The Price

The photo draws your eyes in; it’s that part of the brain that loves the sweet contours of a child’s face. I suppose it’s the mathematics of the lovely thing, the instinctive warmth that flows inside a reasonable human when a toddler’s face is viewed. In this photo she looks asleep, not unlike that peaceful, angelic pose that parents have stared at with wonder and exquisitely painful love over the span of time.

But then you notice that what looks like a child in pink is really a child drenched in her own blood. Her shirt is washed with faded crimson. The little girl in the back of the truck, she’s placed on a blanket amongst others who are not sleeping either.  She should be five years older now, but that moment caught by a cell phone camera in 2006 is the last of her. She lays there on blankets with 5 other dead children, reportedly killed execution style, during a US raid.

The details are only seeping out now due to a recent Wikileaks report.  And the particulars are the stuff of nightmares. The report indicates that what transpired that day in Iraq was what is called an “extrajudicial killing”. It’s an amazing word that tamps down the reality of the situation, that of cold blooded murder.

It is said that the family was bound with handcuffs and shot in the back of the head. If you look closely at the image of the child you can see exactly where that band was on her tiny wrists.

We used to be shocked by child murder. Truman Capote looked into the devil’s eyes as he tried to make sense of the murder of the Clutter family in 1959 Kansas with his masterpiece “In Cold Blood”.  In trying to understand what must have gone through the minds of these men, I’m brought back to that tale which digs into the psyche of the two killers who committed a similar crime, but against older children and their family members. Strange allegiance to each other and the notion that if one didn’t kill, the other would, contributed to that long ago crime. What dynamics could make these recent men kill such innocence in such a methodical manner?

You wonder if the men thought that in this world of retribution, these children would just grow up to kill them anyway.  Is that how one rationalizes this sort of thing? Once a mind has made a snap like that I doubt that it bodes well for anyone who challenges them when they get back to the states. It’s unlikely that they will become lucid, model citizens, but as far as I know, not one person is in trouble for this.  Were there weak men in there who didn’t speak up, but went along with the horror, thinking surely this can’t be happening? Did they stand by as evil had its giddy way in that mud brick home?

This is precisely what Madeleine Albright should have considered when asked “Has the price been worth it?” She, of course, answered in the affirmative. She didn’t know these kids and I’m sure she won’t ever live next to the perpetrators. It’s a huge price, I would say – not just the loss of these beautiful children, but the loss of a nation’s soul. Perhaps it was a soul that never held kindness; we were just taught that as a fairy tale. Now the pretense is gone.

For those who wouldn’t have the hot blooded evil to perform these deeds themselves, but full well know on a dark night when they look up at the sky that they enabled all of this, do they feel sorrow or vast nothingness? Perhaps those men who actually performed these acts were never souls that could be salvaged. I don’t know, but they were provided means and excuse to carry this out by individuals like Albright.

At first it was indicated that no wrong had transpired during these events, and the sad tale would have probably died if diplomatic cables unearthed hadn’t indicated a different story. The discredited townspeople had been saying all along that a dark murder of children had occurred. They said a firefight had preceded the crime, and after that was over, the house was entered and everyone inside was handcuffed. The inhabitants were then shot in the back of the head — babies, children…..everyone. And after this happened an air strike helped fog what had transpired.

Humans now walk amongst us who have done unthinkable acts – perhaps they have an allegiance to each other as did the murderers in Holcomb, Kansas. It is hard to fathom. The reasoning and interrelationships that had to contribute to this atrocity can surely be hashed out and explained as was done in that book, but it’s as if a foreign nation sponsored the murderers of the Clutter family and obligingly bombed the evidence afterward. And we certainly don’t seem to have a national will to scream out about it. History will not consider us to be a decent people.

Madeleine Albright and others, present Commander in Chief included….. you may not have had to wash the blood, hair and brains off your body in a physical sense, but you provided the pantheon of evil for these men, and you made it happen. You will never be able to wash that off.

Kathleen Wallace Peine welcomes reader response. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Kathleen.