Monday, July 10, 2006


I hope you'll excuse me for writing a non-medical post with political overtones, but I can't not write about the debacle in Iraq any longer.

A couple of days ago National Public Radio had a story about the number of civilian casualties there have been in Iraq since the American invasion. Hard figures are difficult to come by, of course, but the estimate is that somewhere between 35,000 and 45,000 civilians have been killed in the violence. That number does not include deaths of soldiers or combatants on all sides, which would obviously inflate the figure. The Baghdad morgue handles 1400 to 1600 bodies a month. It is overflowing. These figures are both awesome and awful. Whoever is responsible for it should be ashamed.

And who is responsible for it? Certainly Al Qaeda and other insurgents have to take some blame. Clerics who foment ethnic violence and militants who practice it are guilty. Suicide bombers who think it's valiant to kill a dozen people along with themselves are despicable. But most of all, we have to blame the U.S. for this mess. We started it. We brought to Iraq at least three years of chaos and sectarian violence with no way to stop it. We started a cycle of violence that has already killed more than 35,000 civilians, with no realistic end in sight. Another sad fact is that well into the mess we re-elected as President the bonehead who started it. To make matters worse, we have lost any high moral ground we may have had by our hideous practices at Abu Graib and by ignoring the Geneva convention at Guantanamo.

If given the choice, I wonder if Iraqis would prefer to have the 35,000 to 45,000 civilians still living but with Saddam Hussein still in power, or whether they think the loss of life is worth it for the government they have now. I think I know what the answer of people who lost sons and daughters and spouses is.

P.S. What should we do about this mess? I say, let's divide the country into three parts already, Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish, and be done with it.

P.S.S. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said!

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Extremely well said. Too bad we only have hindsight now to evaluate our "choice" of 2004.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Fat Doctor said...

I think I love you.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Sarabeth said...


But the other guy said he voted against the war before he voted for it.

Yes, Iraq was/is/will be badly managed by this administration. You said it very well.

I'm not sure the other guy would have done any better or could have cleaned up the mess.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you ask the families of the bodies found in the mass graves in Iraq?
Be sure to include the relatives of the pregnant women who were shot in the belly first then the head. And of course don't forget to poll the children who were gassed in the streets. And of course ask the thieves who survived the regime, but had their hand cut off.
I am sure they too would prefer a murderous dictator.
My family survived Hitler's concentration camps, I am not as forgiving of genocide as some others may be.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous An Army Wife said...

And, why don't you ask the Soldiers who are there living with these people every day. Our Soldiers are loved and wanted there by the people of Iraq. The insurgents are a small number creating a great problem. Don't just listen to the biased media. I've not talked to one Soldier returning from Iraq that says differently. And, I notice that you're not one of the many medical staff that is there helping. The comments you made do not respect our Soldiers or their mission. And their mission is what give you the rights to make whatever comments you want.

12:57 AM  
Blogger Dream Mom said...

Great post!

2:27 AM  
Blogger Flea said...

I'd stick to Neonatology.


5:27 AM  
Blogger stockingup99 said...

Bravo NeoHero.

Support our troops, bring them home. It really uspets me how much of my paycheck goes towards killing ours and theirs.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Trax said...

Hey Army wife, my bro was in Iraq for three months, it was the only time I have ever seen him scared. He told me they do not want us here! When he got home, he finished his time in the reserves and proceeded to unenlist ASAP...he has 3 little girls to take care of, where would they be if he got killed in a war that he doesn't even believe in. Do you think that our govt would step up to the plate to help those little girls deal w/the fact that their father is gone? Would you? It is not our war, not our place, we cannot help these people EVER! they have radically different beliefs and ideals than we do, and we cannot even begin to relate to what they need. I say if within their own country the people decide to rebel against their govt and then they ask the US for help...then and only then do we step in. How the heck did we ever decide that we know the best for everyone else....a little egocentric don't you think? It burns me up when people think it is ok for people to die, yes I understand there was death going on before we stepped in, but there is also lots of death going on in other parts of the world that we didn't step in to save....seems a little fishy to me, maybe there was something in Iraq that people wanted, wonder what that could be. I do respect our Soldiers, I respect the fact that they love their country and would die for it, they are a very NEEDED part of our society, but why they are dying not for our own country but for someone else's...and some not all but some of those people do not want us there. I hope your husband wherever he is stays safe and you continue to be an army wife. My father and brother were both Marines, it is in my family as well...I know what it means, but this war is just plain WRONG!

