Forum: Dying Over Something That Never Was
The weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad on August 19 were a cement truck, explosives and a driver ready to die. It was obvious that if Iraq had these other weapons, nuclear bombs or germs in bombs,
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Nadia Younes worked as a press aide and protocol expert for the World Health Organization and the United Nations before signing on as chief of staff for Sergia Vieira de Mello, the UN special representative in Baghdad. A native of Cairo, she held degrees in political science and English literature, and was known for her sharp wit.
Iwaited while Fred Eckhard spoke on the phone in his office at the United Nations Wednesday. "She wasn''t supposed to be there," he was saying. "She was invited into the meeting. We haven''t heard. She isn''t on any hospital list. We suspect she''s buried in the rubble. The newspaper has her listed as dead. We don''t know that. Oh? Yes, they thought they saw her on television in France. Thought that was Nadia. Then they saw it again and it wasn''t. She wasn''t supposed to be at the meeting."
Eckhard is the spokesman for Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general. He was talking about Nadia Younes, who was the chief of staff for Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations administrator in Baghdad.
The meeting in Baghdad was about land mines. As de Mello and Nadia Younes sat in the room, a cement truck drove up to the building and the driver, the truck, the meeting blew up.
Nadia and de Mello wanted to live and the Arab truck driver did not.
The weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad on Tuesday, August 19 were a cement truck, explosives and a driver ready to die. It was obvious that if Iraq had these other weapons, nuclear bombs or germs in bombs, they would have used them, just like the truck. They never had them. We started a war over something that never was.
America wanted no part of these United Nations laggards. Now, we have Nadia Younes and Sergio Vieira de Mello dead on duty on the battlefield America started.
Once, Nadia had been here in the UN building as the spokeswoman, in an office with the same summer sun that now splashed Eckhard''s office. The bulletin the other day showed meetings about living: on the laws of the sea, the children''s fund, on knowledge systems for development, a convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. Downstairs, the first tourists were lining up to start their trip around the halls and meeting rooms. They were in summer tourist clothes, bright polo shirts and shorts, the children in T-shirts.
Outside, a fountain''s rain sounded across the lawns. The river surface was covered with widespread fires of sunlight. The traffic in front of the U.N. was of rush-hour size, but the sparkling day caused the loudest truck noise to lose its pain. Across the street, on television, one of the American officials in Baghdad said that this bombing that killed so many was a good thing because it crystallized the Iraqi opposition to the few terrorists who want to thwart the establishment of democracy. That was truly a marvelous statement. But this is only as preposterous as virtually everything said by the rest of the government.
The day after the bombing in Iraq, I read some of George Bush''s interview with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. The reason you haven''t read it is that it was around on a day in Washington when so many newspeople are on vacation that a congressman could commit homicide and not make the news. Bush gave this interview last Thursday at 1:55 p.m. Pacific Coast time. At this moment, a blackout was just slapping 50 million Americans. Bush would finally talk about the blackout five hours later. He called the blackout a "wake up call." Sensational. You might read it as a requisite for citizenship.
The interview went like this:
Q. One final question, Mr. President. The families of America''s fighting forces, they make huge sacrifices in the name of freedom, just like the service members. You touched on it earlier. You touched on it in your speech today. For months at a time, they give up their service members, they don''t know where they are, they don''t hear from them; they don''t know if they''re safe; they don''t know if they''re dead or alive. What message do you have for these families today?
Bush: Well my messages is that what your loved one is doing is the right thing for the country. We are called upon to defend the United States of America. I take that oath, and every soldier takes that oath. And on 9/11 our world changed and we realized the country was vulnerable and we better do something about it. And the best way to secure the homeland is to get the enemy before he gets us. At least that''s my attitude. And so I -- first of all, the commitment that their loved ones have made, the families of the service members have made, is in line with this business about winning and fighting war. Every person is a volunteer in our military. They''ve chosen to defend the United States of Amerca. And therefore they need to get the best -- if that''s their attitude, and they made up their mind that''s what they want to do, then my job is to get them the best equipment, the best pay, the best training possible, so if we ever have to send them in, they''ll be able to do the job."
The true world gets on without this sort of wandering, delusional language.
At about 5 o''clock, at the UN late Wednesday afternoon, a man from the security office walked into Eckhard''s office and said that Nadia Younes was dead. At the moment, she should have been looking out at the sunset over the great city instead of being dead in the rubble in Baghdad.
JimmyBreslin is a columnist for New York''s Newsday and the author of numerous books, including American Lives: The Stories of the Men and Women Lost on September 11 and The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez.