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Wednesday, December 06, 2006


James Kim: One more hidden victim of the "war on terror"

The story of the Kim family sadly ended in tragedy today when the body of James Kim was found dead. The Kim family was stuck in a snowbank on a remote road in Oregon for nearly two weeks; after more than a week of not being found, James Kim had set out on foot to try to find help. And when the rest of his family was located in their car, alive, it was by a helicopter hired privately by his family, not by any government agency. Government agencies were, after too long of a delay, searching for the missing family, but more than a thousand of those who could have -- should have -- been searching for the family were not - members of the Oregon National Guard. More than 800 of them are in Afghanistan right now, with some unknown other number in Iraq. A thousand people who signed up for the National Guard to safeguard the lives of their neighbors, only to see one of their neighbors die while they were off fighting the so-called "war on terror."

Would James Kim have been found alive if a thousand more people had been searching for him? Of course there are no guarantees, but obviously it's a lot more likely. More helicopters searching for him would certainly have helped, but we know where the U.S. has its helicopters deployed - killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Did the Kim family make a mistake trying to drive across snow-covered mountains in winter? Obviously. Did some of the people in New Orleans who failed to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina (I'm referring to the ones who were able to do so) make a mistake? Sure they did. But one role of government should be to do its best to make sure when people make mistakes, mistakes any one of us could make, that they don't turn out to be fatal ones. But a government which is starved of funds in the first place, and one of whose components, the National Guard, is out of the country instead of available to help their fellow citizens, is less and less able to do that.

One more note about James Kim. Across the U.S., people have been gripped by this story, and are feeling horrible for the tragedy which befell him. No doubt that goes ten-fold for his family and the people who knew him. While grieving for the Kim family, take time to remember that the same story of family tragedy has been repeated a thousand-fold in Palestine and Afghanistan, a hundred thousand-fold in Iraq, and indeed a thousand-fold here in the U.S. as well. Every one of those people, killed by direct or indirect U.S. aggression, had family and friends. Every one of them has a story to tell, and we are only privy to few if any of them. But all of them, while they might not have the drama of the story of the Kim family, are just as tragic.

Update: I just learned that both discoveries - the original discovery of the wife and children and the subsequent discovery of the dead husband - were made by helicopters chartered by their family. That's not to say that public personnel weren't involved in the search, but it emphasizes all the more how the potentially much larger resources that should be available through the government were sorely lacking, and could well have prevented a tragic death.

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