Bringing It All Back Home:
"The American public is odd," Pogue says. "They seem to lack the imagination to know that you can't indiscriminately bomb civilian areas without hurting civilians. I would like people to be confronted with the consequences of what's going on."The Austin Chronicle describes how No More Victims was formed:
The project began with one Iraqi girl Pogue photographed on a bus in a tiny village in March 2000. Her right arm was an amputated stump, and Pogue knew she had been injured in a U.S. air strike. Pogue, who was in Iraq as a member of a Veterans for Peace effort to rebuild a water treatment plant, snapped the girl's picture. For then, that was that.There is more, if you read the article, and more still at www.nomorevictims.org.
Two years later, during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, Cole Miller was looking for photographs to make a poster protesting the war. He contacted Pogue, whose photographs he had seen online. Pogue sent him the picture of the girl. It was perfect. Miller's poster, which read, "Are you willing to kill her to get to Saddam?" was downloaded from his Web site tens of thousands of times, in nine different languages, and used in anti-war demonstrations all over the world. It's not hard to see why. The girl's eyes in the photograph draw you in.
The picture haunted both Pogue and Miller, who became friends. They started to ask each other if it would be possible to learn the girl's name, find her, do something for her. Later that year, Pogue returned to Iraq and, with the help of Iraqi contacts, learned that the girl's name was Asra'a Amir Mizyad, and that she lived in the small village of Abu Floos. He also heard more of her story. Asra'a lost her arm when she was nine, in a 1999 U.S. missile attack that inexplicably targeted her small village as she was walking home from school. Pogue researched military and press accounts of the incident and discovered that the same plane fired another missile that morning, in nearby Basra. Two young brothers, Haider and Mostafa Dinar, were struck by the blast while walking to the candy store. Haider died. Six-year-old Mostafa lived, but his left hand was mangled, and several scraps of shrapnel lodged in his body, including one large piece near his spine that doctors were afraid to remove.
Pogue and Miller contacted the families of Asra'a and Mostafa and began making plans to bring them to the U.S. for medical care. The Iraqi health care system – badly weakened by a decade of U.S. economic sanctions that limited access to basic medical supplies – was struggling to cope with the victims of the latest war. Bandages, painkillers, even bags to hold donated blood were at a premium. There was no prosthetics plant in the country capable of restoring Mostafa's hand or Asra'a's arm. "If their families had been able to get care for them," Pogue says, "there was no care to get." Pogue and Miller started making plans to get U.S. medical visas for Mostafa, Asra'a, and their families.
Meanwhile, the clock was running down as a U.S. invasion of Iraq became more and more of a certainty. In March 2003, Pogue and Miller flew to Amman, Jordan. The timing of the trip was terrible. As the invasion began, the bureaucratic maneuvering required to obtain medical visas to the U.S. became ever more intricate, and the two were running out of money. In the end, Mostafa and his mother were able to fly to Los Angeles where he received surgery to remove the shrapnel from his body, a prosthetic glove to cover his damaged hand, and post-traumatic counseling. Asra'a and her father had to be left behind in Iraq.
It was more than a year before they could return for her. Pogue and Miller flew to Kuwait City in September 2004. They had since received support in the U.S. Congress from Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett and California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who called the embassy to press for visas to be extended to Asra'a and her father, Abdulameir Salman. It took five weeks for the paperwork to come through, but finally Pogue and Miller were able to bring Asra'a and Abdulameir to Houston, where Asra'a would be fitted for a prosthetic arm and taught to use it, pro bono, at the Shriners Hospital for Children.
The funny thing is, back in 1999, when Asra'a lost her arm and No More Victims got started, I was an aspiring cartoonist. I actually made a cartoon about the bombing of Saddam by lame duck President, George Bush (nobody bothered with the H.W. initials, since we never imagined this failed Presidency would ever be duplicated). I'll see if I can find it and post it...