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الأربعاء، 28 أكتوبر 2009

تفجيرات الأحد تذبح البراءة في حضانة أطفال وزارة العدل


جريدة المدى
بتاريخ : الثلاثاء 27-10-2009 06:58 مساء
ايناس طارق – وائل نعمة
بغداد
ذهب زهاء 70 طفلا كانوا في حضانة وروضة وزارة المالية ضحايا لعمل ارهابي، واليوم نحو هذا العدد من الاطفال ذهبوا ايضا ضحايا لتفجير الاحد الدموي والذين كانوا موجودين في حضانة وزارة العدل لحظة الزلزال والانفجار المروع ! في روضة مجلس القضاء الاعلى الواقعة في الطابق الارضي من وزارة العدل،
تناثرت اشلاء الاطفال وتطايرت احلامهم مع غبار التفجيرات ، وتحولت الروضة في لحظات الى ركام من الدمى والأسرّة والصور. 50 طفلا بين شهيد وجريح، من اطفال الموظفين في الوزارة ، كانوا ضحايا لتفجير اعمى، لا يمكن تبريره تحت اية واجهة أو شعار. انتظار الأمهات ماذا بإمكانك ان تصف أو تقول عن منظر امهات يقفن عند ابواب وزارة العدل بانتظار ان ترى الواحدة منهن طفلها يخرج اليها من بين ركام الموت كما اودعته صباحا في الحضانة ! تقول سندس (موظفة في وزارة العدل) :>تهشم زجاج النوافذ، قتل الناس بالداخل ورأيت موظفين بالوزارة وحراس أمن من بين الضحايا، اصاب الهلع جميع الموظفين خصوصا الامهات ، بعد ان اصبن وغرقن بدمهن بدأن بالصراخ والبكاء وهن يحاولن النزول من الطبقات العليا لانقاذ اطفالهن في الروضة التي تقع في الطبقة الارضية. سارة احمد موظفة في الدائرة الادارية كانت حزينة وتبكي بشدة لفراق ابن زميلتها الذي كان يلعب مع الاطفال في الروضة ، تقول: جئت اليوم لاتفقد ابن زميلتي الموظفة في قسم الرواتب بعد ان جرحت في الانفجار ونقلت الى المستشفى ،ولانها لاتستطيع المغادرة طلبت مني ان ابحث لها عن ابنها احمد البالغ من العمر خمس سنوات لعلي اجده على قيد الحياة ! والحقيقة المرّة هي ان الطفل احمد قد تحوّل الى جثة هامدة بين الانقاض .فهل بالامكان تصور حالتي ووضعي النفسي وانا اخبرها بموت طفلها ! يقول ميثم كاظم موظف في الوزارة وهو مصاب بجروح طفيفة في يديه ووجهه لكنه كان شديد التوتر والقلق: انا هنا منذ ليلتين لعلي اجد ابني حيدر البالغ من العمر اربع سنوات الذي كان بصحبتنا في ساعات الصباح الباكر ، فانا موظف وزوجتي ايضا وقبل حدوث الانفجار جاءت والدته اليه وقدمت له بعض انواع الشكولاته التي طلبها في ذلك اليوم المشؤوم ، لكن لا اعلم اين اصبحت والدته وماهو مصير حيدر؟! ذهبت الى جميع المستشفيات لم اجد جثتهما ، والان الرجال الذين يرفعون الانقاض يقولون ان جثتيهما قد تكونان تطايرتا اشلاء بسبب قوة العصف ولااعلم ماذا افعل ، انا في حيرة من امري،لكن اريد ان اسأل المجرمين.. ماذا جنيتم من فعلتكم هذه؟ اختلف العدد والضحية واحدة البعض يقول ان عدد الاطفال في الحضانة كان 70 طفلا واخرون قالوا انهم 50 ولا احد يعلم العدد الصحيح غير المعلمات اللائي اصبحن ضمن الضحايا ايضا و المعلمة التي انقذت هي الآن في اروقة مستشفيات بغداد تصارع الموت لان الاصابة كانت في الراس . وذكر عدد كبير من رجال الامن المسؤولين عن حماية وزارة العدل ان عدد الاطفال المصابين كان كبيرا جدا فضلا عن وجود اطفال غادروا الحياة فور حدوث الانفجار او اثناء نقلهم الى المستشفيات لان غالبية اصاباتهم كانت في الراس نتيجة سقوط السقوف الثانوية. شاهد عيان اما المواطنون فقد قالوا ان ما يقارب 30 طفلا تم نقلهم وهم ينزفون دما الى المستشفيات ومنها مستشفى الطفل العربي والكندي والكرامة، يقول احمد وهو رجل امن في وزارة العدل: لقد نقلت ما يقرب من عشرين طفلا بعضهم كانت اصاباته بليغة والبعض الاخر طفيفة وقد ساعدني اصحاب المحال القريبة والمواجهة لبناية وزارة العدل بنقلهم لكن بعد ذلك لا اعلم مصير بقية الاطفال لانني بدأت بمساعدة رجال الانقاذ لنقل الضحايا من الموظفين وذلك بحكم وظيفتي. البحث عن لعبة طفل استطعنا الدخول الى مبنى الروضة لكن بصعوبة وحذر لان السقوف والزجاج كانا لا يزالان يتساقطان بين لحظة واخرى، وما شاهدناه من دمار وسقوط سقوف وتحطم زجاج، وانقلاب الاسرة وتناثر وتمزق لعب الاطفال كان كاف لتصور ماحصل للاطفال وعدد الشهداء فيهم فضلا عن الجرحى.