Monday, September 08, 2008

Iraq snapshot

September 8, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, cholera's back, the Iraqi Parliament is going to back into session, and more.
Cholera is back in the Iraq news.  Sunday Reuters reported that cholera has claimed 1 life and that six more Iraqis have been diagnosed with it ("More than 4,000 cases of cholera . . . were diagnosed in Iraq last year.")  Babylon & Beyond (Los Angeles Times) notes of cholera: "The problem raises the question: How can a country with two major rivers -- the Tigris and the Euphrates -- not have sufficient clean water for its people?  The problem stems from Iraq's aging water treatment facilities, which were damaged or destroyed during the war and have yet to be replaced or repaired."  Mike Sergeant (BBC) reports that the cholera outbreak had claimed 6 lives earlier today (the total continued to rise) and that "Cholera is mainly transmitted through contaminated water and untreated sewage.  It can spread quickly in hot weather."  And it spread quickly last year.  There's no reason for the puppet government in Baghdad to pretend what's happened is shocking or surprising.  After last year, it was to be expected.  The World Health Organization noted October 3, 2007: "Since the cholera outbreak was first detected in Kirkuk, Northern Iraq, on 14 August 2007, it has spread to 9 out of 18 provinces across Iraq. It is estimated that more than 30 000 people have fallen ill with acute watery diarrhoea, among which 3 315 were identified as positive for Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium causing the disease. A total of 14 people are known to have died of the disease. The case-fatality rate has remained low throughout the outbreak indicating that those who have become sick have been able to access adequate treatment on time."  Reuters reports that Babil province is now under a state of emergy due to the outbreak and that 8 people have died "in the past three days in Babil" with at least twenty diagnosed as infected. Gulf News adds that 500 more people are suspected of already being infected.  IRIN spoke with Ihssan Jaafar (speaking on behalf of the puppet government) yesterday and he stated, "The health ministry is trying to stop the disease from spreading by early diagnosis of infection and distribution of water sterilisation tablets and also through a pbulic awareness campaign, but with the dearth of safe drinking water the disease will stay around."  Again it was completely predictable.
Staying with the medical and dropping back to the August 4th snapshot for background:
Sunday in Baghdad a press conference took place on the state of health care in Iraq. Iraqis participating were Dr. Essan Namiq (Deputy Minister of Health for Grants and Loans) and Dr. Kahmees al-Sa'ad (Administrative Deputy Minister of Health). For some reason, a medical press conference required the participation of two American generals.

We learned that, unlike the United States, Iraq has some form of universal health care (Dr. Essame: "Frankly, Ministry of Health has a heavy weight on the budget of the state for offering free treatment inside Iraq, for sending the patients outside Iraq. Very heavy budget that's affecting the budget of the state. There is no neighboring countries, or all over the world any country . . . there is not country like us that offers free treatment." ). Diyala Province has a shortage of medications (Dr. Essam: ". . . yeah, maybe we are facing a shortage") and there is a serious issue with the limited medications in Baghdad being smuggled out of the medical environments onto the black market (Dr. Essam stated that "we expect to see such problems" and "hope" that a plan to address the problem will emerge at some point by "the end of 2008 to 2009").

In addition there have been problems with "spoiled blood" -- which Maj Gen Mohammed al-Askari (press spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense) intentionally avoided in his response. This was pinned on the people coming into Iraq. Though Iraq's borders are porous, Dr. Essam put forward the laughable claim that anyone crossing the border into Iraq is "going to be tested. This is especially in HIV. The . . . once the passport has been stamped, the person is being tested." Not only did al-Askari avoid that specific issue, he grabbed that question that was tossed to Dr. Essam.

July ended and the press gave rah-rah coverage in their end of the month reports when the reality is that the medical conditions in Iraq are a nightmare. For example, Dr. Essam admitted that they did not have the necessary prosthetics for patients who have limbs amputated. Shortages of medication, shortages of prosthetics, shortage of beds and, yes, shortage of medical staff. Dr. Essam floated the laughable claim that "many" Iraqi doctors were about to return to the country -- any day now! -- and when pressed on it, put foward the dubious claim that "more than 80% of the Iraqi doctors, and even in the deterioration of the security situation, they were here in Iraq and working. It is a fact." No, it is not. They were among the first to flee, long before there was a refugee crisis. It was part of the 'brain drain' that first hit Iraq. The number fleeing only increased when they became kidnapping targets and were also targeted with violence. Any doctors that do return will neither be housed in the Green Zone, according to Dr. Essam, nor provided with government protection because, he explained, 2008 is not like 2007.

It was revealed that nurses were selling medications and Dr. Essam wanted to remind everyone that "it is not within their job description." Asked about the huge increase in cancer rates in Basra and Najaf since the start of the illegal war, Dr. Essam claimed that was true "all over the world, the number of people afflicted with cancer is increasing." The issue of improving the hosptials (beyond exterior work) was raised (and it was noted that Shahad Adnan Hospital has over 13 floors and only two elevators as well as a bed shortage). Dr. Essam responded that, "It is good for their psychological health . . . it is good to take care of the appearance, to see the building a new, clean." Though that's of no comfort to someone climbing over 13 floors of stairs or doing without a hospital bed, Dr. Essan wanted the reporters to know, "We ourselves face problems with elevators." 
CBS and AP offer an embarrassing (mis)report but they may be the only outlet that covered the press conference.  To read their (mis)report is to grasp that the talking point about "doctors returning!" can be teased into several paragraphs with nothing to back it up and that all the very real and serious problems (brought up by reporters at the press conference) can easily be ignored.
80%?  Today Karin Laub (AP)  notes that an estimated 8,000 Iraqi doctors have fled their country since the start of the illegal war and that 800 have returned. Both figures are flawed. It is over 8,000 and the exit of doctors (male and female) was not just part of the 'brain drain' it was also the result of doctors (especially females) being targeted. 800 is the puppet government's latest figure and is not independently verified. They say whatever they want and no one bothers to verify it. It's also not true that "Doctors are just a tiny group among Iraq's more than 4 million refugees and displaced" because the doctors (and others) who left during the 'brain drain' are not considered refugees, they had the money to start over and left earlier in the illegal war before the sect divisions became as fixed.  Though the figures Laub uses are incorrect, they are supplied by the puppet government and, no, 700 is not 80% of 8,000.
The largely ignored August press conference also saw a reporter raise the issue of counterfeit medicine and today Qatar's Peninsula reports that 90% of medicines in Iraq are imported and there are no tests of it leading the Ministry of Health's Inspector General Adel Muhsin to state, "It's not medicine.  It's just boxes, and God knows what's in them."
On the legislative front, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that the Iraqi Parliament resumes sessions this week and that they hope to address both the issue of provincial elections and the treaties with the US but that provincial elections have been discussed while the the Parliament was on break and trial ballons floated were not embraced ("But weeks of private meetings and contacts among Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers have failed to produce any breakthrough on the issue, and it was unclear whether the bill would win speedy approval.").  Sunday Erica Goode (New York Times) reported that the UN's special envoy to Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, had met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani  and that he "said later that in the meeting the two men discussed the problems that have blocked passage of a provincial election law by Iraq's Parliament."  When the Parliament's regular session proved unable to pass a law for provinical elections, the United Nations announced they would study the issue, speak with various Iraqis and try to offer a proposal by the end of September of early October.  Yet, as noted in the  September 4th snapshot, Iraqi's Shi'ite vice president Adel Abdul-Mahdi has declared that provincial elections will take place regardless of whether a law is passed or not. 
Tomorrow the Bully Boy is expected to announce the latest US troops 'plan' for Iraq.  Ann Scott Tyson and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported Saturday, "Senior military officials said the 'consensus' proposal incorporated the final recommendation of Petraeus. He called for withdrawing 7,500 to 8,000 troops from Iraq by the end of January, including an 1,100-man Marine Corps battalion and a Marine aviation squadron of several hundred strong to depart this fall, an Army combat brigade of up to 4,000 soldiers to depart in mid-January, and more than 1,000 support troops, such as logisticians and forces, assigned to handle detainees."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left eleven people wounded, a Baghdad bombing that claimed 1 life and left two wounded, another Baghdad bombing that wounded two people, a Baghdad grenade attack that wounded two people, a Nineveh car bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four people wounded, a Salahuddin Province car bombing that claimed the lives of 2 civilians with four more wounded and a Basra roadside bombing left one person wounded and a home invasion of "Awakening" Council leader Raad Rasheed in Diyala Province in which Rasheed was kidnapped and, in the chase that followed, three Iraqi military members were wounded by a roadside bombing.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad attack on "a vehicle for the ministry of displace people" which left four employees wounded while (elswhere in Baghdad), the same ministry's guards "opened fire randomly" shooting 1 woman dead and leaving six more people wounded, 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul and the US military shot dead 1 person whose 'crime' was driving his car in Baquba.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad.
