Saturday, September 13, 2008

Naeema al-Gasseer: the United Nations' embarrassment in Iraq

Four employees of an independent TV station were abducted and killed today while filming a reality show that bestows gifts on needy people during the holy month of Ramadan.
The victims, killed in the northern city of Mosul, were among at least 12 people slain nationwide, including four in a bomb blast in eastern Baghdad and four Kurdish soldiers in northern Iraq.
The attack on the Sharqiya TV employees was stunning for its brazenness and brutality. Police in Mosul said the victims were grabbed as they filmed an episode of a program known as "Breaking the Fast Is on Us," which airs only during Ramadan.

The above is from Tina Susman's "Iraq TV employees killed while filming show marking Ramadan" (Los Angeles Times). That's today.

Yesterday, a press conference was held in Baghdad during which is was noted, "The disease is epidemic in Iraq." The disease is cholera. Participating were Iraq's Minster of Health Dr. Salith al-Hasnawi, Dr. Tahseen al-Sheikhly and WHO's Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer (who was a public menace). And there was plenty of time to slam the press, excuse the puppet government, blame individual Iraqis and what has to be seen as encouragement of attacks on Iraqi women. It was a complete embarrassment and the United Nations should be ashamed that a rep for the World Health Organization not only participated but launched her own attacks.

Dr. al-Sheikhly started the conference insiting that "we decided today that the Iraqi government is going to deal with this topic with total frank". Apparently that decision required him immediately handing off to al-Hasnawi who gave the figures for cholera as "36 confirmed cases: 20 cases in Babil Province, 1 in Maysan, 13 in Karkh District in Baghdad. We had 6 but the confirmative test added 7 -- 3 in Mahmudiyah, 4 in Yusufiyah. Rusafa District had 1 case coming from Kut, it was dected in Rusafa. Today we confirmed a scond case in Mada'in."

Moving from confirmed to suspected cases, he declared, "It is 86 cases: 20 in Maysan, they are new, suspected; 39 in Karkh suspected; 6 in Karbala; 1 in Nasiriyah; 1 in Najaf cases. All of them would cause...would make 86. The mortalities of cholera were 6 only." Later, he would add, "In Hillah now, we have 19 suspected cases."

"Total frank" flew out the window early on. al-Sheikhly declared there was six deaths from cholera at the opening of the press conference and would later insist "only five death . . . mortalities." The numbers given were in doubt and anyone counting on WHO representative Dr. al-Gasseer to clear up the numbers was hoping in vain. She stayed clear of the number issue although she did find time to play journalism professor: "Media can be negative affect also. Your role is to deliver the information rapidly in order to help us stop spreading the disease." Much later in the press conference, al-Hasnawi would chime in with his own journalism lesson, "The media buzz. it has maybe negative results that would affect the social life and affect the people."
Iraq doesn't have a free press and while it's easy to snicker at 'advice' from the puppet government, WHO shames itself and the United Nations by participating in attacks on the press in a region that knowingly attacks the press. That was disgaraceful and the United Nations should be ashamed for taking part in that farce. They allowed themselves to be a shield. If you're missing that fact, much later in the press conference, al-Sheikhly would reply to a question with, "If you would allow me, I would like the WHO to answer as being neutral side."

The World Health Organization made a joke out of themselves in the press conference. That was only more evident when it was left to Free Iraq Radio (and not WHO) to point out the obvious to al- by stating "the cholera disease is epidemin in Iraq. All these decades you have not taken special procedures to stop this disease? Where is the role of the minister of health now to stop the cases? Who is the responsible side for spreading this disease, especially this is growing a suitable environment, which is a lack of potable water environment? Who is the responsible part in your opinion? What is your future plans? I’m sure you have future plans to stop this disease. Where is the awareness procedures through the TV channels?"

Admitting that lack of potable water was the cause ("the big reason"), al-Hasnawi declared "the committee is going to have plans. We're going to have rapid procedures and strategies for the long term, for the midterm." Oh really? Much later in the press conference, a timefram would be mentioned by al-Hasnawi, "Within 10 years, our infrastructure is going to be finished for the first 8 centers and providing treatment and the staff. The outcomes are going to be witnessed after years." Well isn't that something to take pride in? In 10 years, 8 centers (the first eight, mind you) will be functional.

In addition As-Salam Satellite Channel pointed out that despite promises from Nouri al-Maliki (puppet of the occupation) that villages would receive water tanks, the tanks have not been received. al-Sheikhly replied, "Mr. Prime Minister allocated 16 water tanker to be sent to the areas that are having shortage due to some cuts in the water pipe...waterline. Also, the area that you are talking about, maybe within the coming days they would reach the tank...they would receive a tanker." He went on to declare that the promise was made when a water pipe was broken.

So why wasn't anything done?

al-Hasnawi would go on to declare that there was nothing to worry about because WHO was assisting. There is a cholera outbreak and WHO is allowing it to be minimized. al-Hasnawi asserted, "The shortages of medications, who said that the Ministry of Health now needs medications with an expiration to the cholera cases? WHO is present." He then declared of the outbreak, "It happens in everybody -- in every country in the world, not only in the ministry of Iraq." Golly, it's hard to think of another country with all the billions Iraq has (not to mention the billions the US is spending) that faces cholera outbreaks every year.

