Friday, December 07, 2012

The medical needs of Iraqis are not being met

November 22nd, we were noting Nouri al-Maliki's failure with regards to Iraq's medical needs.  Nouri has been the Prime Minister of Iraq since the spring of 2006.  His installation by the US government followed the 'brain drain' -- a period of time when much Iraq's professional class (including doctors and nurses) fled the country.  The term 'brain drain' was already in popular use among the press before the Bush White House picked him to be prime minister (the Iraqi Parliament -- which is supposed to select the prime minister -- wanted Ibrahima al-Jafaari).

Though he could have no impact on the brain drain that pre-dates his becoming prime minister, he could have -- and he should have -- addressed it upon becoming prime minister.  Iraq has massive unemployment.  For Iraqi youth, some figures go as high as 30%.  (Overall unemployment in Iraq stands at 15% according to the CIA.)  Six years ago, he should have addressed this issue.  Six years ago?  A program to fast track doctors and nurses would have produced a large number of doctors and nurses -- medical staff which is critically needed in Iraq.

He did nothing.

His 'answer' this year has been to fill the need by bringing medical staff in from other countries.  While Iraqis are desperate for jobs, he's bringing in people from other countries.  He's had six years to address this problem.  That's not importing labor, that's providing training to ensure that Iraqis have employment in their own country.

In addition, throughout the war, doctors and nurses have regularly been targeted.  It's gotten so bad that a few clerics in the last weeks have issued statements noting that science is not in opposition to Islam.  As the attacks have continued, so have the calls for protection from the government.  But the central government in Baghdad has shown little interest in protecting Iraq's medical staff. 

Today Al Mada reports on Anbar Province where a protest took place yesterday.  What were they protesting?

The lack of medical services, the lack of medical staff, the willful neglect of the health of the community.  The population protesting noted that their medical needs are 'served' by three doctors -- for the thousands of people -- that there's a huge shortage. The Anbar hospital has medicine, it has equipment.  It just lacks medical staff -- doctors and nurses.  The article goes on to note that this problem  -- though more severe in this one area of Anbara -- is not unique to that province.  In Baghdad, for example, the shortages are forcing people to go to private hospitals in Iraq or to leave the country to seek medical treatment.  (When going to government hospitals, Iraqis have public health care, free health care.  If they go to private institutions.)

This isn't a minor problem.  This isn't something that's going away.  It's a damn shame that a foreign press (meaning non-Iraqi press) that began selling the illegal war in 2002 (and continued to sell it after the war started in 2003) can't be bothered with addressing the very real needs of the Iraqi people.  I hear a lot of excuses from friends at outlets about how Iraq is 'the same story over and over' and how the American people 'don't want to read again about violence in Iraq, they're tired of it.'  Here, we're actually picking up new readers every day.  But then we're not going through the motions, we're not providing rote.  There are thousands of stories about Iraq that are not being told -- at a time when billions of US taxpayer dollars still go into Iraq.  And the State Dept will be requesting more billions in a few more months.  It's funny that the New York Times felt the need, in the words of John F. Burns, to cover the Iraq War from  a US taxpayer point of view but now with the war supposedly over (it's not) and with new billions committed each year by Congress to Iraq, the paper doesn't feel the need to increase their coverage.  (In fairness to the Times, they're actually experiencing a high point right now in terms of talent for that coverage.  Equally true, they are one of the few US outlets which continues to file from Iraq.  However, it's not enough coverage.  And if the Times can't offer a wealth of foreign coverage, it's got no reason to exist as a national paper.  That is what made it the national paper once upon a time.  Management decisions to shrink coverage -- both in terms of the number of articles and the length of articles -- was the wrong decision and is turning the New York Times quickly into the news equivalent of Blockbuster Video -- I believe we all know how that story ends.)

The following community sites -- C-SPAN, On the Wilder Side, Adam Kokesh and --  updated last night and this morning:

Professor of  International Law Francis A. Boyle is an expert on human rights and we'll close with this piece by him on Palestinians:

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Israel, Palestine and American Christian Hypocrites
It was December of 1991 and I was serving as Legal
Advisor to the
Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations in Washington DC. The Israelis were stalling,not even negotiating in bad faith, and the Americans under Baker and Ross were doing nothing to get the negotiations started.

This had been going on for 3 weeks and Christmas was fast approaching. Those of us on the Palestinian Team who were Christian were wondering if we were going to be able to get home for Christmas--many Palestinians are Christian, the original Christians, going back to Jesus Christ and the Apostles themselves. I would periodically check in with my wife and 2 sons at the time--little boys. My poor, sweet wife had to do all the Christmas
preparations by herself without me.

So the weekend before Christmas I called her up to say I still did not know if or when I would be coming home. My oldest son who had just turned 5 talked to me on the phone:

"Daddy why aren't you home for Christmas?"

"Well son, I'm trying to help the Palestinians."

"Daddy, why are you doing that?"

Hard to explain the entire Middle East conflict to a 5 year old, so I put it into terms he could understand:

"Son, you know that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem don't you?"

"Yes Daddy."

"Well I am here with the Mayor of Bethlehem and some other Palestinian leaders. They are my friends and I am their lawyer. I am working with the Mayor of Bethlehem to help all the Palestinian Children have a merry Christmas."

"Ok Daddy."
All his younger brother could say was: “DaDa come home!” He broke my heart.

We got the word we could go home for Christmas on December 23 and I got on
the first flight out of DC. getting home just on time for Christmas Eve with
my family.

Periodically I had attended UCC Christmas Season Church Services in town with my family. When it came time for prayers from the congregation, I always got up and asked everyone to help the Palestinians along the following lines: "...Bethlehem is cut-off and surrounded by the Israeli army--the Church of the Nativity too. The Israelis are inflicting ethnic cleansing upon all the Palestinian
s, both Muslims and Christians. They are also pursuing a policy of deliberately forcing Palestinian Christians out of Palestine as part of a perverse strategy to turn a war of national liberation into a religious crusade, figuring it would play better in the United States. And these are the original Christians, going back to Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Meanwhile, the United States government is financing it all to the tune of $5 billion per year. Everyone in this Congregation has gifts given to them by God. So go out and do something to help the Palestinians!"

Despite my best efforts over many years, that UCC Congregation refused to lift one finger to help the Palestinians. So several years ago, I quit their Congregation and severed all ties with them. They are just a gang of moral cowards and hypocrites. They have nothing to teach me or anyone else about Christianity, let alone about peace, justice and human rights. They constitute the paradigmatic example of what the anti-Nazi martyr and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Cheap Grace

Francis A. Boyle, Champaign, IL.
Professor of International Law
Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Delegation to the
Middle East Peace Negotiations (1991-93)

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