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4,000 Missing Madeleines

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The lead story on the BBC website is about how the Portuguese police have named Kate McCann, mother to four-year-old Madeleine McCann, a suspect in the little girl's disappearance.

In case the reader does not own a television and has not read a news headline in the past five months, Madeleine disappeared from the family's Praia da Luz resort apartment in Portugal during early May.

Did Kate do it? I don't care. Though it's very sad that little Madeleine is missing, and I hope with every cynical fiber of my being that they find her, unharmed, there are larger stories unfolding in the world right now.

For example, 4,000 women and girls have disappeared in Iraq since the U.S. invasion began in 2003.

There are 4,000 missing Madeleines, but for some strange reason, the international media has not launched into an orgy of questions and speculations about their whereabouts.

One group, the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, did ask questions. Led by Yanar Muhammad, the group voiced its distress about the missing women, and criticized the U.S. and Iraqi governments for allowing the displacements. It is believed that many of the missing women and children fled, or were brought, into other countries where they have since been forced to work as prostitutes.

They were punished by having the Iraqi government freeze their bank accounts.

It is possible that the unbalanced media coverage of these separate events is neatly explained by racism. Little Madeleine belongs to a wealthy, lily white family. The 4,000 missing women and children are poor, brown Iraqis.

However, combined with racism is the very real condition of "disaster fatigue." So much bad is happening in Iraq right now that it's easy to read about 4,000 missing women and think: That's a shame, and flip the newspaper page without a second thought.

The responsibility rests with the reader. Shed a tear for Madeleine, but remember that there are 4,000 Iraqi women and children who are lost, frightened, and victims of circumstances that they were powerless to stop. No one is searching for them. No global media witch hunt is demanding justice in their names.

There is no outrage for the other 4,000 missing Madeleines.