وقد قال لنا العقيد سعد خلف مسؤول امن الوزارة :لايمكن اعطاء احصائيات دقيقة عن عدد الاطفال المصابين ، لكن غالبية الاطفال هم على قيد الحياة واصاباتهم كانت طفيفة ، ولا تثير القلق ، وفيما يخص عدد الاطفال الموجودين اثناء حدث الانفجار قال سعد خلف: انهم كانوا بحدود 70 طفلا. في اثناء حديثنا مع العقيد ، شاهدنا الام فاطمة تجهش بالبكاء وتبحث بين لعب الاطفال عن لعبة ابنتها مينا! ليلة الشموع بعد ان تركنا الالم والحزن في الروضة المهجورة المسكونة بأرواح الاطفال الابرياء ، توجهنا الى الاهالي من سكنة المنطقة المقابلة للوزارة والذين جلسوا على الارض وقد قضوا ليلتهم الحزينة الطويلة على الرصيف ، وتركوا الهواء يدخل ويخرج عبر نوافذ بيوتهم المحطمة دون استئذان. يقول كريم ابو محمد(40 سنة)، وكان قد افترش الرصيف ليلة الانفجار، وعيناه تعلقت بالرافعات والجرافات التي ما سكت صوتها بحثا عن الاشلاء. ابو محمد أحد سكنة الشقق التي تقع مقابل وزارة العدل التي اصابها احقاد القتلة بالدمار قال: كيف لي ان ادخل الى الشقة ولم يبق فيها غير جدران صامتة ، فالسلالم التي تؤدي اليها قد سقطت ، واضاف : لقد ارسلت اهلي الى اقاربهم وانا بقيت هنا وحدي قرب الشقة مواساة للجيران. فيما قال صبيح حمودي صاحب مقهى مقابل الوزارة: أن اهالي المنطقة قد اوقدوا الشموع من حول مكان التفجير بينما كانت اصوات المصابين تحت الانقاض مسموعة.وشكا صبيح من ان القوات المكلفة بالانقاذ قد توقفت عن العمل والانقاذ بعد الساعة الثانية بعد منتصف الليل واستأنفوا عملهم في الساعة السادسة صباحا. البحث عن الأمل ثائر شاب في مقتبل العمر واسمه لايدل على هدوئه فقد كان صامتا يحدق في ماتبقى من مبنى وزارة العدل ينتظر احد الموظفين وصديق الطفولة لعله يجد جثته بعد ان فقد الامل بوجوده حيا، حيث قال والدموع كانت قد سبقت كلماته : اني اقف هنا منذ ليلة ولم ابرح مكاني لاني لااستطيع ان ادخل البيت فأصدقائي يعملون في الوزارة وهم مازالوا تحت الانقاض ، واليوم صباحا شاهدت جثتين قد اخرجتا من تحت الانقاض ، احداها نصف جثة، قد هرعت املا ان اتعرف على ملامح احدهم ، لكن لم ار غير قطع مفحمة لم يبق النار لها ملمحا. واردف قائلا: ربما يحتاج احد الى مساعدتي ، وقد حاولت مرارا ان اساعد القوات الامنية لكنهم رفضوا دخولي الى الوزارة. لا ماء ولاكهرباء ام سعد تحمل الملابس على رأسها وتوجهت الى دجلة لتغلسها وتغسل همومها معا، وعن سؤالنا لها لم تحملينها الى النهر قالت: الماء انقطع عن المنطقة منذ لحظة الانفجار ونحن بدونه وبدون كهرباء ايضا فكيف نستطيع ان نكمل يومنا دون الاثنين؟ واضافت: ليس المهم ان ينقطع الماء والكهرباء مقابل الضحايا الذين ذهبوا من دون سبب غير انهم عراقيون. لحظة الانفجار احد الموظفين العاملين في مجلس شورى الدولة الواقع في نفس البناية التابعة لوزارة العدل ابو سلام 55 سنة وهو احد الساكنين بالمنطقة ايضا ، ذكر ان حالة الفوضى والتدافع وعدم معرفة مايجري ادى الى احداث وفيات اكبر، لان الكثير من العاملين لم يعرفوا ماذا يفعلون والى اين يتجهون، ويضيف ، ان الامر اصبح كالزلزال او هو (الزلزال). بعد الركض وقفز السلالم والسقوط والنهوض مجددا محاولا ان اتحدى عمري الكبير استطعت ان اجد باب الوزارة دون ان اشعر بالجروح التي ملأت جسدي. وقال علي حمزة موظف في وزارة العدل والساكن قرب الوزارة ايضا ان الانفجار قذفه بعيدا عن مكتبه ما تسبب باصابته بجروح كبيرة وتدمير طوابق الوزارة الستة وذكر بان الانفجار لم يبق اثرا لنقطة تفتيش الشرطة التي كانت قبالة وزارة العدل. قطع الأرزاق اما عمار حيدر صاحب احد المطاعم المقابلة للوزارة فقد اشتكى من فقدانه لمصدر رزقه. يقول: انا اب لخمسة اطفال واسكن في بيت مؤجر، وليس لي غير هذا المطعم الذي يحمي اطفالي من الجوع والعوز. وكان مطعم عمار قد تحطم بكل مافيه ولم يبق شيء على حاله. وطالب من الحكومة ان تقوم بتعويضه عن الاضرار التي حلت بمطعمه. لم يكن عمار هو وحده من طالب بالتعويض بل انضم اليه الكثير من اصحاب المحال القريبة من الوزراة والذين تعرضوا الى اضرار مادية وبعضهم من سقط عليهم زجاج الواجهات وكان نصيبه مجموعة من (القطب) في رأسه. التعويضات هل ستصلنا؟ عامر سليم 38 سنة صاحب احد المحال لبيع المواد الالكترونية ويقع محله في نفس المنطقة شكك في مسألة التعويضات وأثرها في لملمة جراح العراقيين، وقال: ان نفعت التعويضات في اعادة بعض الجدران والزجاج الى ما كانت عليه فكيف يمكنها ان تعيد الارواح التي زهقت والابرياء الذين ذهبوا من دون ذنب. ومن جهة اخرى ذكر بعض اصحاب المحلات بأن التعويضات بأي حال من الاحوال لن تعطى لنا لاننا نعتبر خارج خارطة التعويضات, كما شهدوا في التفجير السابق الذي اضر بشقق مجمع الصالحية ودور السكك حيث لم يعط التعويض الا للاقرب من مكان الانفجار والباقي قد خرج من دائرة التعويضات، ويعتقد البعض بأن حالهم سيكون حال ساكني مجمع الصالحية.

