Who pays the price of war? Iraqi children, that’s who.

May 9, 2007

Who pays the price for war? Iraq’s children.

Postings have been erratic lately – this happens when I’m locked up studying for medical tests and boards. I’ll make it up to my faithful readers during the summer with the usual critical postings about global health and human rights.

But right now this article from the Independent UK is making my blood boil:

Infant Mortality in Iraq Soars as Young Pay the Price for War

Two wars and a decade of sanctions have led to a huge rise in the mortality rate among young children in Iraq, leaving statistics that were once the envy of the Arab world now comparable with those of sub-Saharan Africa.

A new report shows that in the years since 1990, Iraq has seen its child mortality rate soar by 125 per cent, the highest increase of any country in the world. Its rate of deaths of children under five now matches that of Mauritania.

Wow, Iraq went from the “envy of the Arab world” league to “sub-Saharan Africa” status. “Envy of the Arab world” is quite a statement. I wonder what led to such a decline:

Sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime were imposed by the UN in 1990 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and remained in place until after the coalition invasion in 2003. The sanctions, encouraged by the US as a means to topple Saddam, were some of the most comprehensive ever put in place and had a devastating effect on Iraq’s infrastructure and health services.

Precisely how many children died because of sanctions is unknown but a report in 1999 from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), suggested that between 1991 and 1998 an additional 500,000 died.

Denis Halliday, who resigned as the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in protest at the sanctions, said at the time: “We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral.”

Oh that’s right, Clinton sanctioned the hell out of Iraq, but Bush bombed the hell of it. Make no mistake, infant mortality in Iraq started rising well before Bush illegally invaded Iraq. In 1996, then Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, was asked by Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes the following regarding the Iraq sanctions:

We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

To which Ambassador Albright responded, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”

So the question should be, who pays the price of war? Children do. Poor children, and especially the children of the poor do, to be precise. You haven’t seen Bush’s daughters enlist yet, have you?

Unsurprisingly, just pennies a day are needed to truly save the world’s children.

“More than 10 million children under age five still die each year. That’s almost 28,000 a day, almost all in developing countries,” said the charity’s US president, Charles MacCormack. “Vaccines, oral rehydration therapy and insecticide-treated mosquito nets are not expensive. Yet, sadly, many mothers and children lack access to these life-saving measures.”

What’s the budget of the Pentagon these days?

Here is a list of the 10 worst countries with the worst child mortality rate.

1. Sierra Leone: 282 (per 1,000 live births)
2. Afghanistan: 257
3. Niger: 256
4. Liberia: 235
5. Somalia: 225
6. Mali: 218
7. Chad: 208
8 (tied) Democratic Republic of Congo: 205
8 (tied) Equatorial Guinea: 205
10. Rwanda: 203

For the geographically-impaired, 9 of those countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. The other country is Afghanistan, which has the second-worst rate. You want to take a guess if the Bush invasion has helped Afghanistan’s healthcare statistics? How bad do you think the child mortality will get in Iran if the Bush decides to invade that country? Hint: the child mortality is not that hot now in Iran.

When you hear George W. Bush or Dick Cheney saying that they “care about the people in the Middle East”, you should now be informed enough to know that statement is pure B.S.

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Iraqi Couple Finds Love Amid the Violence

February 26, 2007

Courting in Baghdad

For the right-wing critics who shout, “but what about all the good news from Iraq the liberal media does not talk about?”, here is one for ya:

BAGHDAD – Amid the carnage of Baghdad, romance can still be found in the eyes of two young Iraqis, who first exchanged glances through their kitchen windows.

Living in different apartment buildings – but only 10 yards away as the potato flies – the coquettish Fatima and the persistent Bashar launched a bumpy 15-month courtship.

“She was cooking in the kitchen. I was cooking, too, and I saw her – it was love at first sight,” says Bashar, clearly elated over his recent engagement to Fatima, the oldest daughter of matriarch Karima Selman Methboub, a sturdy Iraqi widow with eight children whom the Monitor first profiled in 2002.

