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Iraq Papers Tue: Returning Home to Iraq as a GI
Minister Resigns, "Virtual Autopsies" of War Dead Reveal Ways to Save Others
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/26/2009 02:10 AM ET
Not a lot of Iraq-related news today, but still some interesting stuff. There are Iraqis who go back to Iraq as US soldiers, information about problems in the Trade Ministry which led to its leader’s resignation Monday, and CT scans providing a wealth of information.

From Baghdad
Aamer Madhani of USA Today writes about Forat Aldawoodi, an Iraqi from Baghdad’s oft-embattled Dora neighborhood who made it out of Iraq in 2007 as part a the US visa program for those who had worked with the US military. Once an interpreter, he became an Army reservist, was deployed, and until recently, has been patrolling Dora. There aren’t many like him, (only about eight are mentioned by a military spokesman. Despite being singled out some by his basic training drill instructor, he seems to be doing extremely well, an obviously valuable asset for an Army often beset by a lack of understanding of the culture in which it finds itself, and a common lack of trust in its local translators. There are no huge surprises in the article, but it is interesting and well put-together.
What makes Aldawoodi so valuable is his familiarity with the area and a native understanding of Iraqi culture, (Lt. Col. Dave) Bair said. On almost every mission, Aldawoodi accompanies him, according to Bair. After meeting with a community leader or local Iraqi security force commander, Bair usually calls Aldawoodi into his office to get his impressions and thoughts on what was said between the lines.

When not on patrol, Aldawoodi spends much of his time on the phone, reaching out to Iraqi leaders on behalf of Bair or calling friends to get a better sense of the mood on the street. Though Aldawoodi is barely a year out of boot camp and holds a junior rank, Bair said he considers him a trusted adviser. "I have to remind myself that he's just an E-4 (specialist)," Bair said. "I load him up just as much as I do some of my officers."
In the New York Times, Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed write of the resignation by Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudani, which Prime Minister al-Maliki accepted on Monday. Al-Sudani was to face a no-confidence vote, had the resignation not gone through. The story’s been brewing for a while, and the headline is really the only new information on all the articles coming out (other than that the resignation was offered on May 14) – as everything has been summed up in previous articles.

Williams and Mohamed set themselves apart a bit by adding something which has been mostly missing from the writing – some details of the actual corruption within the ministry. The most that readers have really seen so far are somewhat vague claims about soggy sugar that came up in the questioning of al-Sudani last week. The focus here is the ministry’s oversight of imports, some of which it turns around to include in the government’s vast monthly food rations, long a staple in Iraq, and the shortchanging that is said to have generated millions of dollars in kickbacks for ministry officials.
During Mr. Sudani’s tenure, however, there were frequent shortages, and some of the goods were distributed long after their expiration dates, arousing widespread public anger. People interviewed Monday said that when the food became available, it was often inedible. “I cannot consume the items,” said Um Ali, a 47-year-old homemaker in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad. “We sell them and buy other items from the black market.”

Abu Mustafa, a merchant who receives supplies from the Trade Ministry, said he rarely got deliveries on time and often received spoiled food, including sugar that had turned black. “In general, I do not get more than five items out of nine each month,” he said. And beyond “the lack in quantity,” he added, was “the problem of bad quality.” Some merchants said they had resorted to burning spoiled food publicly to prove to people that they were not trying to pass off the goods as being fresh.
The New York Times’ Denise Grady gives a compelling report on how performing CT scans on the remains of fallen soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan returning to Dover Air Force Base became standard, and of the information being gathered. Such information is creating a detailed and expansive database which has affected battlefield medicine, body armor design, and a general understanding of injuries sustained.
The medical examiners have scanned about 3,000 corpses, more than any other institution in the world, creating a minutely detailed and permanent three-dimensional record of combat injuries. Although the scans are sometimes called “virtual autopsies,” they do not replace old-fashioned autopsies. Rather, they add information and can help guide autopsies and speed them by showing pathologists where to look for bullets or shrapnel, and by revealing fractures and tissue damage so clearly that the need for lengthy dissection is sometimes eliminated.
Aside from the medical side of the information gathering, it can also serve as a way to provide family members with a more thorough accounting of what happened to their loved ones, should they want it. One parent interviewed said of the envelope provided to them, “We may not want to read it today, but we may want to read it 10 years from now.”

Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, no Iraq coverage.

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