The Iraq Orphanage Story–Does NBC Have a Moral Obligation to Help These Girls?

Ten days ago I praised Richard Engel’s beautiful and amazing story on NBC Nightly News about a Baghdad orphanage for girls whose parents had died because of the war we started. I was hardly alone. Last night Brian Williams said that the network had been overwhelmed by emails and calls about the story. The network then did something great: it reaired the story.

You will see that it has top billing on the NBC website. Here the headline is “How to Help Iraq’s Orphans.” NBC then suggests that viewers give money to Unicef, No More Victims, and two other nonprofit groups.

I don’t think that’s enough. By twice doing this story, for the edification and diversion of Americans in their kitchens, NBC has established a special connection that it should honor—a connection not to a generic group of Iraq orphans, but to these 56 girls. On last night’s report, Engel said that masked men had lately come to the door of the orphanage. He showed the girls cowering in a back room. Will these girls now be a special focus of terrorism? The thought is almost too horrible to consider, but it should be on NBC’s mind. What threat has this tearjerker exposed these girls to? What threat does life in Baghdad—a life far outside NBC’s bunkered bureau and flakjackets—expose them to?

Last night, Williams said that adoption by Americans was impossible. But there is an obvious answer. These girls should be evacuated. NBC should take steps to achieve that, even if that means getting them into the NBC bunker. My best guess is that evacuation means Syria, where in January I saw some of the hundreds of thousands of former neighbors who were now living peaceful lives. And my wife’s cousin, who teaches in Damascus, told of teaching Iraqi refugees, some the victims of kidnaping.