This tightknit family has been feeling the brunt of the war (by one count, 16 nearby bombings in a three week span) but like many Iraqis they are too poor to flee. In recent months, they have been blessed by the engagements of two daughters, yet buffeted by a string of car bombs which prompted a rare neighborhood candlelight vigil to “challenge the terrorists.”

I hope with all my heart that they can live happily ever after, in a world without violence.


Violating Iraqi Women – a Courtesy from the U.S.A.

February 24, 2007

This is one of the most disturbing posts I have done. So hard that I don’t even know where to start. Wait, yes I do:

According to Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Are you Sunni or Shia? Are you a virgin?? In other words, do you remember the first time you got raped? I can’t find this any more appalling.

The mainstream media has ignored Iraq, but the whole fucking world has ignored the plight of Iraqi women under U.S. occupation. Beaten, humilliated and ignored, Iraqi women are among many of the “collaterals” of the U.S. “war on terror”.

The above is from a story from MADRE, an excellent international women’s rights organization. The article is entitled “Iraqi Police Commit Rape—Armed, Trained, and Funded by the US” and you can pretty much see why I’m so outraged by this.

The international news media is flooded with images of a woman in a pink headscarf recounting a shattering experience of rape by members of the Iraqi National Police. Most of the media coverage has focused on her taboo-breaking decision to speak publicly about the assault, but has missed two crucial points for understanding—and combating—sexual violence by Iraqi police recruits.

As Iraqi women’s organizations have documented, sexualized torture is a routine horror in Iraqi jails. While this woman may be the first Iraqi rape survivor to appear on television, she is hardly the first to accuse the Iraqi National Police of sexual assault. At least nine Iraqi organizations as well as Amnesty International, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq and the Brussels Tribunal have documented the sexualized torture of Iraqi women while in police custody. These include Women’s Will, Occupation Watch, the Women’s Rights Association, the Iraqi League, the Iraqi National Association of Human Rights, the Human Rights’ Voice of Freedom, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Media and Culture Organization. […] And the United Nations special investigator on torture is reporting that torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam Hussein

Where is the outrage? It is not like these abuses have not been documented. They have been extensively documented – click on any of the links above and you will find plenty of references and eye-witness accounts. Why is the U.S. mainstream media ignoring this whole issue? I know it is kind of touchy, but that is why you are in the news business – to discuss and highlight serious issues, and bring to light those that need attention, not to “discuss the ramifications” of Britney Spears shaving her head.

Take this horrowing account from June 2006. All emphasis is mine:

MALTREATMENT AND PROOF: On 20 April 2004, Abdul-Bassat Turki, the first Iraqi minister of human rights, gave an interview to The Guardian on the condition of female prisoners in Iraq. Turki had recently resigned from his post in protest against the human rights violations committed by American forces and Paul Bremer’s determination to ignore his reports and to refuse him permission to visit Abu Ghraib.

Turki told the Guardian that he had warned Bremer repeatedly of the abuses of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, but that Bremer had consistently ignored all warnings. In December 2003, a month before the US military mounted its own secret investigation into Abu Ghraib, Turki phoned Bremer to complain of the treatment of female detainees. “They had been denied medical treatment. They had no proper toilet. They had only been given one blanket, even though it was winter,” the former minister said.

[…]One of the rare occasions in which Anne Clwyd, the British human rights envoy to Iraq, was moved to speak out about human rights violations after the invasion was when she learned of the arrest and subsequent torture of a 70-year-old woman, whose torturers forced her into a makeshift bridle and then mounted her like a donkey.

[…]Hoda Al-Ezawi relates that she was kept in solitary confinement for 156 days. Then her sister was arrested and thrown into the cell with her, along with the corpse of their dead brother. Among the other types of torture inflicted upon her was to be kept standing for more than 12 hours straight while subject to continual threat and intimidation. US forces and the Iraqi National Guard arrested Al-Ezawi along with her two daughters, Nora, 15, and Sara, 20, on 17 February 2005 on the charge of supporting the resistance.

