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Iraq Blog V

Meeting Prime Minister Maliki

On my second day in Iraq I had a 30-minute meeting with His Excellency Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq. I had not met him before.

His office is inside the protected Green Zone, in a rather remarkable building I understood to be the home of one of Saddam’s sons at one time. I’m not sure of that, but, by any account, it was ornate and tastefully done. I was joined in the meeting by the Ambassador from the United States, Ryan Crocker, with whom I had met the previous day, and the senior members of my delegation. Minister of Health Salih also attended, sitting on Prime Minister Maliki’s left.

Prime Minister Maliki went into exile in 1980, after Saddam Hussein’s regime sentenced him to death for his leadership role in an opposing party. He spent his time away in Iran and Syria. He was elected as Prime Minister in May of 2006.

Visits with a Head of State or Prime Minister have a rhythm about them. There is a formal greeting, and a few pictures. Generally, one sits on the right of the host. The media is invited in for a picture; when the media is cleared out, a more formal part of the conversation can begin.

Typically, the Head of State speaks first, and offers a greeting, maybe laying out some things he or she is interested in talking about. Then the visitor responds with similar expressions.

I told the Prime Minister why I was there by relating the experience I had in talking with the American health community about receiving Iraqi physicians for short-term exposure to current medical practice. I referenced the unqualified generosity and willingness uniformly expressed by everyone I spoke with.

Secretary Leavitt (left); interpreter (middle); Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, Nouri Kamel al-Maliki (right)
Secretary Leavitt (left); interpreter (middle); Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, Nouri Kamel al-Maliki (right)

I expressed the view that our Governments were developing working relationships, but it was important, in my view, that we begin concentrating on connecting the American and Iraqi people. I referenced the historic quality and regional leadership of the Iraqi health-care community, and acknowledged the damage it had sustained during the previous 30 years of neglect. I told him we wanted to support the goal of returning Iraq to its previous stature as a center of excellence for medicine in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister said he was not surprised to hear of the positive way people had responded to my request. “This matches what we have come to know about the American people and their desire to help others,” he said.

He went on to say, “We need to build bridges based on love and appreciation. Health care is one of the best messengers of peace between nations.”

We had a fairly lengthy conversation about the dual agreements currently being negotiated between our nations. A blog is not a place to be talking about the specifics of that kind of conversation. It was candid and productive.

I will say that he had some fascinating observations about the challenges of governing people who have freedom thrust upon themselves for the first time. I saw some of that play out, first-hand, later in the day, as I traveled outside the Green Zone to a major teaching hospital in the Medical City complex in Baghdad. (I wrote about that in my previous blog.)


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Secretary Leavitt,
I wanted to echo many of the comments from previous posts and express my appreciation for your willingness to serve. People of your caliber are so sorely needed in all levels of government. In many cases it seems like the only duties of our leaders are figuring out how to get and stay in public office. Thank you for the many hours you have spent listening, writing, teaching, organizing, and working on our behalf.

Posted by: Jeff L | November 06, 2008 at 08:57 PM

Abortion is taking of a life. It allows people to do what they please without consequence. If abortion were illegal, people would think more about the consequences and in turn make more thought out decisions regarding their bodies. Young girls know that if they have sex and get pregnant, they can just have an abortion, and in turn think less about their actions. These girls then have to live with the decision for the rest of their lives and unless they were born without a conscience, they are negatively affected for the rest of their lives.

Posted by: jana | November 06, 2008 at 09:42 PM

Secretary Leavitt,

I've enjoyed your blogs a great deal.

I believe there is a great deal both countries can learn from each other. The pandemic flu blogs are full of ideas from other people on how they use everyday items to warm food, clean water, take care of themselves.

Self reliance and resiliance is something I do not find here. When disaster strikes people call on FEMA even though it is local churches and groups who respond first. FEMA is not bad but after seeing what the Iraq has been through there is much I could learn.


Posted by: Allen | November 07, 2008 at 12:48 PM

Secretary Leavitt,

Keep up the good work. And keep on fighting the good fight! :-)
I agree that employees shouldn't have to compromise their morals and beliefs to fulfill an employers wants. I will keep you in my prayers.


Posted by: Melissa Surratt | November 20, 2008 at 10:26 AM

Secretary Leavitt,

Thank you for standing up for the right. I admire that in people even more than their professional expertise. But if they have both, I admire them even more.
I think it's regrettable that President-elect has chosen another man to fill your cabinet post. Best of luck in all you do!

Posted by: Anne Berryman | November 20, 2008 at 12:07 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,

I would like to thank you for your service to our country at HHS. As health professional working in my own states HHS Dept. I can appreciate the hard work you put in. I most grateful for your respect for life and the respect you have shown to professionals who want to uphold the sanctity of life by nor being involved in abortion in anyway including dispensing contraception.
I will keep you and your family in my prayers.
Patricia Derr

Posted by: Patricia Derr | November 21, 2008 at 09:46 AM

Dear Secretary Leavitt:

My heartfelt thanks to you for your principled stand protecting pro-life doctors and pharmacists from being forced to violate their consciences in regard to performing abortions or filling prescriptions for abortifacient drugs. There are no words to express my gratitude. You will be sorely missed. May our LORD richly bless you for your work on behalf of unborn babies.

Posted by: Jeanine Hensley | November 22, 2008 at 01:19 AM

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