Turning to the US presidential race and starting with the pig holler Barack Obama.  Shailah Murray (Washington Post) noted his comment last week on GOP vice presidential nominee Gov Sarah Palin "I assume she wants to be treated the same way that guys want to be treated" -- do you assume that?  How very 'forward' of you, pig face. What an insulting thing for him to even say.  Palin's run a real campaign.  She didn't sniff her opponents panties to put them out of the race -- a claim Barack can't make for himself (see Jack Ryan especially). Barack went on to declare that he'd been vetted for 19 months unlike Sarah. Brack Obama vetted?  Oh, that's hilarious.  The only thing funnier than his claim to have been vetted is watching him nosedive in poll after poll. CNN offers the most optimistic findings from their poll with Opinion Research Corp: 3% undecided, 48% for Barack - [Joe] Biden, 48% for [John] McCain.- Palin.  CBS News reports, "Sarah Palin's addition to the ticket probably exceeded her running mate's wildest expectations: McCain has turned an eight-point deficit in the Gallup daily tracking poll into a three-point lead."   Dan Balz and Jon Cohen (Washington Post) report the results of the Washington Post-ABC News poll which find the two in a dead heat. Todd Spangler (Detroit Free Press) zooms in on Michigan and studies Public Policy Polling to determine, "From the data, it appears that the Palin pick is clearly helping McCain in the race against Obama in Michigan -- a state the Republican hopes to pick up in order to beat the Democrat." Michigan is, of course, the state Barack refused to have his name listed on the primary ballot and somehow managed -- via the 'rules' committee -- to come out with more delegates than Hillary from the primary she won -- the one he refused to compete in.  Scott Conroy (CBS News) repeats the usual dumb ass garbage that concludes with, "Sarah Palin, by contrast, has repeatedly pointed to her son Track's service in the National Guard when making the case that John McCain should be the next president. Track Palin is scheduled to deploy to the Middle East later this week to begin his training for a tour of duty in Iraq." Let's speak slowly for the dumb asses.  1) Joe Biden's children's military service is stated and stretched.  2) Military service is not a private issue.  For one thing, you're required to take a public oath.  Scott Conroy sounds as idiotic as Jeannie Cummings and that's his own damn fault.   And it's that dumb ass 'reasoning' that's going to have a sizeable number of people dismissing any 'scoops' (real or false) the media may come up with on Palin because it still sounds like they're gunning for her.  Military service is public service.  It is not about anyone's private life and -- unless you get a parental waiver -- only adults can enlist in the US.  There's a big difference and Conroy looks like a real ass pretending there's not.
PBS' Independent Lens wrote of the now independent presidential candidate, "Ralph Nader was born on February 27, 1934 in Winsted, Connecticut.  His parents, Nathra and Rose, were Lebanese immigrants.  He received a B.A. from Princeton University in 1955 and graduated from Harvard Law School three years later.  In 1963, he abandoned his Hartford, Connecticut law practice and hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. to embark on a lifelong career as a public citizen.  He worked as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Labor and founded the Public Citizen research group."  That was to promote their airing of the documentary An Unreasonable Man.  And they also offered "Where's Nader?" as part of the promotion -- a photograph you could scroll across "to spot 18 things that can be attributed to his work."
At the Super Rally last week, he noted "three polls that will tell you that the Nader - Gonzalez agenda is a majority agenda.  Inferentially and item by item.  81% of the American people think the country's going in the wrong direction.  That's the highest level ever registered.  75% of the people in this country think corporations have too much control over their lives.  And 61% of the people in this country in a Gallup poll say that the two major parties are failing."  In response to a question regarding impeaching Dick Cheney and the Bully Boy after they leave office, Ralph explained (here for video):
Ralph Nader: Well you can't impeach them once they leave office but they're subject on January 21, 2009 for criminal prosecution under federal law and it's possible.  One of the most experienced prosecutors in the country, whose now retired, Vincent Bugliosi wrote that bestseller recently on the prosecution of George W. Bush [The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder].  Any district attorney, he claims, where a US soldier resideded and lost his or her life in Iraq due to a criminal war based on false pretenses by Bush and Cheney could bring a criminal homicide action and impanel a grand jury to indict both Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.  And it's often misunderstood that presidents and vice presidents do not  escape the criminal laws after they leave office.  When Nixon was accused of obstructing justice in the Watergate burglary back in the 70s, there was a Watergate task force of government attorneys that was just about to ask for his indictment and prosecute Nixon before [Gerald] Ford pardoned him.    So for a one-time obstruction alleged in the Watergate burgalry, the arm of the criminal law was going to move forward.  That is like tiny compared to the criminal behavior engendered day after day -- systemic torture, imprisoning thousands of people without charges and without lawyers, the signing statements, hundred of them, where George Bush would sign a bill and say "I will decide whether or not to obey it."  Our Founding Fathers fought and got rid of King George III not to allow King George IV to take control of our country.  And then of course there's spying in violation of the FISA Act without judicial warant on hundreds of thousands maybe millions of Americans.  That's a first-class felony with a maximum penalty of a five-year jail term.  And of course, there is the criminal war of aggression in Iraq -- probably the worst violation of international law other than genocide -- is a criminal war of aggression.  So the question is: "Are there going to be any district attorneys in the country who are going to begin the process of holding presidents and vice presidents after they leave office accountable for their crimes or are Bush and Cheney going to set a precedent for their successors who then think that they can be above the law, beyond the law, violate the law with impunity?" That's the question that we all have to ask.
On Friday, Ralph spoke in Wisconsin and Kevin Bargnes (The Badger Herald) reports, "Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez support the establishment of a date for troop withdrawal from Iraq and an end to the imprisonment of nonviolent drug offenders. 
A large portion of the attendees were University of Wisconsin students, and Nader painted a bleak future for a generation he believes will be worse off economically than its parents.
'You've got to wonder about whether you can get affordable housing, affordable health insurance, whether your white-collar skilled job dealing with software is going to be outsourced to China or India,' Nader said. 'And then in the moments of anxiety you're smoking a joint and you can be arrested and thrown in jail'."  Michelle L. Quinn (Post-Tribune) reports on a sit-down interview with Nader and running mate Matt Gonzalez when they were in Indiana over the weekend, "Their platform includes items he says Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have taken 'off the table,' such as a 6-month, comprehensive negotiated military and corporate withdrawal from Iraq; single-payer, Canadian style free-choice health insurance; a living-wage and repeal of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act; and a no-nuke, solar-based energy policy supported by renewable and sustainable energy sources. Solar energy is a change he's touted for years, and many utility executives to whom he's spoken prefer wind power as the next energy source, he said."  Ralph was also campaigning in Wisconsin over the weekend and among the speakers at Fighting Bob Fest.  Matthew Ryno (Baraboo News Republic) reports he "gave a biting speech to kick off the morning's events.  He targeted what he called, 'least, worst' voters, or voters who he says cannot tolerate another four years of a Republican as president.  'The question is whether or not we get a Republican in disguise,' Nader said, referring to Democrat Barack Obama.  'We're seeing similar parties.' Nader said. 'Measure the Democratic control of Congress and ask how much of Bush's legislature have they rolled back? Have they even tried to impeach?'"
Have they done anything?  And what of Barack?  Chris Floyd (Baltimore Chronicle) tackled the issue of 'anti-war' Barack over the weekend, "In short, he continued his relentless campaign to purge himself of any of that weak-sister 'anti-war' taint that got attached to him in the early days of his campaign -- which was, of course, responsible for his phenomenal rise in the first place. He rode that wave to national prominence -- trading on the desperate hopes of millions of Americans that the ungodly criminal nightmare in Iraq might finally end -- but it was obvious long ago that he was never going to dance with the ones that brung him. Once it was clear that he might really make it all the way to the top of the greasy pole, he began a dogged campaign to prove to our ruling elite that he would be a 'safe pair of hands' for the imperial enterprise."