Childhood Collateral Damage
That wars yield collateral damage is something we know, but tend not to dwell upon. It's just too horrible to think of. The worst of the worst of those unbearable thoughts has to be what becomes of the children, who, it seems, pay the highest price for whatever conflict in the midst of which they find themselves.
In 2002, a United Nations emergency preparedness report estimated that roughly 1.26 million Iraqi children would die in the event of a conflict there. Just how many children have died as the result of the war in Iraq is unclear, but what of the ones who live? What sort of life, if any at all, awaits them?
According to Dr. Abdul Kareem Al Obaidi, who is the chairman of the Iraqi Association for Child Mental Health, Iraqi kids are suffering serious psychological and behavioral problems (depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, substance abuse, high rates of truancy, etc.) that weren't common in Iraq's roughly 16 million children prior to the war.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Al Obaidi outlined the "desperate" situation of children dealing with "unbearable traumas and heart-wrenching experiences." Quoted in Britain's Independent newspaper, Al Obaidi's letter said, "Our children carry the future of Iraq and that future is being corrupted. The risk is great, not just for our country, but for the region and the world."
What can be salvaged for those children is uncertain. But while we're liberating their country and spreading democracy there, perhaps we should give some thought as to what sort of future we're mapping out for Iraq by leaving its people with a population of damaged children who will one day become broken, angry adults with clear memories of how they came to be so.
© 2007 The Seattle Post-Intelligencer