Interview with Cole Miller, who is the founding director of NO MORE VICTIMS
EXCERPT: (No More Victims encourages independent offshoots similar to their work. The first is this one): Healing Children of Conflict, in Grand Rapids, Mich., a boy whose leg was blown off by a U.S. bomb just arrived there last week....it's replicated completely based on our model, for the first time...the middle class is being destroyed in this country [the United States] before our very eyes. Now they’re going after Medicare; they’re going after Medicaid; they’re going after Social Security. We are being victimized by this war system as well, in a little bit different way. Now, that model—help the victims and tell the story—could be applied domestically as well as internationally. So let’s just take one instance. Supposing you have a veteran who’s come back and who discovers that there are no jobs for him, or that he’s lost his job. And that a corrupt bank is going to foreclose on his home. So he and his family are about to be evicted from that home. What would happen if some vets who are opposed to the war realize they were duped into it, got together and said, we’re going to get together with some other just everyday citizens who are of like mind, and we’re going to put our bodies between the people who are coming to foreclose on this veteran’s home, and the people who come to take it away from him. Now, if hovering in the background is some phony paperwork, you know, is some fraud on the part of the bankers, so much the better. But that kind of initiative, where you intervene to help the victim and you tell the story—I mean, I think you could get coverage for that in the mainstream media here.
Here's the full interview via transcript:
Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio. I’m Peter Scheer in studio with Josh Scheer and Cole Miller, who is the founding director of No More Victims, a grass-roots organization that connects American communities with war-injured Iraqi children and their families. Thanks for joining us.
Cole Miller: Thanks for having me.
Peter Scheer: And I should say, we spoke earlier about a rather dark vision of how human rights groups are exploited in the pursuit of war. And we’re now moving to a more positive vision of how human rights groups try to address some of the tragedies of war. Can you just sort of sum up what your organization does?
Cole Miller: Well, what we’ve done for the last—well, actually, since 2002, is identify children who are injured by U.S. forces—that’s an important element; by U.S. forces—and then we connect their medical reports with communities in the United States that have expressed an interest in organizing medical relief for those kids. Then we work to evacuate the children, bring them to the United States, where they get medical care that is unavailable to them in Iraq. And of course, things are changing; it’s changed a lot since we started, back before the invasion. But it’s still an urgent, urgent need that the Iraqi people have in the face of what we’ve done to their country. And so I—we encourage people to become involved.
Peter Scheer: How difficult is it to get people here? I mean, I guess it’s—I would guess it’s expensive and difficult to deal with visas, and that kind of thing.
Cole Miller: Well, it’s expensive; it’s less expensive now than it was previously, because there were no consular services in Iraq, so people couldn’t go to the U.S. Embassy, for example, in Iraq and get visas; now they can. So we would have to evacuate them to a third country—usually Jordan, once Kuwait—and then bring them to the United States. It is expensive; it’s time-consuming; it takes a lot of dedication. But the benefits are that children—let me just tell you a little story about, you know…
Peter Scheer: Sure.
Cole Miller: … your father was mentioning that he wanted this story told. That there’s a little boy named Mustafa Abed. And on November 3rd, 2004, one day before our election, in softening up bombing in Fallujah, he was hit and he lost about a quarter of his body. He was about 2 years old at the time; blew off his leg, his hip, most of his pelvis. And when they walked into the hospital with him, one person was carrying a bundle of his intestines in a blanket, and another person was carrying the boy’s body. And they were walking as close together as they could. Now, they thought that the boy had no chance of survival. But miraculously, they managed to save his life.
Over the course of the intervening period before we got to him he had, also, nerve damage that caused him to develop kidney stones and bladder stones. And when we got him here, he had a bladder stone the size of a large egg. Now, a kidney stone—a tiny kidney stone will put a linebacker on his back screaming in agony. This kid, for four years, had to endure incredibly intense pain, periodic pain, ALL THE TIME. You know? Until we got him here.
We got him here; he had to receive emergency medical treatment up in Portland, Ore.; they had to remove one of his kidneys, which failed; they managed to save his other kidney; and he has been pain-free ever since. And he’s learning how to walk on a prosthetic. But if you think about the magnitude of what was done to that boy, first we go in and we blow a quarter of his body off. And then, in the intervening four years, nobody provided for that child. Not the Iraqi government; not the American military; not the American authorities. Nobody provided for that child. So he had to suffer that agony for those four years, and would have died in agony had it not been for the concern and generosity of that community in Portland. So that’s just one of the kids. And you know, you ask yourself how many thousands of children are there out there in just that situation? How many thousands have been left to die in excruciating pain, when just—you know—OK, let’s say that the damage is done, the bomb’s been dropped, the kid’s been hurt. Then you might try to alleviate that suffering by intervening, medically. Didn’t happen.
