Editorial: No name

IssueJuly - August 2008
Comment by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

There were many acts of remembrance around the country when the hundredth British soldier was killed in Afghanistan, names of the dead were read out. The occasion highlighted the enormous importance of Iraq Body Count’s work in collecting the names of non combatants killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. There are in contrast so few names of Afghans killed, there is no one doing an Afghan body count. Uncounted Afghan’s have lost their lives, and without their names who knows if they ever existed?
It is apparent that we are fighting a memory war with our government. It has the resources of the state to pour into memorials to soldiers, the public is given their wedding photos over breakfast, the public is taken into the human realms of those soldiers lives.
And indeed we should know about the lives lost as a result of Britain’s foreign policy, it is right that we should know about the lives of the victims of the London Bombings this July. But our government also has the resources to document its foreign victims in Afghanistan and quite deliberately chooses not to. To humanise the war machine is one of its last propaganda weapons against the British public. And to eradicate the identities of the individuals that make up the populations opposed to this savage foreign policy is to dehumanize them.
We recall an item on Afghanistan in Voices in the Wilderness’ winter newsletter and understand that the nature of war is to let the names of the enemy, even the tiny ones, drift into oblivion: One man called Nabi Jan told the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, “At two in the morning on Sunday, foreign troops [British] entered my house and shot my children in their cradles. I collected their scattered brains with my own hands.”
In the light of so many wars since 1945 it is remarkable that the spirits of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still publicly commemorated in parks and churches across this country, (look on p16 for events). To keep alive a memory is a powerful act of resistance. Writing the names of the dead on a pavement saves them from obliteration, even if only until morning comes.
The concern for the unknown and unnamed also drives the movement to address climate change. We have not only a responsibility towards the past but also to the yet to be named people of the future. As the Drax train action highlights we have a responsibility towards the victims of our society’s fossil fuel habits in the lowlands of Bangladesh and the highlands of the Andes as much as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The ongoing actions of people all over Britain against war and environmental destruction ensures that compassion and wonderful intelligence and creativity shapes the unfolding future, just as much as indifference and fear.

Topics: Iraq, Afghanistan
See more of: Editorial