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Dianne said...

The 35-45,000 number is almost certainly too low, possibly by an order of magnitude or more. The survillence system being used is a passive one, which is notorious for undercounting, especially in situations like this where the reporting is spotty. There was an article in Lancet in 2004 suggesting that the number of excess deaths over and above what would have occured if Hussein had stayed in power and the US's boycott had stayed in place, was around 100,000, not counting Fallujah. That was two years ago.

In short, I agree with the first anonymous: Well said!

12:09 PM  
Blogger WendyLou said...

Another Army wife's view....


BTW, supporting the troops does not mean I have to support the CIC. I do not have to agree with why we are there to support the troops.

Quesioning what is happening is not failing to support the troops. Failing to question what is going on and deciding for yourself is unAmerican.

Oh, and neither choice was a good one in 2004. I voted for Nader again, becase I couldn't vote for Bush or Kerry.

3:58 PM  
Anonymous L said...

20 years ago, I worked with a young man from Syria. He told me something I found unexpected, considering he was now living in the free-and-open US. He said, quite positively, that people in Syria respected their leader Hafaz El-Assad because he was a strong man who brought stability to their country. Prior to him, there was one coup d'etat after another. With El-Assad, even with his repression of political opponents and secret police, the people had less upheaval in their day-to-day lives.

And the man who told me this was a Christian Arab, a minority group in Syria.

It gave me some insight into why a country would accept a strongman like Assad (and possibly Saddam Hussein). When it comes down to it, people want and need stable supplies of gasoline, food, housing and electricity. They don't want curfews, suicide bombers, checkpoints, unstable governments that can't deliver services, etc., in exchange for opportunity to vote in free elections.

I'm sure the Iraqi people appreciate having the US military there right now. Without our soldiers, the situation in Iraq would be even more chaotic.

I also agree, let the country split into three parts, and go on from there, just like happened in the former Yugoslavia.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the kind of talk that got our military men treated so badly after the Vietnam war. We should be standing behind the men of our country who are there fighting.

If you want to compare figures of those war to other wars, we can do that too.

This is a can of worms neonatal doc...Are you sure you want to do this on your site? It doesn't take much for this to get out of control and then you have radicals from every side slinging shit at each other.

Be warned, it can take over your whole site.

8:29 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Thanks everyone. I appreciate all the comments on both sides of the issue. I don't really expect to change too many people's' minds with this post.

Regarding the issue of disrespecting the troops: I highly respect the men and women of our armed services. They have a tough job, and I hope for safety for everyone of them. But respecting our troops doesn't mean blindly supporting every war they are in. It also means putting them in situations with a good plan, achievable goals, and adequate equipment, which didn't happen in Iraq.

I'll stop here. Back to medicine in my next post.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont know why such a big deal is made about the troops. Getting into the army is a profession just like any other. People work and get paid for what they do. Most people go in because of the incentives: it pays tuition, everything is subsidized, and you get to reap benefits of being a veteran all your life. Come on, how many people go into the army to 'serve the country'. Wars are all mindless and only mindless people would participate in them. Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq, its one ridiculous meddlesome faux pas after another. And the american army's 'exploits' have been exposed by the media on more than one occassion.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

anon, Thats not always true. Not by any definition. There are many men who join the military because they want to serve our country. I'm surprised you don't know any of them. Particularly following 9/11, Men and women all over the country wanted to join and they wanted to do so for the right reasons.

But, were you not alive during Vietnam or were you never educated about vietnam? Those men wern't there working a job. They were there because our govt. made them be there. It was called the "Draft." More than 58,000 men (kids) died on vietnam soil. 1968 saw 16,000 of our mens life's lost. Do you think they deserved that because they were just working men?

Have you not ever heard of "bait and Switch"? I'll tell you what it is. It happens when you may be a senior in high school, during the time our country is fighting a war. The draft is in force. Every kid graduating knew they would be drafted. Then low and behold here comes an army recruiter into the gym to talk to all the senior's. To me these were kids not grown men seeking employment.

This recruiter offers them a deal that many of them can't turn down. The deal he is offering is..."Don't wait to be drafted (for 2 years) in a few months, sign up now. Let me lock you into the buddy system."

The "buddy system" meant you and your buddy for 3 years of military, instead of 2. But, it also came with the promise of NO VIETNAM, you and your friend would stay together during your entire time.