Peter Scheer: Well, so, how do you find the communities? Who are the people who are providing this care? And how do you find, I guess, the people that you are trying to help, at the same time?
Cole Miller: Well, it’s all grass roots. So basically, we put together a couple of demonstration projects to show that people in ordinary circumstances could do it. And then I knew there would be news reports, because we do pretty aggressive media outreach, and we have been able to successfully penetrate quite a bit of mainstream media with these stories. And we knew that people would see it, and like-minded people would get in touch with us. At least, that was my assumption, and that’s exactly what happened. So a community gets in touch with us, expresses an interest in putting together a project, and we assist them in doing it. Now we’re—we’ve moved into phase 3, and it’s kind of an exciting time for us, because I always envisioned this as something where we put together demonstration projects, then we hook up with communities, with like-minded people and we bring children here and get those stories told. Because the basic premise is, if you object, help the victims and tell the story, and a lot will come from that. But I always thought that we would help communities to do that. And then at a certain stage, we would help communities to form it independently—use it as a model. In other words, do it themselves, raise the money themselves. And the first group, Healing Children of Conflict, in Grand Rapids, Mich., a boy whose leg was blown off by a U.S. bomb just arrived there last week.
Peter Scheer: Oh, good.
Cole Miller: So that after all of these years, we have our first—it’s been replicated completely based on our model, for the first time. Now, I … just want to say, really quickly, that we’re in the cross hairs as well. It’s not just the Iraqi people, you know—although they’ve been made to suffer savagely, obviously, things that we can’t even imagine. But the middle class is being destroyed in this country [the United States] before our very eyes. Now they’re going after Medicare; they’re going after Medicaid; they’re going after Social Security. We are being victimized by this war system as well, in a little bit different way. Now, that model—if you object, help the victims and tell the story—could be applied domestically as well as internationally. So let’s just take one instance. Supposing you have a veteran who’s come back and who discovers that there are no jobs for him, or that he’s lost his job. And that a corrupt bank is going to foreclose on his home. So he and his family are about to be evicted from that home. What would happen if some vets who are opposed to the war realize they were duped into it, got together and said, we’re going to get together with some other just everyday citizens who are of like mind, and we’re going to put our bodies between the people who are coming to foreclose on this veteran’s home, and the people who come to take it away from him. Now, if hovering in the background is some phony paperwork, you know, is some fraud on the part of the bankers, so much the better. But that kind of initiative, where you intervene to help the victim and you tell the story—I mean, I think you could get coverage for that in the mainstream media here.
Peter Scheer: We’re speaking in studio with Cole Miller, who is the founding director of No More Victims, a grass-roots organization that connects American communities with war-injured Iraqi children and their families, and is …
Josh Scheer: … I just want to say, very quickly, part of that is that you can go to NoMoreVictims.org to find out more. And also you’re selling a book too, right, that one of your volunteers wrote, for …?
Cole Miller: It’s “The Lioness, the Rich and the Humvee.”
Josh Scheer: … yeah, the Humvee.
Peter Scheer: There we go.
Cole Miller: This wonderful woman, Beth DeLap, wrote that book after meeting one of the children—Russell, who’s the sister of Sally, who you can see in the Mother’s Day video at the site. That little girl—we brought, we then brought her sister, and Beth DeLap met her and brought her over. So yes, people can purchase copies of the book there; it’d be helpful to us. She’s donated all of the proceeds to help us with No More Victims work.