اغتيال الطفولة .. من دار الحنان التابع لوزارة العمل إلى حضانة أطفال وزارة العدل


بدأ المسؤولون العراقيون بتقييم نطاق الخراب الذي خلفته تفجيرات يوم الاحد والتي يتوقع ان تصيب بالعجز والشلل اجهزة حكومية رئيسية لعدة شهور، مع ارتفاع عدد القتلى من جراء تلك التفجيرات الى اكثر من 160 قتيل .وبحسب صحيفة الواشنطن بوست، فان التفجيرات التي طالت ثلاثة مؤسسات حكومية كبيرة، بدت وكأنها قد صممت لكي تصور حكومة المالكي، بانها واهنة وضعيفة مع اقتراب استحقاق الانتخابات البرلمانية.وقال وزير الخارجية زيباري:” هذه الهجمات تستهدف رموز العراق السيادية وهي تهدف الى شل الحكومة، وهذ الهجمات مدبرة ومحسوبة وهي ليست من عمل هواة، فهؤلاء هم من القتلة المحترفين، اشخاص يعرفون كيف تعمل الحكومة”.واثارت صحيفة النيويورك تايمز، الشكوك حول عدد كبير من الاطفال فقدوا في تفجيرات يوم الاحد، بسبب تضارب التصريحات عن عدد الاطفال، لاسيما وان وزارة العدل تضم في الطابق الاول دار حضانة روضة لاطفال منتسبات الوزارة.روضة مجلس القضاء الاعلى الواقعة في الطابق الارضي من وزارة العدل،وبحسب شهود عيان تحدثوا لوكالة (اور)، فقد تناثرت اشلاء الاطفال وتطايرت احلامهم مع غبار التفجيرات، وتحولت الروضة في لحظات الى ركام من الدمى والأسرّة والصور. اختلف عدد الاطفال الضحايا البعض يقول ان عدد الاطفال في الحضانة كان 70 طفلا واخرون قالوا انهم 50 ولا احد يعلم العدد الصحيح غير المعلمات اللائي اصبحن ضمن الضحايا ايضا و المعلمة التي انقذت هي الآن في اروقة مستشفيات بغداد تصارع الموت لان الاصابة كانت في الراس .وذكر عدد من رجال الامن المسؤولين عن حماية وزارة العدل ان عدد الاطفال المصابين كان كبيرا جدا فضلا عن وجود اطفال غادروا الحياة فور حدوث الانفجار او اثناء نقلهم الى المستشفيات لان غالبية اصاباتهم كانت في الراس نتيجة سقوط السقوف الثانوية. اما المواطنون فقد قالوا ان ما يقارب 30 طفلا تم نقلهم وهم ينزفون دما الى المستشفيات ومنها مستشفى الطفل العربي والكندي والكرامة، يقول احمد وهو رجل امن في وزارة العدل: لقد نقلت ما يقرب من عشرين طفلا بعضهم كانت اصاباته بليغة والبعض الاخر طفيفة وقد ساعدني اصحاب المحال القريبة والمواجهة لبناية وزارة العدل بنقلهم لكن بعد ذلك لا اعلم مصير بقية الاطفال لانني بدأت بمساعدة رجال الانقاذ لنقل الضحايا من الموظفين وذلك بحكم وظيفتي.وبحسب النيويورك تايمز، فان هناك تقارير متضاربة عن عدد الاطفال القتلى في التفجيرين الذين طالا ايضا مركزيين لرعاية الاطفال في مبنى وزارة العدل، وقال حسين عيسى وهو شرطي في مبنى الوزارة بان 30 طفلا قد قتلوا، ولكن مسؤولين اخرين قالوا بان عدد الاطفال المقتولين اقل كثيرا، وكان من الصعب معرفة الرقم لان العديد من اباء او امهات الاطفال كانوا من بين القتلى او المصابين في الوزارة ومن بين المفقودين ايضا. واوردت وكالة الاسوشيتد برس بان 24 طفلا قتلوا في التفجير .وقال الجنرال لانز بان ما يسميها الجيش الاميركي بالهجمات الكبيرة جدا لازالت قليلة مقارنة بالسنوات الماضية،مضيفاً:” ما يحدث هو تكرار الهجمات، ولكن حجم الهجمات وقوتها قد تزايدت، واذا نمضي بصورة وثيقة نحو الانتخابات فان احتمالات هذه الهجمات وهذه الزيادة فيها هو امر يقلقنا بشكل قاطع كثيرا “.وحتى مع استمرار اعمال الانقاذ لاخراج الجثث من تحت الانقاض حتى صباح الثلاثاء، فقد زاد هجوم وقع في مدينة كربلاء المخاوف من تزايد وقوع اعمال عنف في مدن اخرى غير بغداد، غالبا ما توصف بانه آمنة.وجاءت هجمات يوم الاحد في الوقت الذي لاتزال الحكومة العراقية تراجع هجمات 19 اب الدامية والتي استهدفت وزارتا المالية والخارجية، وقد تسببت تلك الهجمات في تأخير دفع الحكومة لمستحقات العمال والموظفين في هذا الصيف واعاقت مشاريع اعادة البناء بسبب فقدان اوراق العمل الخاصة بها كما قال مسؤول حكومي عراقي . وقال وزير الخارجية زيباري بان المعاملين في وزارة الخارجية استطاعوا ان يجمعوا بعض الاوراق والوثائق، ولكن واجهة الوزارة المتهدمة بقيت تسبب الاباك والحيرة للمسؤولين العراقيين، المتلهفين لاثبات بانهم قادرين على توفير الامن في بغداد والقوات الاميركية تنسحب منها .وتبدو الاضرار الهيكلية في وزارة العدل من جراء تفجير يوم الاحد فادحة، وتشرف هذه الوزارة على سجون العراق وهي التي تقرر اين تحيل السجناء العراقيين الذين تستلمهم من السجون الاميركية في توجهها لتخفيض السجون والسجناء العراقيين لدى الاميركيين .ومن شأن التفجيرات الاخيرة ان تفاقم تقريبا بصورة مؤكدة تأخر العمل المتراكم في القضايا الجنائية، والتي لازالت منذ فترة طويلة تحظى بالشكوى من السنة العراقيين، وبالرغم من انهم يكونون 20 % من عدد سكان العراق، فانهم يشكلون اكثر من 80 % من عدد السجناء في السجون العراقية .وكما في شهر اب، فان التفجير الاخير تسبب في اغلاق المباني، ولاسيما ان حكومة المالكي كانت قد خفضت في الشهور الاخيرة مقاييس الامن في محاولة لاشاعة الاحساس بالحياة الطبيعية لهذه العاصمة المحصنة، ولكن الشاحنات بدأت من يوم الاحد في جلب الجدران المسلحة لموقع الحادث . وبخلاف هجمات 19 اب التي استخدمت فيها شاحنات كبيرة ومواد تفجيرية ثقيلة، فان هجمات يوم الاحد الماضي استخدمت فيها شاحنات البيكاب، والتي تحفل بغداد منها الكثير، وقد اتهم المالكي المتشددين السنة المرتبطين بحزب البعث والقاعدة بالقيام بهذه الهجمات .وبحسب الواشنطن بوست فان الكثير من العراقيين الذين جرحوا في الهجمات او فقدوا اقارب لهم، قالوا بانهم لايثقون بقدرة الحكومة على الاستمرار . وقال شوقي عبد الجابر – 37 سنة – موظف في الوزارة ومصاب بجروح :” ليس هناك امن ولا امل، وكل قوات الشرطة وقوات الجيش هي لا شيء”.ونظر ثلاثة رجال الى حطام الوزارة بصورة كئيبة، وكانوا يبحثون لاكثر من 24 ساعة عن طفلهم – 4 سنوات – والذي كان في باص المدرسة، وقد عثر على جثمان سائق الباص ولكن لم يعثر على الطفل او السيارة، وقال صباح نوري حمزة – 42 سنة- وهو احد اقارب الطفل :” هذه الحكومة ليست حكومة مهنية – وهي ليست قادرة على حماية مواطنيها، ومعظم سياسييها جاؤا من خارج العراق ولديهم جوازات سفر اخرى وجنسيات اخرى، انهم يسرقون منا فقط ويهربون “.وقال شقيقه ضياء نوري حمزة – 36 سنة- :” دعونا نعود الى الاحتلال، فالمحتلون افضل من هؤلاء الاشخاص “.واذا قال الناطق باسم الجيش الاميركي الجنرال لانز، انه مرتاح من طريقة تجاوب الحكومة العراقية مع نتائج هجمات يوم الاحد، ولكن صحيفة الكريستيان ساينس مونيتور ذكرت بانه مع زيادة حدة الاجراءات الامنية التي كانت الحكومة العراقية قد اتخذتها في العاصمة، فلم تكن هناك اجابات في كيف يمكن لهذه الاعمال الانتحارية ان تقع في العاصمة بعد ان تعهدت الحكومة بتشديد التدقيق الامني بعد نتائج الهجمات السابقة التي حصلت في 19 اب الماضي .وقال الجنرال لانز :” هناك بكل وضوح بعض الخرق في الامن والذي سمح بحدوث ذلك “.

