selective martyrdom: we never hear the names of people killed by the u.s. military

June 9, 2017

The innocent people who die in the Middle East as a result of US-backed military strikes leave behind identities that are hardly parsed by the American press. We know of them generally as civilians, casualties, victims, and collateral damage, but they’re barely recognized as fully realized human beings who lead meaningful lives.

These are the names we’ll never know.

Those who’ve lost their lives due to asymmetrical warfare. Those who’ve learned right before dying that asymmetrical warfare is terrorism too. Those who’ve been yanked out of the lives of other unknown and uncovered individuals who hold their names in their hearts with grief.

We collectively gloss over their deaths and the destruction of their homes when our government is to blame for their devastation. But, when pedestrians of the Western world and the dominant society die in isolated terror attacks, their names are echoed, their personhood is amplified, and their legacy is enshrined in martyrdom.

By Dante Clark, AFROPUNK contributor

America, Europe, and the dominant society at large have the privilege of granting martyrdom because they control the narratives of lionized victimhood and forsaken identities. They control the narratives of those who are exalted after death due to isolated extremism and those who are forgotten after death due to state-sanctioned terrorism.
Civilians of Iraq aren’t granted the privilege to be martyrs after death.
Civilians of Syria aren’t granted the privilege to be martyrs after death.
The Arab world as a whole is often denied the ability to mourn their loved ones the way the Western world does after terror attacks occur on their respective lands.
Since Operation Inherent Resolve for military intervention against ISIL began in 2014, thousands of Iraqi and Syrian civilians have lost their lives due to American-led airstrikes. These people aren’t remembered the same as those who recently fell victim to terrorism in Manchester are remembered. They’re not remembered the same as those who fell victim to terrorism at the offices of Charlie Hebdo are remembered. They’re not remembered the same as those who fell victim to terrorism on 9/11 are remembered. These people are simply treated as unaccounted mementos for the justification of constant peril by a coalition of flawed foreign and domestic military forces.
Deaths by way of isolated terror attacks or by sloppily executed military operations are both morbidly inhumane. Either way, innocent people are constantly dying because of politicized power struggles and maniacal efforts to stoke fear amongst the general public. It’s important to remember the humanity of those affected by warfare and destruction from abroad because their lives are just as fragile and precious as ours. You may not see their faces on the nightly news, you may not read a hashtagged slogan that echoes their loss, but our counterparts in the Arab world are more than deserving of recognition and remembrance, especially as our country continues to shepherd their nations into absolute ruin.


A Syrian boy is comforted as he cries next to the body of a relative who died in a reported airstrike in the northern city of Aleppo. Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

*Dante Clark is a southpaw scribe from the South Bronx. You can follow them on Twitter @brotherdante