Josh Scheer: And—one quick question. You’ve been doing this, sadly, for nine years. I say sadly, obviously, for obvious reasons. How many children like the ones we’ve been discussing—how many have you met? How many have you helped, and then how many …
Cole Miller: Well, we’ve helped … (an) incalculable number. And it’s really hard to get good information about the number of wounded. They—you know, we don’t do body counts; it—what is it, how many hundreds of thousands, is it a million, is it a million and a half; we don’t know. You know? And if you ask—like it’s, the mean estimate of the number of people that the United States killed in Vietnam is a hundred thousand. Well, we know it’s somewhere between 2 or 3 million … so it’s always much larger. It’s always much larger. But we have brought 10 children to the United States. They’ve been treated from coast to coast. We’ve brought a couple of the children multiple times; Sally was just here for her third trip to get prosthetic legs this year …
Peter Scheer: And this is all grass roots. This is all …
Cole Miller: This is all grass roots. And, you know, we’re in a privileged position, but see, that’s … it’s much, much harder to do now. I mean, since Obama got elected, he was the progressive’s hope, it was pretty obvious to me that he wasn’t going to end any wars. But people thought that he was going to, and then kind of went to sleep. And with the—that combined with the economic implosion has made it really, really difficult to put these together. We managed to meet all of our obligations to all the kids who were already in process. Now it’s beginning to pick up a little bit again, as people realize that this war system is not going to end simply because we have a smiley face in the White House that can pretend to be a progressive. So I think things are going to pick up, and I really do hope that people will think about ways that they can apply this model domestically. Because, you know, what does solidarity really mean? You know, what does mutual aid really mean? Unless we’re getting out there. And if you do assist somebody who’s being victimized by this system, and tell the story, it can pack a punch. And the other people out there who are frightened of losing their jobs, or who have just lost their jobs, they’re going to be in a lot of need. So the question then becomes, how do we within local communities actually create genuine community, where we look out for each other and we assist each other? And where we actually defy and point an accusing finger at the people who are taking advantage. The people in privileged positions who want to squeeze every last drop of sweat and blood out of the public that they can. And I think …
Peter Scheer: And actually do something about it, actually …
Cole Miller: … and actually do something about it …
Peter Scheer: … not just complain, not just, you know, write a blog post about it, but actually get—help someone, and then get the story out. I think this is a great model.
Josh Scheer: Well, yeah, I’d love to get more foundation support, you know. The problem is that a lot of these—not just human rights groups, but all these groups, is that they—you get these, you know, big foundation checks and everything else, and you know, a lot of these foundations could do probably a lot more for smaller human rights groups that are doing grass-roots stuff, right?
Peter Scheer: But what’s so great about this is … you’re connecting people. You’re not just—you know, it’s not institutional; it’s not, like he’s saying, bogged down in this stuff. But it sounds like you could use some help.
Cole Miller: Well, no, we definitely could use some help. Now, we focus on children who have been hurt by U.S. forces. And for that, I think for a lot of corporate money and probably foundation money too, that’s going to be a bit of a problem. We haven’t had anybody step forward and offer, you know, that kind of assistance to us. We did have an interesting experience with CNN. We went over to—it was a long, you know, all of these projects take a good long while, especially earlier on when it was so hard to move people around in Iraq and get people into other countries. But there was a little boy who was traveling with his family from Mosul to Baghdad to be with the family for Eid. And they passed an American convoy; the convoy opened fire on the car; the mother was burned to death, the boy was burned really terribly, the father was shot a couple of times. We brought that little boy to the United States for medical care, and he was treated in Boston. And at that time, we had two contacts on the inside at CNN, two senior producers, segment producers. One in New York and one in Los Angeles. The one in Los Angeles had already done a couple of segments based on, you know, about No More Victims and its work. And so they were pitching on the inside, and could get no takers. And they were very eager to tell the story, but they just could not get any takers. About a month and a half later, you saw the story of a boy named Youssef—who of course deserved assistance—but he was hurt by bad guys.
Peter Scheer: Oh …
Cole Miller: So, suddenly, he’s all over CNN.
Peter Scheer: That’s terrible.
Cole Miller: And they’re running, you know, and … they’re fundraising … et cetera, et cetera, which I don’t begrudge; I think that that’s fine. But look what happens if that’s the story, and that’s the story that CNN and the mainstream wants to tell. It’s a story about why we have to stay there. To protect these poor Iraqi children from these monsters, right?
Peter Scheer: Right.
Cole Miller: When, if you just telescope out a little bit and look at it, we’re the monsters. Why did those guys hurt that kid Youssef? Because we initiated a war of aggression. We created the circumstances … within which that sectarian strife took off. You know. And so you’re never going to get an explanation about that. I mean, every—Youssef as well—we’re responsible for them. That’s the amazing thing. We’re responsible for all the harms that are being suffered by these kids, because we initiated the war that created the circumstances that created the injury.
Josh Scheer: You have a YouTube channel where you can see a lot of these videos.
Cole Miller: Yeah, we have a YouTube channel. I just started it about last year, and haven’t pushed it at all. Bu t…
Josh Scheer: Push it here, push it here.
Cole Miller: … you type in NoMoreVictims—with no spaces or anything—and it will pull up that station.
Josh Scheer: OK. Great. And it’s—it’s pretty, I mean, heart-wrenching stuff.
Cole Miller: Yeah, and we’re … going to be posting more of it; you know, there’s a lot; we have a backlog of stuff that we’re getting together, and we’re going to put it out there.
Josh Scheer: OK, great. Thank you.
Peter Scheer: Thanks for being with us.
Cole Miller: Thank you.
Peter Scheer: Cole Miller is the founding director of No More Victims, a grass-roots organization that connects American communities with war-injured Iraqi children and their families. Find out more at NoMoreVictims.org.
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