الثلاثاء، 27 أكتوبر 2009

Officials: 24 children killed in Baghdad bombings


Oct 26, 2009 12:20 PM By BARBARA SURK and HAMID AHMED, AP

BAGHDAD


Hospital and police officials say 24 children were among the 155 killed in twin suicide blasts that targeted government buildings in Baghdad.
An official at the hospital where the children's bodies were brought says they were on a bus leaving a daycare center next to the Justice Ministry when the attack happened. The bus driver was also killed, and six kids injured.
A local police official confirmed the deaths of the children in Sunday's attack. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because they were not authorized

.to talk to the media



An armed security guard removes broken toys at a damage day care center near the Justice Ministry in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009. Al-Qaida's umbrella group in Iraq claims responsibility for the twin suicide bombings in the heart of Baghdad that killed at least 155 people, including 24 children trapped in a bus leaving the day care center. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)


Security guards inspect the damage at a day care center near the Justice Ministry in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009. Al-Qaida's umbrella group in Iraq claims responsibility for the twin suicide bombings in the heart of Baghdad that killed at least 155 people, including 24 children trapped in a bus leaving the day care center. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

الثلاثاء، 20 أكتوبر 2009

دار الاطفال المعاقين تتلقى مساعدات وزارة الداخلية


12.1.2009
نيوزماتيك/بغداد
قدمت وزارة الداخلية، مساعدات مادية للاطفال المعاقين في دار الحنان، ضمن برنامج طويل الأمد تبنته الوزارة، فيما إنتقدت مديرة الدار ما روجت له بعض وسائل الإعلام حول وجود تقصير في رعاية الاطفال المستفيدين.
وقال مدير العمليات في وزارة الداخلية اللواء الركن عبد الكريم خلف، خلال تسليمه عددا من الاطفال المعاقين مبالغ مالية، في حديث لـ"نيوزماتيك" اليوم الأثنين، إن "الداخلية باشرت منذ العام الماضي، ضمن برنامج طويل الأمد لرعاية الأيتام في العراق من خلال تقديم المساعدات المادية لهم وللعاملين في هذه الدور"، داعيا "الوزارات الحكومية والمنظمات الإنسانية بتقديم الدعم والمساعدات لهذه الدور".

من جهتها إنتقدت مديرة دار الحنان لشديدي العوق، سميرة عبد الحسين، ما روجت له بعض الفضائيات حول وجود تقصير في رعاية المستفيدين في هذا الدار، وقالت في حديث لـ"نيوزماتيك" ان "المستفيدين من الدار وعددهم 90 طفلا، وبواقع 69 من الإناث و21 من الذكور، يحظون برعاية كاملة، وتتوفر لهم كافة المستلزمات الأساسية من غذاء وملبس ورعاية صحية بشكل مستمر"، حسب قولها.
وكانت شبكة CBS التلفزيونية الأمريكية قد عرضت تقريرا لها في 28-5-2007 عرضت فيه الاطفال من الأيتام المعاقين الذين عثر عليهم في دار الحنان، وهم عراة على أرض الدار الجرداء، وكانوا موثوقين إلى الأسّرة، خلال مداهمة قامت بها القوات الامريكية للدار ليلا.
وطالبت عبد الحسين، "الجهات التي لديها شك في عمل الدار، بزيارتها والإطلاع على أحوال المستفيدين الصحية والغذائية وحتى النفسية".
يذكر أن دار الحنان لشديدي العوق هي إحدى الدور التابعة لوزارة العمل والشؤون الاجتماعية، وقد بلغ عدد دور الرعاية الاجتماعية على اختلاف أنواعها، 89 دارا، تضم 5393 مستفيدا، ويحظى المعاقون بنسبة 67% من الرعاية فيها.

الأحد، 4 أكتوبر 2009

'Miracles' after U.S. soldier decides to adopt Iraqi


Passion of Christ’ inspires American to bring disabled boy back to the U.S.
Scott Southworth, right, is seen with his adopted son, Ala'a, in July 2007 in his home in Mauston, Wis. Southworth first met Ala'a, who has cerebral palsy, at the Mother Teresa orphanage in Baghdad in 2003 while he was serving in Iraq.
Andy Manis / AP

MAUSTON, Wis. - Capt. Scott Southworth knew he'd face violence, political strife and blistering heat when he was deployed to one of Baghdad's most dangerous areas. But he didn't expect Ala'a Eddeen.
Ala'a was 9 years old, strong of will but weak of body — he suffered from cerebral palsy and weighed just 55 pounds. He lived among about 20 kids with physical or mental disabilities at the Mother Teresa orphanage, under the care of nuns who preserved this small oasis in a dangerous place.
On Sept. 6, 2003, halfway through his 13-month deployment, Southworth and his military police unit paid a visit to the orphanage. They played and chatted with the children; Southworth was talking with one little girl when Ala'a dragged his body to the soldier's side.
Black haired and brown eyed, Ala'a spoke to the 31-year-old American in the limited English he had learned from the sisters. He recalled the bombs that struck government buildings across the Tigris River.
"Bomb-Bing! Bomb-Bing!" Ala'a said, raising and lowering his fist.
"I'm here now. You're fine," the captain said.
Over the next 10 months, the unit returned to the orphanage again and again. The soldiers would race kids in their wheelchairs, sit them in Humvees and help the sisters feed them.
To Southworth, Ala'a was like a little brother. But Ala'a — who had longed for a soldier to rescue him — secretly began referring to Southworth as "Baba," Arabic for "Daddy."
Then, around Christmas, a sister told Southworth that Ala'a was getting too big. He would have to move to a government-run facility within a year.
"Best case scenario was that he would stare at a blank wall for the rest of his life," Southworth said.
To this day, he recalls the moment when he resolved that that would not happen.
"I'll adopt him," he said.
So many reasons not to helpBefore Southworth left for Iraq, he was chief of staff for a state representative. He was single, worked long days and squeezed in his service as a national guardsman — military service was a family tradition. His great-great-greatgrandfather served in the Civil War, his grandfather in World War II, his father in Vietnam.
The family had lived in the tiny central Wisconsin city of New Lisbon for 150 years. Scott was raised as an evangelical Christian; he attended law school with a goal of public service, running unsuccessfully for state Assembly at the age of 25.
There were so many reasons why he couldn't bring a handicapped Iraqi boy into his world.
He had no wife or home; he knew nothing of raising a disabled child; he had little money and planned to run for district attorney in his home county.
Just as important, Iraqi law prohibits foreigners from adopting Iraqi children.

