[Last update: 8 August 2002]

The Price

by Carolyn S. Scarr
October 12, 2001

How hard is the choice?
Madam Ambassador, you believe . . .
 you think the price is worth
it.      It.
It    five thousand lives.
Five thousand children every month
 five thousand children under five.

What child is worth the price?
A gallery of pictures
spreads across my computer screen.
Girls and boys, their parents,
living, dead and dying under siege ??
their very water poison.
No repair, no cure can come to them.

In Basra two children run out to play.
Bombs fall from U.S. planes.
Now their mother watches weeping
as neighbors' hands clear away
the fallen bricks and dust and stones
to bring the bodies home.

This "it"   ??  the price  ??
the rising total
reaches five hundred thousand
children under five.
Together with their families now the price
passes one million dead.

What is worth a holocaust?
Who chooses these to die,
 the children of Iraq?

The lessons taught across the world,
down the bloody sweep of empire 
the lesson taught and learned
that life is worth the price
when those who pay are foreign,
different, other, far away
pray to other gods, speak other tongues.
Those lives lie in the scale    are worth the price.

No life is worth the price.
The flowers strewn amidst the guttered candle stumps
fade and die as we mourn our sudden loss.
New York's dead and wounded
join a massive company drawn from around the world.

Side by side we lay the pictures
 which portray our common loss.
Thus we may see repeated
women who hold each other,
watch in grief as a child's dead body
 is dug from bomb blast rubble.

May we learn from Brian ??
his legs cut offbeneath the munitions-bearing train
  on Concord's bloody tracks
whence bombs were shipped
to Salvador, Honduras and to
Nam, where once he fought.

From Brian may we learn
"We are not worth more.
They are not worth less."
(c) 2001 Carolyn S. Scarr

Copyright by Carolyn S. Scarr, Berkeley, California, USA, 2001.
Permission is granted to post this text on non-commercial internet sites, provided it remains intact and the copyright note is displayed.
To publish this text in printed and/or other forms please contact the author at epicalc@earthlink.net.


From the "60 Minutes" segment, "Punishing Saddam" (airdate May 12, 1996):

CBS Reporter Lesley Stahl (speaking of post-war sanctions against Iraq): "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And - and you know, is the price worth it?"

Madeleine Albright (at that time, US Ambassador to the UN): "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it."


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