Mohamad Kheir Daqneesh, noting the
sound of fighter jets or missiles did not precede the blast which
ultimately killed Omran's 10-year-old brother, explained he had to
shave the boy's head and ferret him away from overwhelming media
attention - and from rebel fighters and sympathizers who sought
perhaps to wrest the symbolic child from the relative safety of his
They even offered sizable
sums to sweeten the pot.
In fact, the attempt to wrangle a narrative favorable to the U.S.-led coalition hasn't ceased - even amid the emergence of the family's actual plight, pro-Western media outlets like the Guardian and Washington Post maintained speculation and withheld details disputing the original maudlin horror evinced in the August 17, 2016, image of Omran in the ambulance's orange chair.
Where Kinana Alloush and other journalists, interviewing Daqneesh with Omran by his side - now clean cut and hinting smiles - listened intently to the man fed up with misinformation circulating for almost a year, Western corporate media insisted there could be no way to verify whether coercion forced him to speak out.
Mohamad - gasp - supports the rule of Assad.
But where eagerness to paint the Syrian war in the broad strokes of good versus evil might have fabricated the story to the benefit of shared goals possessed by the West and barbarous militants, reality is never so simple.
Nor is it so verily sterile and concrete, even when tinged with hollow tears from a world audience eager to pin blame and continue dropping bombs as usual.
War's messes cannot be encapsulated so facilely in the resigned, dusty face of a single child - not when thousands of children whose stability, limbs, life, and homeland have been ripped to shreds - but go unnoticed by the same corporate media backing interventionist policy wreaking that havoc in the first place.
Omran, it turns out, suffered only minor injuries - not even severe enough to warrant head bandages, much less a footnote in history as the poster child for why the West must oust Assad - and he left the hospital after receiving first aid to return to whatever remained of their home in Aleppo.
Months of hiding, dodging further unwanted attention, plagued Daqneesh - until ire at brazen manipulation of his son boiled over into statements with journalists clarifying Assad and the Russians should not bear blame.
Terrorists - some armed, trained, backed, and laughably reclassified by the West and its allies as 'moderate rebels' - still aim to depose Assad and dominate Syria. In some places, they do.
And while it would be equally as farcical to sterilize atrocities committed by Syrian and Russian forces, denying Western and American complicity in the horrors besieging civilians belies a pomposity in politicized warring - with children like Omran unknowingly symbolizing two fundamentally differing justifications for its continuance.
Omran isn't Syria. But because he is Syrian, the ugliness of conflict in the Middle East - stoked by a laundry list of geopolitical, religious, and other conniving agendas - found shameless solace in emblazoning his image on propaganda conveniently supporting each, individually.
And shamelessly so.
If Omran Daqneesh is to be a poster child of this war, then let the five-year-old grace only posters calling for its end - for a return to a life Westerners might not be familiar in its normalcy, but which suited the majority of Syrians.
Until, that is, the time the otherwise insular conflict took on proxy outgrowths and began using traumatized children as pawns.
If you wish only to never see another Omran - less so, his counterparts, who were fortunate enough to escape the additional burden of the international floodlight, but who suffered worse fates - then war must end.
Troops must be delivered back to their families. Death must cease to be a commodification of the need to intervene in affairs of sovereign nations.
Diplomacy, even that not fully in sync with either warring party, must return as a viable alternative to the murder writ large in pro-war arrogance and propaganda.
Otherwise, there will be more Omrans - worse, there will be an interminable list of children lost to war, whose names and faces only their families will mourn.
That, not a situation manipulated to appear as something more, is the true horror of war...