The Guardian 27 July, 2005

Grief for British but none for Iraqis?

Richard Crouter

Northfield, Minnesota: I’ve been stunned these last few days by the juxtaposition of American reactions to the July 7 terrorist attacks in London, where 59 died, and the huge July 17 attack of a single suicide bomber in Musayyib, Iraq, where 71 people died.

The attacks in London hit us like a mini-9/11, our horror augmented by their occurrence in a kindred Western country. We know the stories and names of the people of all walks of life, including tourists, who were wantonly struck down in London. Our distress is heightened by hearing and reading eyewitness accounts in our own mother tongue.

Would that we all knew Arabic fluently and had it streaming into our kitchens and living rooms. If we did, I doubt that we could live with ourselves as Americans. Musayyib’s dead are not known by name and are never seen. They count only as statistics, human lives dispensable for the sake of an allegedly greater good. But what happened in Musayyib last weekend has occurred all over Iraq on a daily basis, ever since we declared victory in 2003. The equivalent would be random daily bombings all over the United Kingdom over the last two years.

If mass killings such as occur daily in Iraq took place in a Western country, and especially if they arose through foreign intervention and an ambition to change our civilisation, we also would be radicalised. We, too, would be in the vanguard of a desperate movement to drive the disturbing presence from our midst.

For those who pride themselves upon being a decent or even a religious people, a sense of equivalent moral outrage must soon come into play. When that occurs the illusion of American innocence will be shattered. The ancient Psalmist had it right in his call from the heart: "How long, O Lord, how long?" A similar call of conscience in the face of hypocrisy is badly needed in the dark days ahead.

Richard Crouter is the
"John M. and Elizabeth W Musser" Professor of Religion Emeritus at Carleton College.

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