Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Support our troops . . .

Iraqi pharmacist Entesar Mohammad Ariabi, in the U.S. as part of a women's delegation organized by Global Exchange, tells AlterNet about the condition of health and health care in Iraq since the invasion. Read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt:

Many people thought that after the U.S. occupied our country and the sanctions were lifted, the health care of the Iraqi people would improve. But the occupation has made it worse. Many of the Iraqi hospitals in cities like Baghdad, Al-Qaim, and Fallujah were bombed and destroyed. Many ambulances were attacked and health workers killed, despite the fact that it is illegal under international law to attack hospitals, ambulances and health workers.

After our hospitals were bombed and looted, millions of dollars were given to contractors to repair them. We suggested that this money be used to buy things that we urgently need, but the contractors refused and instead bought furniture and flowers and superficial things. Meanwhile, we suffer from a critical shortage of medicines, emergency supplies and anesthesia, and there is no sterilization in the operation rooms. As the director of the pharmacy department in my hospital, I refused to sit on a new chair while there were no sterile operating rooms.

She goes on to describe the public health catastrophe in Iraq today. I won't repeat the details because we have discussed it before. But I do want to connect this to the broader nature and consequences of the military assault and occupation of Iraq. Among some recent items, the much-ballyhooed "Operation Swarmer" displaced hundreds of Iraqi families. U.S. troops killed an entire Iraqi family after coming under attack in Duluiya on Sunday. (An NPR report last night says the Iraqi police are claiming they herded the family into one room and systematically executed them all, including an infant.) Another, similar massacre is alleged to have taken place in Isahaqi on March 15. Then there is the criminal investigation of an eerily similar atrocity alleged to have taken place in Haditha in November.

Here's an interview with former British Special Air Services soldier Ben Griffin in the Daily Telegraph (a very conservative paper, by the way):

I saw a lot of things in Baghdad that were illegal or just wrong. I knew, so others must have known, that this was not the way to conduct operations if you wanted to win the hearts and minds of the local population. And if you don't win the hearts and minds of the people, you can't win the war.

"If we were on a joint counter-terrorist operation, for example, we would radio back to our headquarters that we were not going to detain certain people because, as far as we were concerned, they were not a threat because they were old men or obviously farmers, but the Americans would say 'no, bring them back'.

"The Americans had this catch-all approach to lifting suspects. The tactics were draconian and completely ineffective. The Americans were doing things like chucking farmers into Abu Ghraib or handing them over to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well they were going to be tortured.

"The Americans had a well-deserved reputation for being trigger happy. In the three months that I was in Iraq, the soldiers I served with never shot anybody. When you asked the Americans why they killed people, they would say 'we were up against the tough foreign fighters'. I didn't see any foreign fighters in the time I was over there.


I can remember coming in off one operation which took place outside Baghdad, where we had detained some civilians who were clearly not insurgents, they were innocent people. I couldn't understand why we had done this, so I said to my troop commander 'would we have behaved in the same way in the Balkans or Northern Ireland?' He shrugged his shoulders and said 'this is Iraq', and I thought 'and that makes it all right?'

"As far as I was concerned that meant that because these people were a different colour or a different religion, they didn't count as much. You can not invade a country pretending to promote democracy and behave like that.


As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were sub-human, untermenschen. You could almost split the Americans into two groups: ones who were complete crusaders, intent on killing Iraqis, and the others who were in Iraq because the Army was going to pay their college fees. They had no understanding or interest in the Arab culture. The Americans would talk to the Iraqis as if they were stupid and these weren't isolated cases, this was from the top down. There might be one or two enlightened officers who understood the situation a bit better but on the whole that was their general attitude. Their attitude fuelled the insurgency. I think the Iraqis detested them.

Maybe these things happen, in part, because 85% of the troops think that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack, and that they are in Iraq to avenge it. The fish rots from the head.

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