Thursday, September 6, 2007
Treating The Wounded
With all the debate over the Surge being reduced to whether or not the statistics for sectarian violence have gone up or down, and whether or not there's been political reconciliation from the top down or the bottom up, it's easy to lose sight of all the metrics that are being left out of the equation.
For instance, this article from the IRIN news service which describes the crisis gripping Iraqi hospitals and clinics. According to the Iraqi Medical Association, roughly 75% of doctors, nurses and pharmacists have left their posts, and 55% have left the country altogether. Low wages and a shortage of equipment and medications are contributing factors. But the primary reason Iraq's doctors are packing up and leaving is the threat of violence from sectarian militias.
In other words, the Bush administration and Lt. Gen. Petraeus have succeeded in defining the terms of the debate. And while we're all busy parsing the who, what, where, how and why's of casualty statistics, there's nobody left in Baghdad to treat the wounded. Which strikes me as a far more significant barometer of the country's viability, or lack thereof, than whether or not a bunch of thugs in the Green Zone have hammered out the fine print for how to divvy up the petro-dollars. Andrew Sullivan posted a video about a visual phenomenon, which he calls "inattention blindness", but which magicians call misdirection. This is the political version.
When Iraq's doctors not only stop leaving the country, but start coming back, we can start talking about progress. Until then, it's all just smoke and mirrors.