Thursday, September 25, 2003

A first class docco on Channel 4 this evening -- The Tale of Two Alis.

It contrasted the well documented story of Ali Abbas, who lost both his arms in a coalition bombing raid, with that of Ali Hussein, who suffered severe facial injuries because of American bombs but whose story didn't make international headlines.

The programme could well have been re-named "When Good Intentions Go Bad." It was an at times sordid account of what happens when a personal tragedy is blown into a worldwide cause celebre. Once Ali Abbas's story received international publicity his surgeon became his media minder, negotiating lucrative charity sponsorships and deals with broadcasters.

As toys, money and offers of help flooded in for Ali Abbas at his hospital in Kuwait, his young friend Ali Hussein -- undergoing treatment in the next ward -- suffered in obscurity. As one interviewee said in the programme, "there are hundreds of Ali Abbasses."

The final scenes of the documentary showed Ali Abbas heading to Britain, amid a frenzy of media interest, for prosthetic treatment at Roehampton Hospital. Ali Hussein, meanwhile, returned to his village in Iraq -- disfigured, traumatised and facing an uncertain future.


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