founder of No More Victims, a grassroots organization dedicated to assisting Iraqi children injured in the war.
No More Victims is a grassroots organization dedicated to assisting Iraqi children injured in U.S. attacks. We speak with the group’s founder, Cole Miller. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: In Iraq, three Iraqi civilians, including a journalist, were wounded Thursday when guards from the private British security company Erinys opened fire on a taxi near the city of Kirkuk. The British company is in Iraq under a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Injured in the attack was a female journalist who worked at the Kurdish TV station Zagros.
Well, today we’re going to closely look at the issue of civilian casualties in Iraq. We will be joined in our study by a 10-year-old Iraqi girl named to Salee Allawee. Last year, she lost both of her legs in a U.S. air strike. The same attack killed her 13-year-old brother and her best friend. Salee’s sister was also injured.
Unlike most Iraqis injured since the U.S. invasion, Salee has been given a rare opportunity to travel to the United States for medical care. Today, she is learning how to walk again, thanks to the organization No More Victims. The group brought her here last December to receive a pair of prosthetic legs.
Salee will join us in studio in a few minutes with her father, but first we turn to Cole Miller, founder of No More Victims, who brought her to the United States. How did you learn about Salee’s story, Cole, and how did you get her here?
COLE MILLER: Well, I first learned about Salee when a man by the name of Maki Al-Nazzal got in touch with me from Fallujah and said there’s a little girl — I was actually working then to bring another child to Boston, who is there getting treatment now, little Omar. And he got in touch with me and said there’s a little girl, and her legs are cut, and she’s in an abandoned building without heat with her family, and she’s shivering, and she needs an emergency operation in Sulaimaniya; can we help? And so, I sent a little bit of money and said, "Of course, we can help." We sent a little bit of money, and she got heating oil and blankets and then was evacuated to Sulaimaniya, where she had that operation. So that’s how I learned about her.
In terms of getting her to the United States, the way that I work — we want to provide people of conscience in the United States with ways of taking direct independent action to help victims of this war. And I got an email a couple of years ago from a woman named Ann Cothran in South Carolina, and she said she wanted to bring a child to South Carolina. And so, I took the medical report, and I sent it to her, and she went to Shriners Hospital in Greenville, the most conservative city in probably the most conservative state in the nation. And they said, "Sure, we’d be happy to help this girl." And once I had the letter promising pro bono treatment, I just put into place the procedures to get her here.
So we arrived on July the 8th. The entire community of Greenville really reached out to her. And the people there got a lesson in what it means to bomb civilian areas. And what was shocking was so many people in South Carolina seemed to be simply unaware that children were being hurt in Iraq. And that’s, of course, a pretty profound criticism of the mainstream media.
AMY GOODMAN: You are taking this all over the country.
COLE MILLER: Yes, all over the country. We have three basic ways of working. And the premise is, if you are opposed to what’s happening, find one person who’s been hurt, and do everything in your power to help them, and much will flow from that.
The three ways that we work — first, we evacuate children who can benefit from medical treatment in the United States unavailable in Iraq and benefit significantly from treatment here. And then we set up these projects working with communities in the United States.
Another way we work is we deliver medical supplies directly to clinics and hospitals. You know, the Oxfam report said 80 percent, I believe it was, of Iraq’s hospitals are without the most basic supplies. So that’s another way that we work.
A third way, and a very exciting way, that we work is we set up advocacy projects, where we connect a high school group or a college group or a community group, church group, with individual children whose injuries are beyond medical remedy, but who are still not getting their needs met in Iraq. And it works particularly well in high schools and in colleges. They put together a project. I connect them with a photograph, a medical report and facts about what happened to the child. And then their job is to, you know, seek all the information they can — I help to facilitate that — to find out what kind of services are available to the child, the date and time of the attack, the number of civilians killed, so they can begin gathering the information themselves. Then they put together a needs assessment. And on the basis of that needs assessment, they go to work to help the child. So they identify the child’s most pressing needs, and then they have bake sales or car washes to raise money.
Now, a group in Boston, a group of high school students, while I was in Amman to get Omar out, sent me an email saying that they had raised $1,200 for a little girl named Shaymaa. Now, Shaymaa is from Fallujah, and in the April siege, there was a horrific attack where 31 people were killed, including 17 children. She was only six months old at the time. And a shrapnel is buried in her spine. It permanently paralyzed her from the waist down, and there’s no medical remedy. So these kids found out about her, sent her a letter. We had it translated and sent to her. Then we received back responses from her grandfather, who is her caretaker now, and they decided that the thing she most needed was a wheelchair, which was not available to her in Fallujah. And so, I got from the Al-Hussein Society in Jordan — they actually gave me a wheelchair, and I made a $150 donation, and we shipped that wheelchair to Shaymaa. So there’s a picture at the website, which is www.nomorevictims.org. There’s a picture of the high school group and Shaymaa sitting in the wheelchair that they got for her.
AMY GOODMAN: And the other high school kids around the country who are involved with your whole project?
COLE MILLER: Yes, from San Diego to Orange — there’s a group that looks like it’s forming in Seattle. Boston College has become involved. It looks like there’s a project at Northeastern. We’re probably going to put it together, another advocacy project, in South Carolina. There’s one in Florida. They’re basically going all over the country. And this is — bringing a child here is obviously very heavy lifting on the part of a lot of people, and we’re going to continue to do that where it’s indicating where we can put the setup together. But this can reach out really broadly. Every community in the United States could do this. You know, just connect yourself with a child, find out what happened to that child, and then advocate for that child.
And what I would love to do, what I would love to do at some juncture, is to get a bunch of these kids together who have been working to help and take them to Washington, and they’ll go in with a photograph and a medical report and facts about what happened, and they can meet with their senators and congressmen and say, "Here’s what we’re doing to try to help this child. How is it that this child, after we have hurt this child, cannot get help in Iraq?"
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go right now to Salee, to the 10-year-old girl.
COLE MILLER: She’s a lovely child.
AMY GOODMAN: Cole Miller, I want to thank you for being with us. No More Victims is the organization that Cole has founded, nomorevictims.org.