Southworth prayed and talked with family and friends.
His mother, who had cared for many disabled children, explained the difficulty. She also told him to take one step at a time and let God work.
Southworth's decision was cemented in spring 2004, while he and his comrades watched Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ." Jesus Christ's sacrifice moved him. He imagined meeting Christ and Ala'a in heaven, where Ala'a asked: "Baba, why didn't you ever come back to get me?"
"Everything that I came up with as a response I felt ashamed. I wouldn't want to stand in the presence of Jesus and Ala'a and say those things to him."
And so, in his last weeks in Iraq, Southworth got approval from Iraq's Minister of Labor to take Ala'a to the United States for medical care.
He was told it would be nearly impossibleHis parents had filed signatures so he wouldn't miss the cutoff to run for district attorney. He knocked on doors, telling people he wanted to be tough on criminals who committed injustices against children.
He never mentioned his intention to adopt Ala'a.
He won office — securing a job and an income.
Everything seemed to be in place. But when Southworth contacted an immigration attorney, he
was told it would be nearly impossible to bring Ala'a to the United States.
Ala'a prays to be taken to AmericaUndaunted, Southworth and the attorney started the paperwork to bring Ala'a over on humanitarian parole, used for urgent reasons or significant public benefit.
A local doctor, a cerebral palsy expert, a Minneapolis hospital, all said they would provide Ala'a free care. Other letters of support came from a minister, the school district, the lieutenant governor, a congressman, chaplain, a sister at the orphanage and an Iraqi doctor.
"We crossed political boundaries. We crossed religious boundaries. There was just a massive effort — all on behalf of this little boy who desperately needed people to actually take some action and not just feel sorry for him," Southworth said.
He mailed the packet on Dec. 16, 2004, to the Department of Homeland Security.
On New Year's Eve, his cell phone rang. It was Ala'a.
"What are you doing?" Scott asked him.
"I was praying,'" Ala'a responded.
"Well, what were you praying for?"
"I prayed that you would come to take me to America," Ala'a said.
Southworth almost dropped the phone. Ala'a knew nothing of his efforts, and he couldn't tell him yet for fear that the boy might inadvertently tell the wrong person, upending the delicate process.
'And forever started'By mid-January, Homeland Security called Southworth's attorney to say it had approved humanitarian parole. Within three hours, Southworth had plane tickets.
He hardly slept as he worked the phones to make arrangements, calling the American embassy, hotels and the orphanage. His Iraqi translator agreed to risk his life to get Ala'a to the embassy to obtain documentation. Like a dream, all the pieces fell into place.
Southworth returned to Iraq for the first time since a deployment that left him emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted.
His unit had trained Iraqi police from sunup to sundown; he saw the devastation wrought by two car bombings, and counted dead bodies. Mortar and rocket attacks were routine. Some 20 in his unit were wounded, and one died. He knew that nothing could be taken for granted in Baghdad.

So when he saw Ala'a in the airport for the first time since leaving Iraq, he was relieved.
"He was in my custody then. I could hug him. I could hold him. I could protect him.
"And forever started."
They made it to Wisconsin late Jan. 20, 2005. The next morning, Ala'a awoke to his first sight of snow.
He closed his eyes and grimaced.
"Baba! Baba! The water is getting all over me!"
"It's not water, it's snooooow," Southworth told him


Thriving in America
Police found Ala'a abandoned on a Baghdad street at around 3 years old. No one knows where he came from.
In all his life in Iraq, Ala'a saw a doctor 10 times. He surpassed that in his first six months in the United States.
Ala'a's cerebral palsy causes low muscle tone, spastic muscles in the legs, arms and face. It hinders him when he tries to crawl, walk or grasping objects. He needs a wheelchair to get around, often rests his head on his shoulder and can't easily sit up.

Physical therapy has helped him control his head and other muscles. He can now maneuver his way out of his van seat and stabilize his legs on the ground.
"I'm not the same guy I used to be," he said.
He clearly has thrived. At 13, he's doubled his weight to 111 pounds.
Tears filled his eyesAla'a's condition doesn't affect his mind, although he's still childlike — he wants to be a Spiderman when he grows up.
Ala'a's English has improved and he loves music and school, math and reading especially. He gets mad when snow keeps him home, even though it's his second favorite thing, after his father.
At first, he didn't want to talk about Iraq; he would grow angry when someone tried to talk to him in Arabic. But in the fall of 2006, Scott showed Ala'a's classmates an Arabic version of "Sesame Street" and boasted how Ala'a knew two languages and could teach them.
Soon he was teaching his aide and his grandmother, LaVone.
LaVone is a fixture in Ala'a's life, supporting her son as he juggles his career and fatherhood. One day, she asked Ala'a if he missed his friends in Iraq.
Would he like to visit them?
Big tears filled his eyes.

"Well, honey, what's the matter?" asked LaVone.
"Oh, no, Grandma. No. Baba said that I can come to live with him forever," he pleaded.
"Oh, no, no," he grandmother said, crying as well. "We would never take you back and leave you there forever. We want you to be Baba's boy forever."
The hardest part is overSouthworth knew once he got Ala'a out of Iraq, the hardest part would be over. Iraq had bigger problems to deal with than the whereabouts of a single orphan.
On June 4, Ala'a officially became Southworth's son. Though he was born in the spring of 1994, they decided to celebrate his birthday as the day they met — Sept. 6.

Life has settled into a routine. Father and son have moved into a new house with an intercom system, a chair lift to the basement and toilet handles.
Southworth showers him, brushes his teeth and washes his hands. He has traded in his Chrysler Concorde for a minivan — it was too hard to lift his son out of the car.
In October, the Wisconsin's deputy adjunct general gave Southworth, now a major, permission to change units because of Ala'a. His former unit was going to Guantanamo Bay for a one-year deployment, and he didn't want to leave his son behind, at least for now.
He hopes one day to marry to his longtime girlfriend and have more children. He may run for Congress or governor someday — he's already won re-election once, and plans to run again next fall.
'Life is a gift they say'Not everything is perfect. Ala'a never encountered thunderstorms in Baghdad, and the flash-boom reminds him of bombs. He is starting to get over it, although he still weeps during violent storms.
But Ala'a — who picked out his own name, which means to be near God — knows he's where he belongs. Southworth always said Ala'a picked him, not the other way around. They were brought together, Southworth believes, by a "web of miracles."
Ala'a likes to sing Sarah McLachlan's song, "Ordinary Miracle," from "Charlotte's Web," one of his favorite movies. His head and body lean to one side as he sings off-key.
"It's just another ordinary miracle today. Life is like a gift they say. Wrapped up for you everyday."
Morry Gash / AP
Scott Southworth makes some dinner as his adopted son Ala'a watches TV on Nov. 20 in their home in Mauston, Wis.

The Orphan He Couldn’t Leave Behind


BAGHDAD, July 9, 2007
The Orphan He Couldn’t Leave Behind
Soldier Helped One Of The Baghdad Orphans Years Ago — Can He Do It Again?