Ali Al-Qeisi, the man whose torturers thrust a bag over his head, forced to stand on a crate as they coiled wires around him and then photographed producing the picture that has become a worldwide symbol of the occupation and the horror of Abu Ghraib, recalls his anguish at hearing the screams and cries of female detainees. “Their food was brought into their cells by naked men,” he relates, adding, “we felt helpless as we listened to their screams, unable to do anything but pray to God Almighty.”

[…]Suheib Baz, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, told The Independent that he had personally seen a 12-year-old girl being tortured: “She was naked, and crying out to me for help while being beaten.” He also relates that prison wardens would photograph these horrors.

[…]This is the tip of the iceberg. A report published by the Iraqi National Association for Human Rights on 29 October 2005 found that women held in Interior Ministry detention centres are subject to numerous human rights violations, including “systematic rape by the investigators and to other forms of bodily harm in order to coerce them into making confessions”. The report added that prisons fail to meet even the most basic standards of hygiene and that the women were deprived of facilities as fundamental as toilets. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed the accuracy of the report.

In such circumstances, it is insult to injury that female detainees are often forced to sign a paper prior to their release in which they testify to being properly treated. The purpose of this affidavit is to silence them and deprive them of recourse to litigation in the future.

It should be noted, here, that the first question that is put to female detainees is: “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Of course, this is all the work of a “few bad apples”. Basically, the U.S. has turned a blind eye towards everything that is going on in Iraq. It is not only causing these atrocities, it is fomenting, paying for them, and then ignoring them. Does the Bush administration think people are stupid, that we can’t fact-check what the say, and especially, what they don’t say?

It’s no surprise that we’re hearing allegations of rape against the Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare Iraq’s new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. DynCorp employees were found to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including “owning” young women as slaves. One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped himself raping two women. Despite strong evidence against them, the contractors never faced criminal charges and are back on the federal payroll.

Owing young women as slaves. A videotape by a supervisor raping two women. Giving them a blank check so they can continue to do whatever it is they do. Aren’t these war crimes? Again, where is the outrage? Why isn’t ABC news, CBS, NBC, Fox News (yeah, right), or CNN covering this?

I’m not overly religious, but do believe we eventually have to pay up what we do on Earth. I can’t even fathom how many lifetimes we are going to need to “repay” these atrocities. Then again, hell is too good for some evil bastards.

Hell is too good for some evil bastards


Apocalypse Soon?

January 26, 2007

Robert McNamara - Apocalypse Soon?

I’ll let Robert McNamara, the former Defense Secretary of the U.S., to lay it out for me instead:

It is time—well past time, in my view—for the United States to cease its Cold War-style reliance on nuclear weapons as a foreign-policy tool. At the risk of appearing simplistic and provocative, I would characterize current U.S. nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous. The risk of an accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch is unacceptably high. Far from reducing these risks, the Bush administration has signaled that it is committed to keeping the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a mainstay of its military power—a commitment that is simultaneously eroding the international norms that have limited the spread of nuclear weapons and fissile materials for 50 years. Much of the current U.S. nuclear policy has been in place since before I was secretary of defense, and it has only grown more dangerous and diplomatically destructive in the intervening years.

I am no fan of McNamara’s lasting legacy – the Vietnam War, the “metrics” of the time, how many were killed on both sides just to prove who was right… but that does not mean the guy does NOT know what he is talking about. This is not Donald Rumsfeld: at least McNamara grew wise in his later years, while Rumsfeld apparently got more power-hungry. He knows what apocalypse can look like, and it ain’t pretty:

The destructive power of nuclear weapons is well known, but given the United States’ continued reliance on them, it’s worth remembering the danger they present. A 2000 report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War describes the likely effects of a single 1 megaton weapon—dozens of which are contained in the Russian and U.S. inventories. At ground zero, the explosion creates a crater 300 feet deep and 1,200 feet in diameter. Within one second, the atmosphere itself ignites into a fireball more than a half-mile in diameter. The surface of the fireball radiates nearly three times the light and heat of a comparable area of the surface of the sun, extinguishing in seconds all life below and radiating outward at the speed of light, causing instantaneous severe burns to people within one to three miles. A blast wave of compressed air reaches a distance of three miles in about 12 seconds, flattening factories and commercial buildings. Debris carried by winds of 250 mph inflicts lethal injuries throughout the area. At least 50 percent of people in the area die immediately, prior to any injuries from radiation or the developing firestorm.

Of course, our knowledge of these effects is not entirely hypothetical. Nuclear weapons, with roughly one seventieth of the power of the 1 megaton bomb just described, were twice used by the United States in August 1945. One atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Around 80,000 people died immediately; approximately 200,000 died eventually. Later, a similar size bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. On Nov. 7, 1995, the mayor of Nagasaki recalled his memory of the attack in testimony to the International Court of Justice:

Nagasaki became a city of death where not even the sound of insects could be heard. After a while, countless men, women and children began to gather for a drink of water at the banks of nearby Urakami River, their hair and clothing scorched and their burnt skin hanging off in sheets like rags. Begging for help they died one after another in the water or in heaps on the banks.… Four months after the atomic bombing, 74,000 people were dead, and 75,000 had suffered injuries, that is, two-thirds of the city population had fallen victim to this calamity that came upon Nagasaki like a preview of the Apocalypse.

Why did so many civilians have to die? Because the civilians, who made up nearly 100 percent of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were unfortunately “co-located” with Japanese military and industrial targets. Their annihilation, though not the objective of those dropping the bombs, was an inevitable result of the choice of those targets. It is worth noting that during the Cold War, the United States reportedly had dozens of nuclear warheads targeted on Moscow alone, because it contained so many military targets and so much “industrial capacity.”

Of course, the president of the United States can’t just launch a nuclear war without Congressional authorization, can he?

The whole situation seems so bizarre as to be beyond belief. On any given day, as we go about our business, the president is prepared to make a decision within 20 minutes that could launch one of the most devastating weapons in the world. To declare war requires an act of congress, but to launch a nuclear holocaust requires 20 minutes’ deliberation by the president and his advisors. But that is what we have lived with for 40 years. With very few changes, this system remains largely intact[…]

Believe it or not, if someone is crazy enough to push “the button”, we could be in an all-out nuclear war in less than an hour. In other words, all of us can die and not even know why. Is it too much to ask, please keep Bush & Cheney under adult supervision at all times?

By the way, the picture above is for the movie The Fog of War, which won the 2004 Oscar for Best Documentary. The picture above is very symbolic: an old man standing alone, who doesn’t look like much, but once upon a time was practically the gatekeeper of a nuclear world. Again, I am against all McNamara stood for in the Vietnam War, but contrary to Rumsfeld, he grew up, so to speak, and needs to be listened to. As of now, he is in the same position as in that picture: standing alone, without being listened to.

The entire article is pasted below: Read the rest of this entry »


Escaping Sudan, Torture, and Brad Pitt

January 23, 2007

John Dau of Sudan stars in a film about refugees

I’m a little behind in postings, but rest assured this blog ain’t dead.

Here’s a fantastic article from the Washington Post about John Dau, a Sudan refugee now living in N.Y.

What debt does a man owe his past? Do survivors have an obligation to the dead?

As a boy, John Bul Dau ate mud, drank urine and swam rivers to outrun the men with the guns. He survived a 1,000-mile trek from his village in southern Sudan to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. He dug shallow graves to bury children who collapsed. The next day, a hand or foot would be stretching out of the earth, gnawed by hyenas.

As a man, John Dau is a 34-year-old security guard and college student in Syracuse, N.Y. He’s recently married, a brand-new father and a citizen of a strange country called the United States.

