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The Army's top trauma doc courts controversy; Anti-war films tanking with public
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 11/06/2007 01:53 AM ET
It's a slow news day for Iraq today, with the diplomatic action taking place in Washington between President George W. Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The New York Times reports on the squalid and persistent conditions at the Baghdad police academy and offers a big profile on the Army's top trauma doctor. And USA Today has an essay by noted conservative Jonah Goldberg, who gleefully observes that anti-war movies aren't do so well at the box office.

Over there
Amit R. Paley of the Post reports that the number of displaced Iraqis has soared by more than four times since the surge began in February, according to the Iraq Red Crescent Society. That translates into 2.3 million Iraqi displaced and further shattering the country along sectarian lines. And that's just he internally displaced people. More than 83 percent of those displaced are children, with most of them being under 12, and women. Baghdad was hardest hit by this trend, as militias and insurgents drove Iraqis from mixed neighborhoods. Also on Monday, police forces tied to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, one of the largest Shi'ite groups in the country, arrested 11 followers of Moqtada al-Sadr, a rival Shi'ite leader.

The Times' James Glanz reports that after a year after Baghdad's police academy was found to have human excrement staining its ceilings; its walls honeycombed with cracks; its structures crumbling and most parts of it unusable because of the filthy and non-functioning toilets; nothing has changed. It's still filthy, stained with excrement and unlivable, despite promises from Parsons Corp., which built the police academy in the first place, to repair the place. The $45 billion reconstruction project was one of the most visible symbols of a failed program, Glanz writes. A total of $72 billion was spent on the academy. While the company offered to fix the place at no charge, a company spokesman also said the company had strictly abided by the terms of the contract and that the Army Corps of Engineers had accepted the work as completed. (Kind of like, "I was just following orders.") The problem was that there was very little government oversight on the contract and the subcontractors, and the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction said there were "indications of potential fraud," and referred the case to its investigative division. "The police academy was supposed to be a showcase project, but it now epitomizes wasteful spending and incompetent oversight," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Government Reform Committee. "The administration said this mess would be cleaned up, but once again, the money was squandered and no one was held accountable."

US Casualties
Alex Berenson of the Times profiles Col. John Holcomb, the Army's top trauma surgeon, who heads the Army's Institute of Surgical Research. He believes in aggressively treating wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan -- perhaps too aggressively some critics charge. He uses a controversial drugs and strongly advocates clinical trials to improve trauma care, an ethically tricky program because the severely injured patients can't always give informed consent. However, he has also redesigned the Army's transport system for wounded soldiers, encouraging chopper pilots to get the wounded to the hospital best able to treat them, even if it's not the closest. There's little doubt an aggressive treatment is sometimes necessary. Trauma killed 160,000 people in the U.S. in 2004, more than any other cause except for heart disease and cancer. And besides the 4,000 deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been 29,000 injuries from hostile fire, including 9,000 bad enough to require transport out of the war zone. That's why he advocates the clinical trials. "We run a research institute," he said. "Everything we do, we try to drive on data." Controversially, he has urged Army doctors to use Factor VII, a clotting agent that has only been approved to staunch bleeding in hemophiliacs. In wounded vets, it can possibly form blood clots that can lead to strokes. Another drug he's pushed is PolyHeme, a hemoglobin substitute that failed a clinical trial in trauma patients. In an earlier trial on patients undergoing surgery for aneurysms, 54 percent of the people taking it went on to suffer serious adverse affects. For Holcomb, it's worth the risk. "You have a drug that you know is safe from the prospective randomized controlled clinical trials," he said. "And you have to make a decision. It's not something you can decide to talk about. It's really yes or no. You have a lot of people bleeding to death in Iraq."

Sandra G. Boodman of the Post reports on "Give me an Hour," a non-profit group launched by clinical psychologist Barbara V. Romberg that provides free counseling to returning soldiers and their families.

Talking Turkey
In a rather predictable move, Bush pledged to step up intel sharing with Turkey as it battles PKK rebels in northern Iraq, reports Steven Lee Meyers of the Times. Bush also declined to say what the U.S. do if Turkey invades the north, saying it was a "hypothetical question." He did call the PKK "an enemy of Turkey, a free Iraq and the United States of America." All this was an attempt to keep that invasion in the "hypothetical" realm, even though Turkey's parliament has voted to move it into the "ugly reality" zone.

David Jackson has the story for USA Today.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

New York Times
Paul von Zielbauer reports that the court-martial of an Army sniper team leader, charged with murdering three men south of Baghdad, will start today in the Iraqi capital. It will likely highlight a classified Pentagon program that allowed snipers to place fake weapons as "bait" to attract and kill enemy fighters.

USA Today
Jonah Goldberg, editor at large of National Review Online, writes that never before has Hollywood churned out anti-war films while wars were still being fought. "We never filled the movie theaters during wartime with films calling them war criminals, rapists and, figuratively, spitting on them or on their mission." And yet, he then goes on to contradict his initial thesis: "To be sure, many of these films don't attack the troops directly. Some are thoughtful in their critiques, others less so." Only one film, Brian de Palma's "Redacted," depicts brutal American soldiers, but it's recounting one of the most heinous atrocities of the Iraq war that has not been disputed by the Army. The other films he mentions -- "Rendition," "The Kingdom," "Lions for Lambs," "In the Valley of Elah" -- are all criticizing policy more than they are the troops. And that seems to be the real sin in Goldberg's eyes. He gets further off track when he notes that the movies aren't doing well, indicating the American public isn't that interested in them. Well, then, what's the problem? He doesn't like the movies, no one else seems to either and don't conservatives like free market solutions to things they don't like? Please spare us self-contradictory tut-tutting in the future, please?

Christian Science Monitor
No Iraq coverage today.

Wall Street Journal
No Iraq coverage today.

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