By Christine Lagorio

(CBS) From the moment they met four years ago in a Baghdad orphanage, one little Iraqi boy reached out to Maj. Scott Southworth and decided he was going to be his dad.What neither of them could have know then, was that by bringing Alla'a to the United States and adopting him, Southworth would save him from starvation and filthy conditions at the government-run orphanage where 24 orphans were found last month, CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reports.Two dozen emaciated boys were found by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers at the very same government-run orphanage for special-needs children that Alla'a would have been living in, had Southworth not intervened.“That's unspeakable. I, uh, have a difficult time even thinking of that possibility. But it is what I believe would have happened to Alla’a. But Alla'a, I love him as my son. And I would die for him,” Southworth said.Many of the boys were near death when they were rescued last month by U.S. soldiers. They were tied up, naked and starving, with flies feeding on their open sores, while brand new clothes and tins of food stood unopened in rooms just down the hallway. When the story aired on CBS News, Scott was shocked to find he knew some of the boys from his deployment back in 2003. He and 15 other soldiers from his unit had volunteered at a Baghdad orphanage for ten months. That's where he met little Alla'a, the boy he just couldn't leave behind.Now Southworth is trying to perform the same miracle for the others — and bring all 24 of them to the United States.He's distressed by the change in boys he remembers well, like Nashwan Merey, who was healthy four years ago. Today, after his ordeal, Nashwan is barely a shadow of that smiling, healthy self.“Being upset just isn't enough. Sympathy just isn't enough. These kids need action, and we're in a position where we know these children, we know what can happen here in the United States if they're brought here, and we're going to do something about it,” Southworth said.This is what can happen for special needs boys like Alla'a, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Now he has special care — he even runs on a treadmill to strengthen his legs.“I think you can. C'mon. You're a tough guy,” Southworth said. “Two more minutes.”It's high-tech, individual care that simply doesn't exist in war-torn Iraq today."Right now, the Iraqi government is struggling to maintain security and establish stability and when they're trying to do that, resources for orphanages are certainly going to be limited," Southworth said.Scott has turned for help to Wisconsin's Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton. It is a monumental task that needs the backing of both the U.S. and Iraqi governments as well as American's willing to open their homes to these special-needs boys, the way he has opened his home, and his heart to Alla'a.


“Alla'a has been very privileged to be in the position that he is in,” Southworth said. “And the Iraqi orphans who are there now deserve the same kind of commitment from the people of the United States.”“I love you dad,” Alla’a said.“I love you, too,” Southworth replied.Southworth believes the difference between life in Iraq and the U.S. for special-needs children like Alla'a and the others, is the difference between just existing and and really living.

U.S., Iraqi Troops Rescue Malnourished Boys From Baghdad Orphanage

Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Richey cares for one of 24 starving boys in the back of an Iraqi army ambulance. Civic leaders escorted the abused and malnourished boys, found by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in a Baghdad orphanage, to the Iskan Hospital for medical treatment. Photo by Lt. James Cook, USN American Forces Press ServiceBAGHDAD, June 20, 2007 – U.S. and Iraqi army forces found an orphanage housing 24 severely malnourished and abused boys in Baghdad’s Fajr neighborhood June 10, military officials reported today.The 24 boys, ranging in age from 3 to 15, were found naked in a darkened room without any windows. Many of the children were tied to their beds and were too weak to stand, officials said.In a nearby locked room, the soldiers discovered food and clothing that could have been used to aid the children. Three women claiming to be the caretakers, and two men -- the orphanage director and a guard -- were on the site when the soldiers arrived.The Iraqi soldiers notified members of the Fajr Neighborhood Advisory Council and escorted them to the orphanage to assist the boys. Paratroopers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, and a 492nd Civil Affairs Team also arrived at the orphanage with medics to treat the malnourished boys.“The council members were crying at the sight of the starving boys,” said Navy Lt. James Cook, a civil affairs officer. The neighborhood council arranged for three ambulances to take the boys to the Iskan Hospital for care.“We’re very grateful that this story unfolded the way that it did -- that none of these 24 boys lost their lives. This is a story of partnership, courageous action and compassion overcoming deplorable negligence,” said Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Multinational Division Baghdad’s deputy commanding general.“The role of the Iraqi soldiers and the community council was a key to this action being taken to save these young boys,” Brooks said. “We’re very fortunate to have the kind of soldiers we have who are willing to take action, even at personal risk, to save the lives of others. These soldiers in a literal and figurative sense are the best chance for Iraq, just as they were for these boys.”(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)Related Sites:Multinational Corps Iraq

Iraqi army soldiers, U.S. forces and civic leaders of the Fajr Neighborhood Advisory Council discuss a plan to ensure 24 abused and malnourished boys found in a Baghdad orphanage are cared for, as soldiers carry the children to the ambulances. Photo by Lt. James Cook, USN


BAGHDAD, Aug. 14, 2007
Honoring Those Who Saved Iraqi Orphans
U.S. And Iraqi Troops Are Recognized For Their Role In Rescuing 24 Iraqi Boys

By Michelle Singer

(CBS) It was a moment of shared recognition, as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers were honored for the part they played in saving 24 young Iraqi lives.The day they unexpectedly came upon a group of special needs boys as they lay dying in an Iraqi orphanage in June was reported by CBS News' chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan. The story showed how the boys were tied up, naked and starving while those responsible kept piles of new clothing and food just down the hallway. There was only one boy that the soldiers weren't able to save: Saddam Ali Abbas succumbed to his wounds a few weeks later. In spite of that, an Iraqi government investigation that was presented to Parliament last month found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing; publicly, some officials accused the U.S. military and CBS News of exaggerating the condition of the emaciated boys. But Brigadier Gen. Fallah Hassan of the 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, whose men helped in the rescue, had no doubt."The pictures speak for themselves," he told Logan. "You can see the suffering of the boys. There's no way it can be denied."Were it not for the soldiers, more boys would have died, according to the Iraqi doctors who treated them."It was disappointing for me to see kids like that, in this kind of situation. I felt really bad," says U.S. Staff Sgt. Osman Koroma, Dagger Brigade, 2nd BCT. "I almost cried the first time I saw them."Koroma received his medal, but also a personal commendation from his commander for his actions that day.He says the award, which he dedicates to the children, means a lot to him.But none of these these special needs boys have ever been properly diagnosed, and there's still no special care for them. The good thing is that these boys are still much better off than they were before, but the depressing thing about coming back is being reminded that for them, this is as good as it gets.

