Sunday, May 6, 2007

George Bush, Avoiding Personal Shame

Today’s story caught me a little off guard, because I somehow expected that Iraqi soldiers wounded in battle were getting the same sort of treatment as our guys. Our guys are in Germany in less than a day, getting the world’s best treatment. Their guys are lucky if they get first aid from the American military, then they’re on their own for recovery in what’s left of the Iraqi hospital system.


Woundedtogermany Today’s story caught me a little off guard, because I somehow expected that Iraqi soldiers wounded in battle were getting the same sort of treatment as our guys. Our guys are in Germany in less than a day, getting the world’s best treatment. Their guys are lucky if they get first aid from the American military, then they’re on their own for recovery in what’s left of the Iraqi hospital system.

(Washington Post, May 6) "U.S. soldiers have access to rehab and prosthetics that are obviously better than what Iraqis have," said Maj. Brian Krakover, 32, emergency room physician at the U.S. military hospital in Baghdad's Green Zone. "It really makes the sacrifice that these guys make so significant, knowing that if they get hurt they don't have the potential future that, say, a 20-year-old U.S. soldier who gets his legs blown off would have. They are really sticking their necks out here."

Greenzonepool I don’t know Major, just how much future anyone has after their legs are blown off, but it’s a nice and sympathetic statement to make from the safety of the Green Zone. Chalk up just one more absolutely needless reason for the Iraqis to hate us. Americans to the left for Germany, Iraqis to the right for abandonment. “Obviously better than what the Iraqis have,” as the Major so succinctly puts it, cuts across this entire war. It's listed as shame #464 in this monumental catastrophe Bush-Cheney has hatched.

Baghdadlooting Decent military hospitals existed under Saddam Hussein, but they were looted during the war and their doctors fled. So while some seriously injured Iraqi soldiers now receive initial treatment at sophisticated U.S. military facilities in Iraq, they must recover in public hospitals where medicines and highly trained staff are scarce. There is one military prosthetics clinic in the country, little in the way of mental health services and no burn center.

Looted during the war. Well, who would be surprised?

Donald Rumsfeld, that paragon of understatement and disinformation, claimed Iraqi soldiers were taking about twice the hits of Americans. Probably he’s understating once again, but if not, there are 50-60,000 Iraqis whose families wonder why they’ve  been abandoned by the U.S. President who exhorts them to “stand up, so we can stand down.”

It’s hard to stand up on one leg.

1st Sgt. Massen, 22, is a one-legged man whose brothers carry him from his bed, where he has dreams of loud explosions, to his computer, where he researches prosthetic legs. He spends his $460 monthly soldier's salary on the $3,400 in medical expenses that he has accrued.

Relatives scrubbed Massen's room daily, because no janitors came. The hospital did not have the painkillers and antibiotics Massen needed, so family members bought them -- at $15 a day -- from outside pharmacies. They had to "tip" a nurse $6 a day to administer injections and clean Massen's wounds.

Iraqiwoundedhospital2 So that’s the problem. It’s a money thing. Money would have fixed up the hospitals that an invading and occupying army might have reasonably expected a war to create. But then, the insurgency was in its last throes, so no one did anything. “Stuff happens.”

But wait. We’re spending $200 million a day on this war and it’s obviously not on up-armored humvees. So it can’t be money, because just do the math; 60,000 wounded Iraqi soldiers, even at the upper, upper high recovery cost of $100,000 each, would only amount to $6 billion.

Blackwatersecurity That’s just 30 day’s worth of expense in a war that’s gone more than four years.

Okay, okay I realize there were some other priorities The Green Zone is expensive to run and the Maliki government fairly burns through cash to keep themselves satisfied—and there is that matter of Blackwater and the other mercenaries we pay $600 a day to race through Baghdad, further wrecking our image. Those things don’t come cheap.

Now here’s an idea. Why don’t we just hire the Iraqi army at the Blackwater daily rate? At $220,000 a year, their wounded could afford to pay for their own artificial arm or leg.

As the U.S. military prepares for an eventual handover of security duties to Iraqi forces, more of Iraq's 120,000 soldiers are advancing to the front lines of the war, and more are being wounded. But because there are no Iraqi military hospitals, thousands have been left to the mercy of overtaxed and corrupt civilian hospitals and a military compensation system paralyzed by red tape and disorganization, according to soldiers, family members, doctors and military officials. Many, feeling abandoned, turn to their families for help.

Redtape Paralyzed by red tape and disorganization. Like a Defense Ministry that has recorded 3,700 Iraqi soldiers wounded since the start of the war. Somehow, in all the red tape, they lost the additional 56,300 who, like Sgt. Massen, were turned out to their homes and families without so much as crutches or a wheelchair.

Brig. Gen. Samir Hassan, surgeon general for Iraq's Defense Ministry, said that public hospitals are supposed to be free and that soldiers can be reimbursed for private services that are unavailable publicly. But he said public hospitals often do not restock medicines because their supply warehouse is in one of Baghdad's most dangerous districts. And the military does not yet have a solid system for compensation, which must be collected in person, he said.

"Certain people can reach us and we can pay for some of them, and others, it's very difficult. There is no exact policy. We are in the process of that -- how to refund, how to reimburse the soldiers," Hassan said, though he insisted his office, in the highly secured Green Zone, is open to soldiers who need help.

Iraqiwoundedhospital Well, there you have it. General Hassan, from his office in the Green Zone is in the process. President Bush, from his Oval Office, is in the process as well. It's good to know that among both Americans and Iraqis, everyone is in the process.

Hassan said, the prime minister's office approved $23 million for a military hospital in Baghdad. But the funds have been stalled by financial analyses and bidding.

There are no doctors and will be no doctors because they have mostly fled to Kuwait and Syria, but financial analyses and bidding is in process. All of which further endears America to Iraqi families and extended families, Sunni and Shiite alike.

Massen, meanwhile, spends days tinkering on his computer and avoiding sleep, which brings nightmares and electrifying pain.

Bushamputee The president suffers no such sleep avoidance, nightmares, nor any apparent shame over his mandated neglect of those he asks to stand up so that he can stand down.  This from a man who claims to have been born again. One can but wonder if the effort was worth it.

Addressing the issue in a recent interview with People Magazine, he said: "I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume."
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