As if the press conference could not become more of a joke, the United Nation's figure began not just using outdated terminology ("housewife") but blaming women for the outbreak of cholera, " As you are individual responsible at your house, if you do not control your family – how they cook food, how they wash their food, if the woman...the housewife there does not have correct information about how to deal with food – this is your responsibility. I would tell...there is a formal responsibility and local responsibility."

The idiot then returned to the issue of lecturing and hectoring the media. Someone explain to the United Nations that the good doctor needs a good ass kicking. That was so shameful and so embarrassing and it sullies the reputation of the UN. And no one needs her climbing on the cross about how 'rough' things are for her: "I cannot call everyboyd from the international community." No? Well how about you just trying doing your damn job and if that's too much work for you, how about you try finding another job because all you are is a public embarrassment.

WHO again took an issue of potable water and attempted to turn the puppet government's failures into a lacking in individual Iraqi citizens: ". . . how to deal with food and personal hygiene. I have asked the minister that the clergymen need and do have a big responsibility. They need to spread this line of cleanliness." That statement is all the more offensive when you consider the attacks on women and when you take in what "cleanliness" connates in a fundamentalist society. Repeating, the United Nations SHOULD BE ASHAMED.

When not hecotring the press, the WHO represenative snarled that there was a web page on cholera and Iraq at WHO's website and that correct information could be found there. Oh really, Dr. Dumb Ass? Here's the page -or at least the most obvious place for it to be, under Iraq and, under that, under epidemics. You'll note the most 'recent' posting was October 3, 2007.

It also needs to be noted that Dr. Dumb Ass defined the government's responsiblity in an interesting way. She insisted that the Iraqi government was only responsible for food eaten in public places. They apparently had no obligation to the general welfare of the Iraqi people. Her statements go against every stated principle the United Nations claims to adhere to. She has lost all distance and detachment and her ass needs to be reassigned. She is no longer a voice that can be trusted. Your first indication may be how she repeatedly said "we" and then needed to correct herself that she was speaking of the Iraqi government.

There were over 4,000 cholera cases last year. They broke out at the same time. This year's epidemic was not unforseen. WHO really needs to get it's act together and that would include pulling the dumb ass doctor who's been there for five years and has ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING. Her ass needs to be reassigned before she does more damage (both to the Iraqi people and to WHO's image).

While sliming and smearing women, the doctor never held the Iraqi 'government' accountable for refusing to address the situation. That goes far beyond refusing to use any of the billions to repair the infrastructure (year after year). It goes to the sorry and unhealthy squalor that Iraqis are forced to live in. Zaineb Naji offered "Baghdad's Trash Problem" (Baghdad Life, Wall St. Journal) earlier this week:

In our neighborhood, the municipal council placed large, yellow garbage containers on many road sides. People said it cost millions of Iraqi dinars but after a month, we can no longer see these containers since they have been stolen or destroyed. And garbage and piles of debris are back again.
In other areas, municipal councils have not taken such steps. Instead, they chose to use an empty land for litter. Those empty spaces were supposed to be used by the Iraqi government to build housing complexes in the city, which is overflowing with people because of the growing population and the displaced who have lost their homes due to sectarian violence. This has led poor or displaced families to build houses near the garbage piles, as this has become a source of livelihood for families who suffer hardships.

And at the start of the month Sarmad Ali offered "Despite Iraq's Oil Oases, Its Citizens Still Live in Darkness" (Baghdad Life):

But while I can understand Americans' fears about fuel prices and availability, I have a harder time understanding why Iraqis -- with their oases of crude oil reserves and untapped oilfields in the south and the north -- have had to put up with high oil prices and severe shortages of gasoline, diesel and cooking gas.
report issued recently by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that Iraq's government could generate between $73.5 billion and $86.2 billion in total revenue for 2008, with oil exports accounting for $66.5 billion to $79.2 billion.
And yet ordinary Iraqis still face fuel shortage and high rates. These days, there are three-hour lines of cars queued up for gas, according to one friend of mine in Baghdad. He said officially the government blames this problem on the lack of power that gas pumps need to operate. In Baghdad, he said, people are only getting two hours of electricity a day. The government says the nearly total absence of power in the capital is due to the lack of new power projects.

While giving a pass to the central government in Baghdad and blaming Iraqi women (to the point that her words could be seen as encouraging men to batter them), the WHO doctor didn't mention any of the above. Piles of garbage sitting on the streets? Not a damn word. Women, the doctor told us ("housewives," actually) should be made to boil the water -- with what, doctor, when they have no electricity in many areas (STILL) and the fuel shortage applies to cooking.

Again, that woman needs to be pulled from the region immediately. She has embarrassed the United Nations and her five years in Iraq have made her care more about a puppet government than about the people she is supposedly there to help. She is an embarrasment and she is a joke. Her continued presence in Iraq will mean that that the United Nations is seen in the same light.

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