My brother and cousin joined the army on that day in 1968, they were both barely 18. They both went to Columbus Ohio for physicals and they went together. When they were finished one went on one bus the other a different bus, they both spent 13 months in vietnam (at different times and places) and they never saw each other again for 3 years.

WWII was pretty much the same except those men stayed till the war was over. My dad spent 3.5 years in Germany.

I'm sorry that you feel no more for these men than to make the remark that "Its just a job!" I'm also sorry that you feel a need to call the very men that have given all of us our freedom "Mindless!"

4:22 AM  
Blogger Ex Utero said...

I used to think that our executive branch started this war for a variety of choices that didn't make sense (and they still don't) but that once we were in Iraq we would have to build bases and stay there (like Korea).

The more I think about it the less convinced I am that staying there is the right answer. I think we should set a time table for pulling out, potentially leaving the option of bases for Kurdish Iraq if the country fractures, since they seem to have the best chance of becoming a true democracy.

Despite all the recent events regarding misconduct, I am very proud of our troops and given the incredibly pathetic leadership coming out of the pentagon and the white house, I would say it's the boys (and girls) on the ground that make Americans proud... and that they have performed admirably in spite of the unethical interrogation decisions made by our commander in chief that have so tarnished America's image abroad. Thank God our Supreme court still thinks for itself.

(Has it been it 8 years yet?)

12:00 PM  
Blogger keagirl said...

I'm always amazed when people come to the conclusion that speaking out against the war and our present administration is "anti-patriotic" and "disrespectful" to our troops.

When did democracy - which involves free speech, open discussion, intellectual curiosity, and criticism of the government - become so "negative"? Isn't this what the US should stand for? When did we become a nation of questionless blind followers? We are purportedly fighting FOR democracy oversea, yet what is the state of democracy at home?

I am profoundly anti-war. Is this really the best way to resolve conflicts? Shouldn't we have advanced beyond this by now? I'm with you all the way Neonatal doc

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a female soldier and a wife to a vet., I totally agree with you neonatal doc. And poopoo to those who think that speaking against a war where our men and women are being killed and seriously injured is the same as not supporting the troops! I obviously support our troops, but am damn sick of seeing my friends come back home missing limbs, their hearing, their vision, or coming home in boxes. And for what? Was the war really worth their children growing up without them? Is the reason for this war really that great that my children should be without their mama?

I can't blame the Iraqi people for being angry at us. Here we came into their country with our own ideals, killed their families, bombed their homes, made the streets far more UNSAFE than they were before and we don't show any signs of getting out and letting them get back to life! I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to try to raise a family and live your regular life while all this is going on.

I can't believe we re-elected Bush. Sure, the other didn't seem perfect, but how much worse could he have been?

2:18 PM  
Blogger Loreleilee said...

comments like:

"This is the kind of talk that got our military men treated so badly after the Vietnam war. We should be standing behind the men of our country who are there fighting."

scare the crap out of me. to show our support we should just shut up and accept things we don't agree with? that kind of talk lets dictatorships flourish.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Trax said...

How bout this? What if Saddam thought he should come to the US to fix our problems? How do you think we'd feel about that???

4:20 PM  
Blogger WendyLou said...

Why is the military different than other jobs?

1) Just like other public servants who risk their lives (ala police and fire fighters) you can die while doing your job.
2) You are away from your family for extended amounts of time.
3) I really don't think many people join up for the money. Does money enter into the equation, of course it does. But anyone that enlists solely for the money is an idiot. There are easier and safer ways to earn a living.

People join the service because they want to serve their country. They join because they want to be part of something bigger than they are. They want to be proud as the put on the uniform.

There are many people who do things which better society and get paid for that. I would suggest that doctors, nurses, social workers, police officers, fire fighters, trash collectors, members of the clergy, and teachers fall into this category. Society would fail if we had to depend on volunteers to deliver babies, pick up our trash, plow the streets, and hunt down murders. Trust me, I am not in my profession for the money. I work where I work because I feel a need to protect children from abuse, and to help families recover from abuse.

People may come for the money, but they stay because the service makes them proud. Are doctors well paid, yes the are. I however am grateful when I need medical care that I have well trained physicians available.

Have you ever actually talked with a soldier or been on a military base. I doubt it. The benefits may help attract, but they actually sign, and re enlist because of the pride they have for serving.

