived.  The photos, which had been put on “photo bucket,” were apparently later removed.  But by that time, the images had been launched irretrievably into cyberspace.  (see this 2005 forum re-print, for example, one of many that circulated the story, for instance this 2005 here and this 2005 here and this 2005 here and this May 2006 here .)

I have not found any corroborating reports of this particular incident; it may or may not be legitimate.  There are certainly many official reports of the carnage inflicted upon Iraq by Western military forces.  The original validity, however, is perhaps irrelevant to its subsequent exploitation.  Not only has the image been gawked at by gore-freaks on several websites, it has been picked up by either careless or manipulative individuals to serve their causes.

The “pro-life army,” for instance, presented the image as the “hard truth” of the “miseries of the unborn” within a collage of other grisly images purported to be foetuses.  (2008 here and 2011 here)

The anti-Zionists presented the image as a Lebanese victim of Israeli rockets. (2006 here and here and 2011 here)

The anti-Islamic-Republic-of-Iranians presented the image as “the savagery of the Mullahs Crimes,” with the pregnant mother as a peaceful protester in Tehran.  (2009 here and here and here)

And in October 2012, the image is even alleged to be an eight-month-old baby in Guatemala, shot together with three women by unknown gunmen, story here.

What appears to be damage from gunfire entering the infant’s chest and exiting through his back (as stated in the original narrative) rather rules out the image having been taken in an abortion clinic.  And as the image was in wide circulation in 2005, the incident could not possibly have occurred in Lebanon (2006), Iran (2009) or Guatemala (2012).  It may well have been Iraq, but that claim should be verified with at the very least one additional independent source.

Such tragedies have indeed occurred throughout the world, so many that they are sometimes cloaked in sensationalism just to get noticed.  Mistakes may or may not be wilful, and simply tend to perpetuate.  Sometimes the fever to express the tragedy is driven by heartache.  Sometimes the fever to express the tragedy is driven by personal or political agenda.   Our challenge is to find compassion for the victims of that tragedy, yet to be discerning in our judgement of its perpetrators.


By Brenda Heard,

13 December 2012

1 Response » to “The Recycled War Victim:US/Iraq? Israel/Lebanon? Iran/Iran?”

  1. […] Brenda Heard, Founder of Friends of Lebanon, […]

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