Number of victims speaks symphonies on Music Day

Music can uplift, inform and convey emotions in a way nothing else can. On Friday, music will be used to do something else: Remember.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation has declared Oct. 10 Music Day in honor of Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and killed by Islamic extremists in Pakistan a year and a half ago.

Pearl was an accomplished violinist, fiddler and mandolin player who supported the performance arts in every place he lived. For this reason, Pearl’s family and friends want music to be played on what would have been his 40th birthday. More than 200 musical events will take place in more than 30 countries from Oct. 7-19 as part of Music Day. Thousands are expected to gather for the festivities in an effort to resist hatred and celebrate common humanity.

Music Day should also be seen as an opportunity to look back on the events that have occurred since Pearl was murdered. By Jan. 23, 2002, the day Pearl was abducted while trying to interview a Pakistani terrorist group that might have had connections to shoe bomber Richard Reid, the war in Afghanistan had officially ended. But the hard work of rebuilding that nation had only begun. The World Bank estimated Afghanistan would need between $16 billion and $45 billion to rebuild over the next decade.

Pearl’s kidnappers originally demanded the release of Pakistani detainees from the U.S. Army’s facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where accused al-Qaida and Taliban fighters were being held, but their demands were denied. On Feb. 22, 2002, a tape of Pearl’s death was released to U.S. officials. He was the 10th reporter to die while covering “the war on terrorism.” Pearl’s remains were found in May and returned to the United States in August.

At last year’s first Music Day, on what would have been Pearl’s 39th birthday, President George W. Bush was stressing the need for weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. As panels were being held in New York, Boston and Paris to discuss the risks journalists face while covering conflict on the first anniversary of Pearl’s death, 1,700 U.S. troops were on their way to the Philippines to combat suspected terrorist forces there.

In February, the U.S. military prepared for a pre-emptive war with Iraq. The official toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government took less than a month, but there has been, on average, at least one U.S. solider maimed or killed every day since Bush declared the end of major combat on May 1.

And now, as the second Music Day draws close, it looks like $87 billion more will go to the nonmajor combat continuing in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized the Oct. 1 closing of the Peacekeeping Institute at the Army War College, which doesn’t speak well for the ability of the U.S. military to rebuild the countries it shatters.

This Friday should be used not only to remember Pearl, but the 30 journalists who have died covering the last year and a half of conflict; the 300 U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan, the Philippines and Iraq; the 162 coalition members killed, the 1,400 U.S. military personal wounded and the 150,000 U.S. troops still stationed in Iraq – not to mention the undetermined number of Afghans, Filipinos and Iraqis killed and injured. These numbers speak symphonies.

More information on Music Day can be found at www.danielpearl.org/events/index.html.

R.R.S. Stewart’s column appears alternate Wednesdays. She welcomes comments at [email protected]