Hi-Tech Healthcare in Iraq, Minus the Healthcare

January 11, 2007

The Rationalization of Healthcare in Iraq

This article is a great read, and it comes courtesy of Corp Watch. I love the specials these guys publish. Last year, on October to be precise, they broke the story about how the Kuwait contractor than is building the U.S. embassy in Iraq is smuggling low-paid South Asians into Iraq – slave labor basically – to save themselves a few bucks, with the U.S. State Department turning a blind eye, which is ironic to say the least because they publish a yearly “Trafficking in Persons” report.

Now, they have a special on Iraq’s broken healthcare system. It’s quite long, with plenty of interviews, stories and excellent sourcing, and while its main focus is corruption, they do cover most of the basics, like how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are trying to operate in Iraq, and how all of the promised hospitals – including the Basra Children’s Hospital, which was highly touted by Laura Bush and Condi Rice – are not being completed, or not being built at all.

Of course, Iraq is a land of opportunity, if you are a war profiteer big-name contractor. Take the above mentioned Basra Children’s Hospital. According to CorpWatch:

(all emphasis is mine)

Cancer Hospital Remains Unfinished

Most prominent among the long list of failures is the Basra Children’s Hospital, which was intended as crown jewel of U.S. aid to Iraq. Instead, it has become a showcase for everything that went wrong. In August 2004, USAID awarded the $50 million contract to build the Hospital to Bechtel, a San Francisco-based engineering company, one of the largest engineering companies in the world, which has become synonymous with the building of nuclear power plants, gold mines and large projects like the new Hong Kong airport.

The idea was to create a state-of-the-art facility to treat childhood cancer, a pressing need in a city where cancer rates have skyrocketed following the first Gulf War. (Contested data link the rise in cancer to extensive U.S. use of depleted uranium weaponry in the region.)

The facility, championed by the First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, looked suspiciously like a political propaganda effort. And as with much U.S. aid, it was designed with little local consultation: the city lacked clean water and already has a leukemia ward where lack of funding means that each bed is shared by two or three children.

The hospital was planned by Project Hope, a charity headed by John P. Howe III, president of the University of Texas, San Antonio, and a Bush family friend. Project Hope had built similar hospitals in Poland and in China. Howe pushed the project after Rice and Bush invited him to visit Iraq to assess the country’s healthcare system.

Before construction began in August 2005, the project attracted skeptics, who were concerned that it was a white elephant. Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe criticized the project: “Why build a hospital for kids, when the kids have no clean water?” the Arizonan asked. But it went ahead: No new technology would be spared in this showcase facility featuring with 94 beds, private cancer suites, CAT scans, a linear particle accelerator for radiation therapy, no.

But like every so many U.S.-initiated projects, the money to build this fancy facility would disappear when things went wrong. A year after the August 2005 groundbreaking, the project became a target for attacks, according to the company. The price tag rose from $50 million to an estimated $169.5 million. Cliff Mumm, president of the Bechtel infrastructure division, predicted that the project would fail. “It is not a good use of the government’s money” to try to finish the project,” Mumm told the New York Times. “And we do not think it can be finished.”

In July 2006, Bechtel was asked to withdrew from the project, which is now on hold. USAID spokesman David Snider’s cheerful spin on the stall was that the contract did not actually require the company to complete the hospital. “They are under a ‘term contract,’ which means their job is over when their money ends … (so) they did complete the contract.”

So Bechtel got to keep the money – U.S. taxpayer’s money – and the hospital is “on hold”. Because corporate profits are way more important than sick children.

Lets take another contractor: Parsons Global, a Pasadena, California-based engineering company.

The convoy of flat-bed trucks picked up its cargo at Baghdad International Airport last spring and sped north-west, stacked-high with crates of expensive medical equipment. From bilirubinmeters and hematology analyzers to infant incubators and dental appliances, the equipment had been ordered to help Iraq shore up a disintegrating health care system. But instead of being delivered to 150 brand-new Primary Health Care centers (PHCs) as originally planned, the Eagle Global Logistics vehicles were directed to drop them off at a storage warehouse in Abu Ghraib.

Not only did some of the equipment arrive damaged at the warehouse owned by PWC of Kuwait, one in 14 crates was missing, according to the delivery documents. The shipment was fairly typical: Military auditors would later calculate that roughly 46 percent of some $70 million in medical equipment deliveries made to the Abu Ghraib warehouse last spring had missing or damaged crates or contained boxes that were mislabeled or not labeled at all.

Not that it really mattered. Just over three weeks before the April 27th delivery, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had canceled the construction of 130 of the 150 PHCs for which the materiel was intended. As a result, the equipment that could help diagnose and treat Iraqi illness (and escalating bomb or gun injuries) now sits idle waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it.

[…]But if Iraqis have failed to benefit from the idle PHCs, the $70 million contract to supply them has been a shot in the arm for Parsons Global. The Pasadena, California-based engineering company reaped a $3.3 million profit according to an audit report issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), an independent U.S. government agency. And that is in addition to the $186 million that U.S. taxpayers shelled out to Parsons to build dozens of clinics that have yet to dispense a single aspirin.

Again, go read the entire article here. There is much to discuss, so feel free to comment away. Is it any wonder why Iraqis want us out of Iraq?


Not another Saddam Hussein snuff video!

January 9, 2007

Not another Saddam Hussein video

I was browsing the CNN.com website and find myself with the following article, Video apparently showing Hussein wounds emerges. Yes, ANOTHER Saddam Hussein snuff video! Just what the world needs – more violence.

(CNN) — A new video apparently showing Saddam Hussein after his execution with a gaping neck wound and facial bruising is posted on the Internet.

