| Ali Ismaeel Abbas
Baghdad, April 13: Doctors treating Ali Ismaeel Abbas, the Iraqi boy who has become the symbol of civilian suffering in the war, say it would be a mercy if he dies because his wounds are so severe.
An international campaign has been launched to raise money for Ali, who is likely to die within days if he does not receive specialist treatment, which is only available overseas.
Yesterday, however, Dr Hussein al-Atabi, his hospital paediatrician, told The Daily Telegraph: “To be honest, it is probably better if he dies. I don’t want it, but that’s the awful truth. He has no arms and terrible burns. His physical suffering is enormous and the psychological damage will be immense.”
Ali Ismaeel Abbas, 12, lies in Baghdad hospital. The 12-year-old lost both his arms and suffered third-degree burns across much of his torso in a coalition missile attack on a Baghdad suburb that killed his pregnant mother, father, brother and six other relatives.
“Why' Why did this happen to me'” asks Ali, who once dreamed of serving as an army officer but now wants to train as a doctor. “Can they get me new arms' Why did they kill my mother and father'” Ali is nursed and comforted at his bedside by Sister Salima. “I tell him to be strong, not to be afraid, that I am with him now,” she says.
She bends over to kiss his forehead and then, weeping, puts her lips to the bandages where his arms once were. “You said this war was about freedom, but instead you gave us death and suffering. Where is the freedom for Ali'” she asks me.
Sister Salima sobs again. “Don’t worry, Ali. I am here for you now,” she tells him.
Ali groans constantly from the pain, a wad of white bandages covering the stumps of his amputated arms.
Cream is smeared across the horrific burns that blister his chest and stomach.
He lies on a dirty bed in a squalid children’s ward in Saddam City, a sprawling, Shia slum quarter of Baghdad. The unhygienic surroundings are his greatest threat, his wounds leaving him susceptible to lethal septicaemia.
Dr al-Atabi said: “We are treating him with the most advanced antibiotics we have. But he needs a specialist burns centre and there is nothing like that here now.”
Ali was first treated in the city’s al-Kindi hospital, but that was looted in an orgy of lawlessness after American troops captured the city. In Saddam City, volunteer guards with Kalashnikovs strung across their shoulders patrol the grounds and man the gates to prevent the looters striking there, too.