Recently I once more found myself thinking about what was probably the most shocking moment in the history of television. It was after I stumbled on an article that wraps up the story of the Iraqi youth who was one of the main actors in that event. Here is what I mean.
Ages ago, in elementary school I was told the former Soviet Union had been a very bad place to live in. I was told the regime there had been so rotten it encouraged children to inform on their parents and report them to the authorities, if they suspected their guardians were plotting against the state. The authorities would praise the children for having done so in the press and handed them trinkets as a recognition for a job well done. Certainly I thought then, and since then, that any authority which engaged in something like that must had been beyond contempt and redemption.
Scroll forward to 2005 or 2006. I am seated in front of the TV set, flipping channels. There’s Oprah Winfrey Show — normally I would keep on going, but something makes me hesitate. There’s Oprah’s best therapist voice, and there are people in camo seated on her couch. This could be Iraq-related, which means I’m definitely interested.*
The TV has my undivided attention as Oprah ask a Middle Eastern-looking boy sitting next to the soldiers: “And when did you realize your father was involved with some very bad people?” I grow momentarily uneasy, and as I continue to follow the conversation I find myself sitting in disbelief, completely at a loss to assimilate what my ears are undoubtedly hearing. They are praising a boy for turning in his father to the occupational authorities, in the clear sight of hundreds of millions of people the world over. Have they gone completely mad??
Long story short, a 14-year old Iraqi youth, Jamil, sought out American troops and informed them on his father’s role in the Iraqi resistance. By his own claims his father was abusive, and reading between the lines it seems likely this was the reason he turned him in to his enemies. This led to the arrest of Jamil’s father by the Americans, and soon thereafter the murder of his mother and sister by vindicative guerrillas, after his father — having learned it was his own son who had turned him in — broke under interrogation and gave up the names of the people he had been fighting with.