The footage, which appeared Monday, shows the former Iraqi dictator, apparently still wearing the white shirt and black coat he was hanged in, lying on a gurney covered with a white sheet.

The 27-second videotape, posted on www.liveleak.com, shows the camera approaching the gurney and someone pulling back the sheet to reveal the left side of Hussein’s head.

In an accompanying audio track, one man appears to be urging the other to take a quick look and then leave.

Visit the above link and read the exchange, it is beyond shameless. In other words, it seems Saddam’s execution was the hottest ticket of the year in Iraq.

I’m really tired of this Saddam video bullshit. Instead of letting him rot in a jail cell and fall into oblivion, he will now achieve martyrdom status. We have a bonafide war criminal and what do we do? We hang him like if it were a bad Wild West cowboy movie. Just because the prick deserved to die does not mean we have to reduce ourselves to the proverbial medieval mob.

The neocons and insane right-wingers that visit my site on occasion (thanks for visiting by the way!) think that because I wanted Saddam to be tried in a just and fair manner, in accordance to the same international law he broke, makes me a Saddam supporter. This is stupid. This does not make me a “traitor”. Just because I disagree with this madness does not mean I am on the other side. And now, people in the Middle East will look at the horrible way this has been handled and think, these people are not any better: new devil, meet the old devil.

When we have an opportunity to redeem ourselves, we screw it up. Which reminds me, the international community has not reacted favorably to Saddam’s execution:

BBC: Saddam Hanged: Reactions in quotes

Dar Al-Hayat, Lebanon: Saddam’s Death Will ‘Double the Pain’

Arab View, Saudi Arabia: U.S. Double Standards are Fueling Arab Hate

The Age, Australia: New Year, Same Old Bloody Results

Which also reminds me, this is another colossal screw up by Bush. I know I have mentioned this before, but instead of showing the world that we really are better – as in more noble – in demonstrating the power and dignity of the rule of law that fully democratic countries enjoy, we allow the execution of a war criminal to get completely out of control. Or maybe, just maybe, we never really had control over what happens in Iraq in the first place. Not even Prime Minister Maliki wants to control the chaos that is Iraq:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has made clear he dislikes being the country’s leader and would prefer to leave the job before his term ends.

In an extensive interview with a US newspaper, Mr Maliki said he would certainly not be seeking a second term.

A compromise choice, his tenure has been plagued by factional strife within both the country and government, and rumours the US has no faith in him.

“I wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term,” he said.

“I didn’t want to take this position,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “I only agreed because I thought it would serve the national interest, and I will not accept it again.”

You may have heard in Greek mythology of the Midas touch – everything King Midas touched turned to gold. It seems president Bush also has a certain kind of Midas touch – everything he touches seems to turn into shit.

Lynching mob kills Saddam (cartoon of the day)

January 7, 2007

Are we really more “civilized” than people from the Middle Ages? I don’t think so:

Saddam Lynch Mob

This is from Matt Davies, an excellent cartoonist of NY Journal News. If you like his cartoons, go visit his site – I’m not affiliated with the guy, just giving him his dues for one of his excellent cartoons.

Save the planet, or Saddam will kill you

January 4, 2007

Mushroom cloud

Of course, global warming as the end of life as we know it is not as dramatic as say, a nuclear mushroom cloud courtesy of Saddam Hussein, but we need to get our collective shit together or else a lot of people are going to suffer and die needlessly:

In 10 years time it will be too late to reverse the effects of global warming, a climate change expert warned yesterday.

Scientist Jim Hansen – one of the first to start alarm bells ringing in 1988 – said that unless cuts in pollution started happening within the next decade we would reach the “tipping point” where the damage could not be undone.

He added: “Half the people in the world live within 15 miles of a coastline. A large fraction of the major cities are on coastlines.

“Once you get the process started and well on the way, it’s impossible to prevent it.

“That’s why we need to address the issue before it gets out of control. We just cannot burn all the fossil fuels in the ground.

“If we do, we will end up with a planet with no ice in the Arctic and where warming is so large that it’s going to have a large effect in terms of sea level rises and the extinction of species.”

Oh wait, Saddam just died, so I guess we can leave that climate change nonsense behind us and leave it to people like Al Gore.

Saddam Hussein Hanging Video – war porn for you (NOT!)

December 30, 2006

Yeah right, like if I’m going to link to the real video. You can get your “war porn” elsewhere – it was bad when he killed people, and it is bad to derive some sense of happiness from watching him hang. So have some fun instead… it’s Christmas.

I’m glad he’s gone, but actually I would have him alive – yes alive. You know why? Because George Bush the elder, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney (through Halliburton) were waist-deep in shady businesses with him. What do prosecutors do when they get a big fish? Have them squeal the other big fishes. I’m sure Saddam was willing to offer plenty of incriminating documents in order to save his neck…

Update: There is another Saddam Hussein video… just what we need.

Good riddance, Augusto Pinochet

December 10, 2006

May you roast in hell, Augusto Pinochet. And say hi to all of history’s war criminals for me while you are there.
Satan & Saddam

And may you receive a proper sentence, the one you never received on Earth:

Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who overthrew Chile’s democratically elected Marxist president in a bloody coup and ruled the nation for 17 years, died today. He was 91. Pinochet had suffered a heart attack a week ago. Chile’s government says at least 3,197 people were killed for political reasons during his rule, but Pinochet escaped hundreds of criminal complaints because of his declining physical and mental health.

Oh, poor him. I surely hope the people of the U.S. learn and don’t let George W. Bush of the hook as well.

Bush wanted for war crimes