But Dau, the subject of the National Geographic documentary “God Grew Tired of Us,” which opened in Washington yesterday, is using his life here to try to improve the lot of people back home. Life in its fullest sense, he says, is something in which connections remain, over the years, over the oceans.

That first sentence, what debt does a man owes his past? Do survivors have an obligation to the dead? is not only beautiful in the literary and philosophical sense, but a creed to most survivors and refugees worldwide. John Dau is definitely thinking about those who fell behind:

So even as Dau landed in America, with one inglorious job after another — factory worker, burger flipper– he sent money back to the refugees. He also helped create a tiny nonprofit at a local church, the American Care for Sudan Foundation . It’s all volunteer, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward building a hospital clinic in his home region.

He’s just starting work at a new nonprofit, Direct Change, that is trying to push the clinic funding from its current $180,000 level to its $230,000 goal. They’re scheduled to start construction next week.

Contrast Dau’s behavior with the current right-wing rhetoric of every man for himself. People don’t have to go through such horrible life experiences to help out – that’s John Dau way of helping because that’s what life dealt him. What better way to restore the honor and integrity of the United States than helping out the world’s destitute? They are not asking for a handout – they are asking for a fair chance at a decent life in this world, nothing more.

He certainly commands attention:

He’s talking in a small office in the National Geographic headquarters in downtown Washington, soft of voice, shy of manner. He’s wearing a leather jacket and a Disney “Cars” watch. He is 6 feet 8 inches tall. Last week, Variety reported that at the Hollywood premiere of the film, you could pretty much walk up to producer Brad Pitt and chat as long as you wanted. Dau? Forget it. The man was mobbed.

Good for you, John Dau.

In fact, there’s a better way to salvage the reputation of the U.S. Get those soldiers out of Iraq – where they don’t want them – and move them into Sudan – where they are sorely needed. That’s a surge I would support.


Cheney’s Got His Teeth Sunk Into Iran: Hierba Mala Nunca Muere

January 14, 2007

Cheney has his teeth sunk into Iran

You would think that Dick Cheney has been finally shoved aside – or at least not as listened too as in the past – given the results of the recent elections, not to mention the disastrous results in Iraq… but think again. There is a saying in Puerto Rico that goes, “hierba mala nunca muere“, roughly translated to “bad weeds never die”. It would be like saying “bad blood never runs dry“. Well anyway, that’s Dick Cheney for you.

Via Scoop (be sure to visit their site and read the whole article):

Just Like with Torture, Cheney’s Got His Teeth Sunk into Iran

By Russ Wellen

So much creative destruction, so little time.

First the Republicans lost their majority status in Congress. Then the Iraq Study Group sent the White House its report card and gave it a failing grade. It looked like Dick Cheney had finally been put in his rightful place –- the ceremonial office vice presidents have traditionally occupied.

But this is a man who’s alternately schmoozed and clawed his way to the executive heights in both government and business. Also, he’s suffered four heart attacks and the onset of congestive heart failure. Not to mention undergoing a bypass operation, as well as an angioplasty, the implantation of a defibrillator, and the repair of an aneurysm in an artery.

Any resemblance to one of those horror movie characters that can’t be killed is not coincidental.

I’m posting this article because if push comes to shove, if the U.S. really goes ahead and invades Iran without giving a damn about what the world says, then it would truly be not only a gross international and human rights violation, but the beginnings of a truly global conflict. And just like the torture that goes on in Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo, you can bet your last dollar that Dick Cheney will be behind it all.

According to Porter, the scenario was playing out as Cheney hoped. Like journalist Chris Floyd says, Bush & Co. “love to be thwarted diplomatically.” If the sanctions weren’t tough enough, they could claim they’d tried, but that Iran was too irrational an actor to respond to reason.

Cheney would then feel free to nudge Bush in the direction of bombing Iran’s nuclear plants. Or, more likely, provoking an incident and retaliating with its designated hit man, Israel. Its fighter-bombers have been sighted training over the Mediterranean for the 2,000-mile round trip to the alleged uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.