Rescued Iraqi Orphan Dies


Rescued Iraqi Orphan Dies
U.S. And Iraqi Troops Rescued 24 Horribly Mistreated Boys From Special Needs Orphanage


By Michelle Singer

(CBS) Editor's Note: A sad update on CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan's exclusive report from Iraq on how U.S. and Iraqi troops had rescued 24 horribly mistreated young boys from an orphanage for special needs children. One of the boys was covered with flies, able to move only his eyes. We're sorry to tell you on July 23, 2007, that young Saddam Ali Abbas has died from his many health problems.
It was a welcome Capt. Ben Morales could not resist. He walked into the room and a little boy reached out his arms to him, CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reports.Morales was back to check on the 24 boys he and his soldiers rescued just more than a week ago.The boys were literally starving to death in a government-run orphanage for special needs children. Those in charge left them naked and tied down, while piles of new clothes and food were stored right down the hallway. Thanks to these soldiers, and the joint Iraqi-U.S. patrol that first found them, the boys' lives were saved. "Hey guys?" asks Lt. Jason Smith as he walks up to boys in cribs making noises like them.When we visited them again today in the safety of a different special needs orphanage nearby, the contrast was stunning."Look at 'em," Morales said. "They are all smiling; they're all laughing!"It's obvious how much better off these boys are at this orphanage. The problem is they are still special needs children with no access to specialized care.Smith and his wife, Kara, in North Carolina are both special education teachers. Logan asked Smith if one of the boys was in the United States, what kind of care would he get."He wouldn't be sitting in this, that's for sure," Smith said of the crib the boys are kept in. "He'd be in a wheelchair most of the time."But in Iraq, they're understaffed, underpaid and the social workers lack specialized training."The problem here is what you said earlier: There is no education, so they're gonna do the same thing everyday — until they aren't here any more," Smith said.One little boy almost did die. When the soldiers found him, he was covered in thousands of flies, unable to move. They never thought he'd recover as much as he has.The boys are being fed now. They're safe. They've got somewhere to sleep. But what kind of future do they have?"This is it, right here," Smith said. "This is their future."The plight of the boys has outraged Iraqis, with excerpts of our report aired constantly on local TV for almost two days. The public pressure forced the Labor and Social Affairs Minister to speak out — but instead of taking responsibility, he lashed out at the U.S., calling America Iraq's enemy.
As CBS News was filming new scenes on Wednesday, the minister was telling the nation these boys are perfectly healthy — and that Logan's report was a lie.And these are the same soldiers the minister said have no compassion. "We'll leave here and he'll remember us 'til the day he dies," Smith said. "He'll remember us as the guys that came in here and took him out of the situation he was in and put him in this situation. He'll never be able to tell us thanks. He doesn't need to really."The fear in Iraq is that there may be other vulnerable children in similar or worse conditions who haven't yet been found.

Iraqi Orphanage Nightmare

BAGHDAD, June 18, 2007
Iraqi Orphanage Nightmare
Exclusive: U.S. And Iraqi Troops Discover And Rescue Orphan Boys Left Starving, Chained To Beds
By Christine Lagorio
(CBS) It was a scene that shocked battle-hardened soldiers, captured in photographs obtained exclusively by CBS News. On a daytime patrol in central Baghdad just over than a week ago, a U.S. military advisory team and Iraqi soldiers happened to look over a wall and found something horrific."They saw multiple bodies laying on the floor of the facility," Staff Sgt. Mitchell Gibson of the 82nd Airborne Division told CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan. "They thought they were all dead, so they threw a basketball (to) try and get some attention, and actually one of the kids lifted up their head, tilted it over and just looked and then went back down. And they said, 'oh, they're alive' and so they went into the building."Inside the building, a government-run orphanage for special needs children, the soldiers found more emaciated little bodies tied to the cribs. They had been kept this way for more than a month, according to the soldiers called in to rescue the 24 boys."I saw children that you could see literally every bone in their body that were so skinny, they had no energy to move whatsoever, no expression on their face," Staff Sgt. Michael Beale said."The kids were tied up, naked, covered in their own waste — feces — and there were three people that were cooking themselves food, but nothing for the kids," Lt. Stephen Duperre said.Logan asked: So there were three people cooking their own food?"They were in the kitchen, yes ma'am," Duperre said.With all these kids starving around them?"Yes ma'am," Duperre said.It didn't stop there. The soldiers found kitchen shelves packed with food and in the stockroom, rows of brand-new clothing still in their plastic wrapping. Instead of giving it to the boys, the soldiers believe it was being sold to local markets.The man in charge, the orphanage caretaker, had a well-kept office — a stark contrast to the terrible conditions just outside that room."I got extremely angry with the caretaker when I got there," Capt. Benjamin Morales said. "It took every muscle in my body to restrain myself from not going after that guy."
He has since disappeared and is believed to be on the run. But two security guards are in custody, arrested on the orders of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Two women also working there, who posed for pictures in front of the naked boys as if there was nothing wrong, have also disappeared. "My first thought when I walked in there was shock, and then I got a little angry that they were treating kids like that, then that's when everybody just started getting upset," Capt. Jim Cook said. "There were people crying. It was definitely a bad emotional scene."There was nothing more emotional than finding one boy who Army medics did not expect to survive. For Gibson, that was the hardest part:Seeing a boy who was at the orphanage, where Logan reported from, "with thousands of flies covering his body, unable to move any part of his body, you know we had to actually hold his head up and tilt his head to make sure that he was OK, and the only thing basically that was moving was his eyeballs," Gibson explained. "Flies in the mouth, in the eyes, in the nose, ears, eating all the open wounds from sleeping on the concrete."All that, and the boy was laying in the boiling sun — temperatures of 120 degrees or so, according to Gibson.Looking at the boy today, as he sits up in his crib without help, it is hard to believe he is the same boy, one week later — now clean and being cared for along with all the other boys in a different orphanage located only a few minutes away from where they suffered their ordeal. Another little boy right shown in the photos was carried out of the orphanage by Beale. He was very emaciated."I picked him up and then immediately the kid started smiling, and as I got a little bit closer to the ambulance he just started laughing. It was almost like he completely understood what was going on," Beale said. When CBS News visited the orphanage with the soldiers, it was clear the boys had been starved of human contact as much as anything else, Logan said. Some still had marks on their ankles from where they were tied. Since only one boy can talk, it's impossible to know what terrible memories they might have locked away. The memory of what he saw when he helped rescue the boys that night haunts Ali Soheil, the local council head, who wept during the interview. Later at the hospital, Lt. Jason Smith brushed teeth and helped clean up the boys. He and his wife are both special education teachers, and he was proud to tell her what the soldiers had done. "She said that one day was worth my entire deployment," Smith said. "It makes the whole thing worthwhile."This is a tough test for the Iraqi government: How a nation cares for its most vulnerable is one of the most important benchmarks for the health of any society.

