BAGHDAD -- In a city with few real refuges from sectarian violence -- not government offices, not military bases, not even mosques -- one place always emerged as a safe haven: hospitals.
So Mounthir Abbas Saud, whose right arm and jaw were ripped off when a car bomb exploded six months ago, must have thought the worst was over when he arrived at Ibn al-Nafis Hospital, a major medical center here.
Instead, it had just begun. A few days into his recovery at the facility, armed Shiite Muslim militiamen dragged the 43-year-old Sunni mason down the hallway floor, snapping intravenous needles and a breathing tube out of his body, and later riddled his body with bullets, family members said.
Authorities say it was not an isolated incident. In Baghdad these days, not even the hospitals are safe. In growing numbers, sick and wounded Sunnis have been abducted from public hospitals operated by Iraq's Shiite-run Health Ministry and later killed, according to patients, families of victims, doctors and government officials.
As a result, more and more Iraqis are avoiding hospitals, making it even harder to preserve life in a city where death is seemingly everywhere. Gunshot victims are now being treated by nurses in makeshift emergency rooms set up in homes. Women giving birth are smuggled out of Baghdad and into clinics in safer provinces.
The above, noted by Martha, is from Amit R. Paley's "Iraqi Hospitals Are War's New 'Killing Fields'" (Washington Post). It should be noted that, outside of Baghdad, the hospitals haven't been safe. The targeting of them started long ago by US forces. In PDF format, you can read
Dahr Jamail's "Iraqi Hospitals Ailing Under Occupation" which addresses the conditions of hospitals under the illegal occupation and the targeting of them (as well as ambulances). (This report is summarized here for those without Adobe.) Now, even Baghdad's hospitals aren't seen as 'safe.' This as we head to the fourth anniversary of the illegal war (in March).
Turning back to the New York Times, David S. Cloud offers "Rumsfeld Says War Critics Haven’t Learned Lessons of History:"
Comparing terrorist groups to a "new type of fascism," Mr. Rumsfeld said, "With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?"
It was the second unusually combative speech by Mr. Rumsfeld to a veterans group in two days and appeared to be part of a concerted administration effort to address criticism of the war’s conduct.
On Monday, Mr. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney gave separate speeches to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to the American Legion Auxiliary on Tuesday and President Bush is to address veterans later this week.
Mr. Cheney, too, spoke of appeasement at an appearance on Tuesday at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, reciting a passage that echoed verbatim one of his stock speeches.
Staying on this topic, Martha and Rachel note Ann Scott Tyson's "Rumsfeld Assails Critics of War Policy" (Washington Post):
In a pointed attack on the news media and critics of President Bush's war and national security policies, Rumsfeld declared: "Any kind of moral and intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can severely weaken the ability of free societies to persevere."
[. . .]
Congressional Democrats angrily responded to Rumsfeld's remarks. "There is no confusion among military experts, bipartisan members of Congress and the overwhelming majority of the American people about the need to change course in Iraq," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). "The only person confused about how to best protect this country is Don Rumsfeld, which is why he must go."
Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he took exception to what he considered the implication that critics of the administration's military policies are unpatriotic. He noted that there are "scores of patriotic Americans of both parties who are highly critical" of Rumsfeld's handling of the Defense Department.
Rumsfeld & Cheney, et al, are on the scare patrol. Attempting to scare America and silence the large number of people who are against the war. It's a far cry from Bully Boy's remarks last week of "And so we'll continue to speak out in a respectful way; never challenging somebody's love for America when you criticize their strategies or their point of view." No, you'll just call them Nazi dupes, only it won't be Bully Boy doing so (unless the polls tank even more), it will be the others getting their hands dirty so he can appear above the fray.
