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Iraq Blog VI

Nothing Spared to Save Our Soldiers

Baghdad is still a tough place. Though there were apparently a couple of IED episodes in Baghdad while I was there, I was not aware of when they happened. However, a visit to the Combat Support Hospital (CSH) inside the Green Zone had a powerful impact on my understanding of the reality of war.

I met the doctors and nurses on duty that day. They walked me through their sobering business as if I was a patient arriving by helicopter, as most of their patients do.

I noticed a flag had been hung on the ceiling of the doorway through which wounded soldiers would be wheeled. I was told, “We want the American flag to be the first thing they see here. We want them to know they have come to a place where no effort will be spared to give them what they need. We want them to know once they get here, there is a 98-percent chance they will survive.”

In general, the staff observed that, thankfully, trauma treatment for combat-related injuries had slowed dramatically. We walked into the trauma center. During my visit, it lay quiet, but, on some days, as many as 40 soldiers will lay on those tables, victims of explosions, bullets or other combat injuries. The chief nurse who briefed me said, “Sometimes all three of these tables will be full, the floor will be covered with blood, and there will be a line of gurneys waiting, but the most remarkable thing to observe is the calm professional way in which this team provides care. Nothing is spared.”

After a wounded soldier has been stabilized, and the extent of injuries determined, most must go to the operating area. We walked the pathway along which so many had been rolled. I found myself imagining what would go through their minds as they deal with the pain and uncertainty of their circumstances.

Secretary Leavitt and Chief of Staff, Rich McKeown on a tour of the CSH.
Secretary Leavitt and Chief of Staff, Rich McKeown on a tour of the CSH.

We entered the operating area. At the moment we were there, only two of the several operating theaters were in use.

I looked through the window of the dual swinging doors, and could see the body of what was obviously an Iraqi man, lying naked on the operating table, with a team of four working over him. He had lost a hand, had a serious wound to his head, and the team had his chest open working to remove a piece of metal.

The chief nurse explained to me he was Iraqi, and appeared to have been setting an explosive device of some type when it had blown up prematurely. He had received the blow he had intended for one of our soldiers.

What interested me is that the United States provides him the same care we would one of our soldiers. Something tells me that isn’t true of the insurgents and the terrorists.

In the second operating theater was another Iraqi, wounded in combat. It was another scene where the nature of his injuries made the seriousness of war graphically apparent. I won’t go into detail, except to say they were extreme. The surgeon, a youngish looking guy who was on his second tour, conceded to me that the first time around it was somewhat shocking, but this time, he knew what to expect. The emergency surgeries are, he said, “a professional challenge like none other I have ever faced.”

It is not unusual to have a wounded American soldier arrive at the CSH, get stabilized and be on an airplane to Germany on the same day.

On my way out the door, I saw a little Iraqi boy who was being treated for a poisonous snake bite. His father was at his side. A significant part of our military medical resources in Iraq go to provide treatment to local citizens. One thing I know is that their view of America and Americans will never be the same.

As Prime Minister Maliki told me, “Health care is one of the best messengers of peace between nations.”


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M*A*S*H was a very romantic version without all the near real time reports. When an automobile accident happens they may or may not get any interviews. One someon is hit with an IED there is video footage and news reports. Like an autoaccident its very hard to watch but almost impossible to turn away from.

As they say "Good work never comes back to haunt you." Helping those serving in Iraq as well as the locals goes a long way to makeing things better.

The only upside is the advancement of technique and testing of products like QuickClot. The stories then come home and people discuss if the should be used during a pandemic when medical aide could be scarce after an autoaccident. Turns out quickclot could do more harm than good unless a war is on.

Its good that America has more than computers, TV shows and Britney Spears to offer the world.

"The bonds between countries are not formed in empty ceremonial handshakes between dignitaries at far off parties, but in the hearts of their citizens." - Kobie Tau

Posted by: Kobie | November 08, 2008 at 11:58 AM

Dear Secretary Michael Leavitt:

I just read the press release announcing the new board for The AHIC Successor Inc. Are dentists represented? Darrell K. Pruitt DDS

Posted by: Darrell Pruitt | November 12, 2008 at 02:54 PM

Secretary Leavitt,

There has not been a blog entry since Nov. 7th. I'm sure things are busy in DC and you have alot of things to set up.