Clinging To Life In A Baghdad Orphanage

BAGHDAD, June 18, 2007
Clinging To Life In A Baghdad Orphanage
Lara Logan Reflects On The Bagdad Orphanage Where Boys Where Malnourished And Abused
(CBS) By CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan
If you find it hard to look at the photograph of the young Iraqi boy covered in flies, lying half-starved and near death on the concrete floor of a "special needs orphanage" in central Baghdad, then think about this:One of the American soldiers who came to rescue this boy told me that before they took that picture, they waved thousand of flies off his fragile, bleeding body. "It was much worse before," the soldier said to me. "When we found him he was black with flies." There were hundreds in his open mouth. They were crawling out of his nose and ears and anywhere they could feed on his flesh and bloody, open sores, in what appeared to be the last few hours of his life. The medics did not think he could be saved. But he was. Not only did the 82nd Airborne and civil affairs soldiers save his life, he was released from a hospital a few days later, well enough to continue his recovery in a different orphanage, where the care was remarkably better.What's so strange about this story is that the caretaker in charge of the orphanage where 24 handicapped boys were abused beyond belief was also a psychologist and worked at another respected orphanage for a long time. The staff there confessed to being shocked and saddened when they saw these boys in their terrible state shortly after being rescued; but they also were shocked and surprised that the man responsible was someone they thought they knew so well. Like many social workers I've encountered in other countries, they were reluctant to condemn their colleague outright without hearing from him what had led to this terrible cruelty. Perhaps it was simply too much for them to accept. Until a few months before, these boys had actually been housed in their orphanage. But "someone" — no one could tell me exactly who — had decided that boys and girls should be separated. That someone sent the boys off to the other home where there was no government oversight.
There were records of food supplied to the orphanage by the government, like chicken and other meat, but no sign of where this food had gone. None of it was fed to the children, who lay in puddles of their own urine and waste, their sharp little bones protruding from their tiny bodies. One soldier described the scene as being like a Bosnian death camp. Others talked about the rage they felt when they found three adults cooking in the kitchen, preparing dinner for themselves, while the children lay dying from starvation in other rooms. The smell was so bad, one soldier told me, that you could smell it from outside in the street. He said it even overpowered the smell of the food cooking in the kitchen.That did not appear to bother the adults living there, including two women employed to work at the orphanage. They are both seen in two of the photographs, and this is perhaps one of the most curious things of all: they didn't mind having their picture taken with these starving boys in the background. Looking at their faces, one even smiling for the camera, I can only imagine they thought this was absolutely normal. Or that these special needs boys, who could not talk or communicate properly, were not human to them. They must have seen them as non-human to treat them this way: to see them growing weaker and sicker every day and do nothing to help them; to stand by while their lives slipped away into the filth and heat and misery of neglect. They had to be non-human in their eyes, for who would treat a human that badly? It was difficult to imagine it all when I walked around the now-empty building, trying to envision what took place here, what it looked like the day U.S. and Iraqi soldiers made their grisly discovery. But here and there were little signs. The urine stains on the floor. The stench. And the soldiers. The men of the 82nd Airborne and the civil affairs team that came to the rescue of these boys were clearly moved by what they found here. Some even wept as they confronted the full horror before them. In the blistering Iraqi sun, reaching temperatures over 100 degrees every day, boys were tied to chairs and fences and deprived even of water for days at a time. They were dehydrated and weak to the point of death. How could you take the most vulnerable children and subject them to such torture? That was on the mind of every soldier that saw what was done in this terrible place, where the caretaker's air-conditioned office stood neat and tidy, carpets lining the floor, a computer at his desk. The brand new cribs still had the plastic on their unused mattresses. The local Iraqi council members who were called to the scene by the U.S. soldiers also wept at the sight. In fact, the head of the council continued to cry over and over as I interviewed him about what he'd seen. A woman on the council described how she had bought cake for the children and fed it to them at the hospital when they were being treated later that night. "They ate like monsters," she said to me, showing me with her hands how they frantically shoved the sweet food into their mouths.These Iraqi officials played a critical role in helping the children to the hospital that night and then to get back into the better orphanage. And Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office responded by ordering the arrest of all involved and telling the United States they would investigate.But nothing has been made public about what happened and, in fact, efforts were made to keep the entire incident secret. Our attempt to cover the story was initially shut down from up high, but we were ultimately able to expose what had happened because of support from within the U.S. military.
What I discovered when I visited the unit involved was that the soldiers thought the media was ignoring the story because we're only interested in explosions and firefights and "bad news," an understanding I worked hard to change since I do not believe it is true and have four years of work in this country to support my case. For these soldiers, being able to help Iraqi children and save them from certain death gave meaning to their presence here. It is an example of the good that U.S. soldiers are able to do, without a single shot being fired. It is something to be proud of. Captain Ben Morales is the commander of Bravo Company who was alerted to the crisis by the U.S. military advisors that discovered the boys' bodies during a joint-patrol with the Iraqi Army on a Sunday afternoon. He reacted immediately, sending in a quick reaction force and a team from the civil affairs unit serving with his unit. Before the soldiers left the base, he said he had to prepare them for what they were about to see. And most important of all, he had to remind them of their training and discipline, so they did not bring the name of their unit into disrepute by taking out their anger at those responsible for hurting these boys so badly.
Captain Morales knew the rage they were feeling because he felt it himself. But they did the right thing, he assured me, and handed this over to the Iraqi authorities to deal with as they saw fit. He also told me about one soldier in particular that had been especially good with the children."Lieutenant Smith was amazing," he said, as we poured over photographs that showed Jason Smith brushing some of the children's teeth. He really was very good with the children.When I interviewed Lt. Smith, I found out why: he is trained as a special education teacher. His wife is a special education teacher and her brother is a special needs boy. So when faced with this terrible situation, Lt. Smith was happy to do the things for these boys that he already does at home for his brother-in-law. This quietly strong and gentle young man knew exactly what these boys needed – a human touch. And that is what struck me as I watched the soldiers interacting with the boys at the orphanage. They were desperate for that human touch, just a moment of love and attention. As I was standing there in the crowded room, soldiers and boys and Iraqi social workers all around us, one of the boys came up to me and reached out with both his arms. I leaned over and met his embrace and before I knew it he had lifted his legs off the ground and wrapped them around my waist. As suddenly as he had presented himself before me, he was wrapped in my arms, and I just surrendered. I let him snuggle into my neck, and breathe in the smell of my perfume which he really seemed to like. As I stood there holding him, watching these boys with various levels of disability, some of their wrists scarred by the marks of the roles that held them, I was overcome by how forgiving they were. I had the feeling that anyone could have beaten them with one hand, embraced them with the other, and they would have welcomed the embrace. Here we were only a week later, many with sores not yet healed – and who knew what scars that weren't visible – and they were laughing and playing and doing so much better you could hardly match them with their emaciated photographs. I don't know what trauma they suffered, what lingers. I don't know anything about special needs children. I know that I witnessed something terrible and something remarkable and something that should not be forgotten, should not be hidden. I imagine the Iraqi people will react with anger and shame. Many will blame the United States for bringing this on them, because they brought the war and these leaders and the destruction of the Iraqi society they knew. For many Americans, that will be hard to comprehend, especially since American soldiers carried these boys in their arms and saved their lives. It is one more contradiction in the chaos of Iraq today, a society seeped in blood and betrayal as its people battle for survival and power. But even in the midst of so much human tragedy, the story of these boys stands apart — from the image of a dying boy covered in flies, to a small young man crouching in his crib with a newfound strength, sores healing and skin clean, his soft dark eyes watching the soldiers who saved him as they laugh and joke with the other boys.A hand reaches out and softly, gently touches his crumpled legs. Almost without moving, he withdraws, just slightly. Not ready, it seems, not able to bear a human touch.
By Lara Logan
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