June 16, 2003

DROPPING THE MEDICAL BALL IN IRAQ? Reader John Borell emails:

The front page of the NY Times had a picture on Saturday, and one of the soldiers in the picture, being comforted, is my brother, Sgt. David Borell (misspelled as Borello). There was a corresponding article in the local paper, The Toledo Blade, (Link) and it discusses his disgust with the Army doctors for not treating wounded Iraqis.

I am a big supporter of the president, and of our actions in Iraq. However, I want to win the peace, and believe it is important to speak up when things drift away. We want to win the hearts of the Iraqi people, and providing them with aid, when possible, is key to that.

One of the beautiful things about out country, is that a soldier can speak up, and it may even prompt change (our congresswoman, whom I disagree with on most things, but agree with on this narrow issue, wants to establish hospitals for the Iraqis. Not a bad idea, as I doubt they have much of their own. Link).

We are Americans. We help people in need. Not always, but we do what we can. We decided to help Iraq, not just by ridding the world of Saddam, but by rebuilding. Hopefully, there are people in Washington who pay attention to such things, and make course corrections as needed.

Mr. Borell also forwarded an email from his brother, which I’m not reprinting here as it’s very long — but it’s clearly heartfelt and expresses a profound sense that we’re getting this particular matter very wrong. Somebody needs to look into this story.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Cecil Turner (Major, USMC, ret.) sends this:

Concur we need to help in any way possible in Iraq. However, this stuff is getting silly. We currently have ~150,000 troops in country, with presumably appropriate levels of medical support. (And it isn’t like they don’t have any cases to treat.) There are 5 million people in Baghdad alone (many of whom are doctors). Looks to me like 97% of the requirement is going to go unfilled if we rely on the military.

There are many people who believe the military can provide endless support to a population, and it’s just not practicable. Mountains of supplies? No problem. Technical support? By all means. But there is no way the Army support groups are geared up for this sort of thing, nor should they be. The last thing we want is for every Iraqi to sit on his duff and wait for the US Army to do stuff for him. It’s past time to get Iraqis back to work rebuilding their own country . . . including hospitals.

And while we should help them do that, providing medical staff out of the few military personnel available isn’t the right kind of help.

Fair enough.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chuck Simmins thinks I’ve made too much of this story, too:

Glenn – the most telling thing about the article you linked was that “The local hospital already had refused to treat the children.”

Most of the hospital that existed in Iraq are open for business and treating Iraqis. The Central Command news releases, on a daily basis, talk about those
hospitals, supplying them, paying for them, improving them. We’re doing a hell of a lot for these hospitals.

Perhaps the Sgt. should have asked why they were turned away from their local hospital. The Army docs were correct. A base hospital is no place for long
term care. If these injuries were not life threatening, these Iraqis should have been treated at an appropriate facility, i.e. the local hospital.

Well, okay — but why was Sgt. Borell so upset? Wouldn’t he know all this stuff?

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