If the American people needed evidence that the war in Iraq and its associated tragedies are not over, it arrived in a front-page picture Saturday in The Blade and many other U.S. newspapers.
The Associated Press photograph caught an emotional moment: a Toledo soldier being consoled in his grief by a buddy after military doctors allegedly refused to treat three Iraqi children with painfully serious burns from some sort of explosive device.
The soldier, Sgt. David Borell, of Toledo's 323rd Military Police Company, later wrote home an e-mail with his personal thoughts on the incident, specifically his feeling that the children had been unjustifiably denied medical treatment. The Blade printed the story, which stirred U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur to request an investigation by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Such an investigation is warranted because the incident, if true, flies in the face of numerous stories from the war zone telling of humanitarian acts by U.S. troops under hostile circumstances.
Is it really U.S. policy to refuse treatment of Iraqi civilians with serious but non-life-threatening injuries?
Who were the doctors involved, and why did they handle the situation as they did?
Were the kids callously refused care, or was the sergeant simply overcome by witnessing their pain?
These are some of the questions that deserve straightforward answers.
Given frequent news reports about the destruction of Iraq's hospitals and emergency services, it is difficult to give much credence to a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command who contended that Iraq now has a better health care system than before the U.S. occupation.
It is entirely believable that, in the words of the same spokesman, U.S. forces in Iraq “are providing health care to Iraqis but we don't have the infrastructure to support the entire Iraqi civilian population.”
So whose fault is that?
Most Americans probably would say that defenseless children should be taken care of in any circumstance. They, after all, did not cause the war. There are plenty of adults around to blame for that.