Have you seen the pictures?
The ones with the naked boys curled up on the concrete floor, their angular bones pressing out from their onionskin-thin flesh.
The first time I saw these boys — Iraqi orphans found crammed into windowless rooms or chained to cribs in a raid earlier this month — I looked away.
I felt a wave of sadness, shut the link down on my computer and turned back to my work.
You probably did too.
For that, I’m ashamed. And you should be too.
Forgive me if you haven’t seen the photos and are offended.
But I think there is a pretty good chance that if you had seen them, you would have done exactly the same thing.
You would have turned away.
And that’s the problem we’re facing right now.
I don’t mean the Western world, Canada or even the Yukon.
I mean you and me.
We’re looking at photos of naked young boys, their lives totally unimaginable but for a couple leaked photos that hint at the reality of Iraqi life in the summer of 2007.
And we turned away.
There is something very natural to our reaction.
After all, it is a war. We know it’s wrong. That’s why we didn’t go. (Insert very Canadian pat on the back here for our lack of action — any action.)
And yet, somehow, we still find ourselves implicated, if only because we turned away.
A day later, I started to read the reactions to the photos.
The images resonated beyond a single news cycle.
The White House and its political allies held the photos of these unnamed children up as evidence of the need for more action — more war.
In the Middle East, the general reaction was indignation that the American military would release these photos.
The Gulf News decried a single word headline — “Shame!” — while an Iraqi minister dismissed the photos as callous propaganda.
Both sides ignored the content and began to assert control over the public reaction.
A day after the release of these photos, they were being spun.
That’s when I woke up. I looked at those pictures again.
You see, I used to do spin — I used to try to put a very specific perspective on facts and events in an effort to make them support the positions of the people I worked for.
Usually, it was innocuous.
Even so, I said and did a lot of things that I now question.
But I can’t imagine spinning those photos — turning those malnourished, abused children into a news release.
I would never have done that. At least, I hope I wouldn’t.
Yet, here we are, in a world where the photos are being spun and people are buying in.
And still, no names.
No idea about where these kids go next.
No idea how many more orphanages there are, or how many children are living out a life inside their walls.
No knowledge. Just spin.
And the images.
So, I’m asking you — please go back and look again.
Find the photos and stare at the details.
Wonder to yourself why there are these sweet, bright blue cribs with children lying on the hard, cold floor.
Try to find the one that is pushing himself up off the floor, staring at the camera.
Ask yourself where their parents are.
What happened to them?
And then act.
Press our government to get involved by advocating real humanitarian action.
Seek out a charity.
Talk about these photos with your friends. Send them to whoever the hell you can think of that will listen.
And make them look again and again.
Then, figure out what to do next.
Because it doesn’t end now.
Really, it’s just beginning.
We looked away and nearly let it slip into a news cycle.
And we — you and I — can’t be the kind of people who would do that.
What am I going to do?
To be honest, I don’t know.
I’m starting with this article. And a prayer.
What about you?
Michael Hale is a writer living in Whitehorse.