I am so grateful we have people who will do public service jobs. Society cannot function without them. Without soldiers, you would not have the right to write what you did.

I also want to note, that you posted anonymous. If you are going to post bold words like that, have the guts to sign your name or blogger id.

Sorry Neonatal doc. I know I am new to your blog, and am not trying to blogjack. The Anon post needed a response.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Felix Kasza said...

Anon@10:24pm --

You write that "[w]ars are all mindless and only mindless people would participate in them."

I won't accuse _you_ of being mindless. I shall just note that you offer a provably uninformed opinion, thereby giving the impression of being mindless yourself.

The American War of Independence. Fought by mindless people?

The Napoleonic Wars, where Britain, for long stretches, stood alone against a tyrant. A mindless war?

The War of Secession (or, if you prefer, of Northern Aggression) -- yes, it may have had an economic background, yes, the Emancipation Proclamation was lacking and hypocritical in being written for selected states only; but the net effect, the freedom from slavery and the beginning of the long road to equal rights, was a pure and good deed in its own right. Are they all mindless, they who would lay down their lives for their fellow man?

To those who generalise all wars as mindless, all application of force as evil, and claim that violence never solved anything: Those of you that I have met are so devoid of morals, ethics, and values that you see nothing worth defending, nothing worth fighting for. I pity you all, and I pity you in particular, Anon@10:24pm.

To those whose opinions are less categorical and formed after reflection: I disagree with you, I am afraid. But at the very least I respect you.

Regarding the matter at hand, I was surprised to read the old saw about how Arabs love a strong ruler, and how this is really best for them. Oddly enough, this discriminatory argument is most often raised by liberals, who seem to feel that quod licet Iovi non licet bovi.

Have you forgotten that America declined the services of a would-be strong ruler in the late eighteenth century? His name was George III, and America sought (and found) a considerable source of support in France, of old Britain's antagonist. If you think that having strong rulers is a Good Thing, do have the courage of your convictions and try living in, oh, Saudi Arabia, or the PRC. (Are you female? Pick Saudi Arabia, by all means!) I believe that afterwards, you less mind others enjoying the freedom you take for granted.


6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ask you all this. What business is it of the US to INVADE other countries and decide whats 'best' for them. Why this God complex by the administration and the people. How can you expect to BOMB somebody's country and then expect them not to retailate. This 'terrorism' and 'war on terror' has been a problem in the rest of the world for a long time. America should mind her own business or be prepared to defend herself against the countries she ravages. And there are always incentives behind these invasions: OIL OIL OIL. So lets not project the army and the government as angels of mercy.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so, so depressing. As a Brit, furious at being involved in this mess, I am struggling to understand the mind set of many of you.

The love of country is admirable, but blind patriotism and Support the Troops drives me crazy. I'm sure SS officers joined up out of love of country, but it was a bit of a problem!

Arabs are radically different? Who says? I can't see that they are much different than you and me. Sure, some cultural differences - but they don't turn them into inhuman "ragheads". They would like electricity, clean water, a chance at a normal life.

Iraqis are "grateful?" Want you there? Well, maybe some do. I would suggest that there is ample evidence that the majority do not.

As for a "few terrorists" Well, if someone murdered your brother, his wife, 5 year old daughter in order to facilitate the rape and murder of a 15 year old, what would you do? Bow your head to God's will? Or pick up a gun?

4:50 AM  
Anonymous Dianne said...

And poopoo to those who think that speaking against a war where our men and women are being killed and seriously injured is the same as not supporting the troops!

I agree anon! I'm a hematologist at a VA hospital and one reason I am against this war is the number of young soldiers who seem to come straight from Iraq into heme clinic with various lymphomas and leukemias. The numbers are small enough that I'm not sure that there's a real increase in incidence yet, but it looks highly suspicious. Get them home, get the UN or MSF over to Iraq to help them clean up the environmental mess and help with their medical problems, stop throwing DU and other nasty things around and making the mess worse!

The OIF vets also seem to have extreme difficulty getting bureaucratic acknowledgement of fairly obviously service-connected problems like PTSD and combat injuries. I've heard of people having a hard time getting a blast injury acquired in Iraq acknowledged as service connected. Apparently he was asked to prove that he was on duty when he was hit by the blast! This is Bush and the Rep Congress's idea of supporting the troops? Cheer them while they're doing Bush's dirty work, screw them when they get hurt? (Rant!)

3:46 PM  

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