They're trying to play their fear card again. Speak out and be smeared. Considering all the ones that these bullies have smeared in the last six years, it's a badge of honor to be smeared by this administration. Well Nixon called those who questioned him "bums," this administration has to go with Hitler appeasers. And note, all the people who get bent out of shape when this administration is likened in any way to Hitler's rise to power will remain silent -- the same ones who scream that the rhetoric is explosive will look the other way when Rumsfeld, et al use Hitler for their own purposes. That's allowed, apparently. The administration can use inflammatory rhetoric to tar critics and there will be silence. No one on the left (or 'left') who's fretted and fussed over the state of the dialogue or tried to 'heal' by appealing to better natures will say one damn word. They'll just scratch their butts and look the other way. They've done that all along. The administration has gone after anyone, destroyed anyone, and they've shown up (our guardians of dialogue) wanting to lecture Kanye West or Harry Belafonte or whomever about 'word choice.' Watch and see who speaks up and who takes their usual pass as the tarring and feathering goes on.
Brady notes Josh White's "Marine Who Led Haditha Attack Was Recommended for a Medal" (Washington Post):
The platoon commander for the squad of Marines who killed as many as two dozen Iraqi civilians during an attack in Haditha last year recommended later that the sergeant who led the attack receive a medal for his heroism that day, according to military documents.
Lt. William T. Kallop wrote in a praise-filled memo that the incident on Nov. 19, 2005, was part of a complex insurgent ambush that included a powerful roadside bomb followed by a high volume of automatic-weapons fire from several houses in the neighborhood. He lauded Sgt. Frank Wuterich for his leadership in the "counterattack" on three houses while the unit received sporadic enemy fire.
[. . .]
Representatives for Kallop, who was promoted to first lieutenant in May, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He is one of numerous Marines who are the subject of a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into civilian deaths in the Haditha attack, which has alternately been characterized as a vengeful massacre and as the unfortunate collateral damage of war. None has been charged so far.
Finally, Lloyd notes that Naomi Klein's "Pay To Be Saved: The Future of Disaster Response" (The Nation via Common Dreams):
The Red Cross has just announced a new disaster-response partnership with Wal-Mart. When the next hurricane hits, it will be a co-production of Big Aid and Big Box.
This, apparently, is the lesson learned from the government's calamitous response to Hurricane Katrina: Businesses do disaster better.
"It's all going to be private enterprise before it's over," Billy Wagner, emergency management chief for the Florida Keys, currently under hurricane watch for Tropical Storm Ernesto, said in April. "They've got the expertise. They've got the resources."
But before this new consensus goes any further, perhaps it's time to take a look at where the privatization of disaster began, and where it will inevitably lead.
The first step was the government's abdication of its core responsibility to protect the population from disasters. Under the Bush administration, whole sectors of the government, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, have been turned into glorified temp agencies, with essential functions contracted out to private companies. The theory is that entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are always more efficient (please suspend hysterical laughter).
We saw the results in New Orleans one year ago: Washington was frighteningly weak and inept, in part because its emergency management experts had fled to the private sector and its technology and infrastructure had become positively retro. At least by comparison, the private sector looked modern and competent (a New York Times columnist even suggested handing FEMA over to Wal-Mart).
But the honeymoon doesn't last long. "Where has all the money gone?" ask desperate people from Baghdad to New Orleans, from Kabul to tsunami-struck Sri Lanka. One place a great deal of it has gone is into major capital expenditures for these private contractors. Largely under the public radar, billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on the construction of a privatized disaster-response infrastructure: the Shaw Group's new state-of-the-art Baton Rouge headquarters, Bechtel's battalions of earthmoving equipment, Blackwater USA's 6,000-acre campus in North Carolina (complete with paramilitary training camp and 6,000-foot runway).
I call it the Disaster Capitalism Complex. Whatever you might need in a serious crunch, these contractors can provide it: generators, water tanks, cots, port-a-potties, mobile homes, communications systems, helicopters, medicine, men with guns.
Today in Iraq, from Amit R. Paley and Saad Sarhan's "Bombings Across Iraq Kill at Least 44" (Washington Post):
A series of powerful explosions killed at least 44 people and wounded more than 75 in Iraq on Wednesday morning during attacks on an Army recruiting center and in the capital's main market, authorities said.
The assault on the bustling Shorja market in central Baghdad, which killed 27 civilians and wounded 35 others, began at about 9:45 a.m, according to Brig. Gen. Abdul Wahid Saleh of the Ministry of Interior, when bombs exploded in the area.
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