[…]Cheney, ever the contrarian, may be incapable of restraining himself. Just as likely, though, he was trying to make sure it appeared as if he’d left no stone unturned in his attempts to strong-arm Russia into agreeing to harsh sanctions.

As for Condoleeza Rice, she may have been trying to strike a blow for bilateralism. But, her quiver bereft of olive branches, she lacked the wherewithal to insist she be adequately outfitted. Following Rumsfeld’s advice about going to war with the army we had, she went to peace with what she had.

When she saw the writing on the wall, Rice reinvented herself once again, proclaiming, “I am also in favor of action.” In other words, bombing’s not just for boys. Her recent statements opposing negotiations with Syria and Iran demonstrate the extent to which, placing expedience before principles, she has reverted to form.

Attacking Shiite Iran seems now to be within the comfort zone of Rice, as well, of course, as Cheney and probably Bush. (No word yet of a sea change from Robert Gates, who, before becoming Secretary of Defense, came down firmly on the side of negotiation.) Meanwhile, in Iraq, the administration is pursuing the “80 percent solution” — siding with its Shiite majority.

[…]Does Cheney think that, despite his intention to attack Iran, propping up the Shiites in Iraq will win points with the Persian public? Perhaps he’s swallowed whole the Neocon tenet which holds that, post-bombing, Iran’s citizens seize the day (after). They overthrow President Ahmadinejad for double-daring the US to attack and cast out the mullahs for suffocating their culture. Sure, just like our path to Baghdad was strewn with rose petals.

The U.S. pretty much made sure that the “diplomatic” talks at the U.N. – with the subtletly of a falling sledgehammer and all the pizzaz of mashed potatoes on white bread – were programmed to self-destruct. According to the Scoop article, “The only way the Bush administration would negotiate with Iran is if it were slapped with punitive sanctions. Russia, Cheney knew, would never agree.” And neither would the Iranians of course. This is Bush & Cheney’s cover: “hey, we tried diplomacy, and it didn’t work.” Unless you call diplomacy, “please bend over backwards with your pants around your ankles please”, then yeah, diplomacy has truly been spent.

I’m telling you, the U.S. will cross the proverbial line if it attacks Iran. The whole world – China, India, Japan, Australia – gets it oil & natural gas from Iran. People in the U.S. think that because the U.S. doesn’t do business with Iran because of sanctions, then the world doesn’t do business with Iran. That is false.

The world may ‘tolerate’ what is going on in Iraq, but economically it cannot, and will not, tolerate war with Iran. The economic repercussions alone will be enormous, and you can expect that China will step up to the plate to slap the U.S. if it invades Iran.

But surely the newly elected Congress will stop Cheney, right? Not quite:

Cheney may be ready to begin the launch sequence with Iran, but first he needs to keep Congress from voting for a binding resolution to stay his hand. We got a sneak preview of how he intends to manage this when the administration ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier, the Dwight D. Eisenhower, with its strike group, to the Middle East.

Though it’s been diverted to Somalia, two more aircraft carriers, the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Ronald Reagan, with their strike groups, have been since sent to the Persian Gulf. Thus do we see Cheney’s plan unfold. Ostensibly intended to warn off Iran’s own naval exercises, the deployment’s actual purpose is less likely to respond to a provocation than to provoke a response.

Not much imagination is required to envision a skittish Iran spooked into launching one of their state-of-the-art Shahib 4 missiles at one of our ships. Nor would anything more be required to make the obstacle of Congressional approval for a US attack magically disappear.

You think the idea that the Democratic Congress would roll over for another war strains credulity? House majority leader Steny Hoyer recently told The Jerusalem Post that he backed negotiations and sanctions. As for air strikes, “I have not ruled that out,” he said.

There is no need to push the button and go nuclear with Iran. But the neocons – crazed, deluded maniacs that they are – think they actually have to go ahead and do it. If it happens, God help us all, because while the American public won’t care much about Iran, the rest of the world does.


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?