I hope there will be a signoff entry. You really helped open up a part of governemnt to the people with web casts, summits with non government folks and these blogs.

I hope the experiance was not only good and elightning but proved that people with differnt views, agendas and training can blog well together.


"Each is given a list of rules; a shapeless mass; a bag of tools. And each must fashion, ere life is flown, A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone."

Posted by: Kobie | November 15, 2008 at 08:10 AM

Thank you Secretary Leavitt for your stand on protecting our troops and the good work that you have done. Thank you too for working to protect our constitutional rights, especially the rights of free speech and conscience.

Posted by: K Rose | November 19, 2008 at 07:59 PM

Thank you for working to provide new regulations to allow health care professionals to exercise their personal rights of conscience when it comes to issues of life and death, including abortion.

Abortion is not normally a "health" issue as much as it is a personal "birth control" issue, that kills a human being so it will not inconvenience the mother or father of that human being.

Your courageous efforts to leave a legacy of "LIFE" in these final months of the Bush Administration are deeply appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by: Gary Curtis | November 19, 2008 at 08:06 PM

Secretary Leavitt, I wanted to make my gratitude known to you for the years you have put in working to make the world a better place. Thank you for supporting President Bush, and thank you for all of your work to protect our freedom of speech and all of the freedoms that have always been the solid foundation of our country. I pray the new administration will be able to understand this, too.

Posted by: Shari | November 19, 2008 at 08:20 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
Thanks to you and George Bush for governing with dignity. Your stance on life is very much appreciated. You will be remembered for your outstanding service to this country.

John W. Gillan, DDS, MS

Posted by: JOHN W. GILLAN, DDS, MS | November 19, 2008 at 08:36 PM

Mr. Secretary,
I am writing to thank you for the continuous good work you have done while in office, and more specifically for the work you have done recently to secure conscience protections within the health care industry. You're right - protection of conscience is fundamental to freedom of speech. At a time when our tolerance-preaching, intolerant adversaries want to eliminate all free speech except their own, you are a bright light. Thank you for working to provide doctors, pharmacists, and others in the industry with the freedom to choose based on their convictions.

Posted by: Jennifer | November 19, 2008 at 09:27 PM

Thank you so much for your efforts to put forth a rule that would create a hedge of protection around health care providers who object to abortion or other procedures on moral grounds. Your stand and President Bush's stand on this matter ring true in the hearts of many Americans. I applaud your efforts and send heartfelt "thanks".

Posted by: Karin | November 19, 2008 at 09:54 PM

Thank you so much for continuing to work to protect pharmacists and other health care providers when we object to filling prescriptions or performing medical procedures for moral reasons. I appreciate your hard work and am praying it will pass before the new administration takes office. Thanks again.
Tracy Bradford,PharmD

Posted by: Tracy Bradford | November 19, 2008 at 10:03 PM

Thank you so much for your help with conscience protections. May God continue to give you wisdom and courage. Presson!

Posted by: Janice Henry | November 19, 2008 at 10:31 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
Thank you for fighting to protect life and for fighting for those in the medical field who also choose to protect life. Your work to protect doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel who choose not to participate in the abortion industry is to be admired. Our only hope is that the hard work of each involved in the prolife movement continues and that Mr. Obama learns to lead by the hand of God and not by the hand he has chosen to lead by thus far. God Bless you and thank you for all your efforts.

Posted by: Elizabeth | November 19, 2008 at 10:37 PM

Thank you for your efforts to provide protection for those medical providers whose moral or religious principles compel them to not participate in, let me be blunt, the murder of the innocents.

Posted by: George Wadding | November 19, 2008 at 10:42 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
I want to thank you for your wonderful HSS work in protecting women and people of conscience. We need more people like you in government positions.
Thank you for doing a great job!

Posted by: Tom Lugaresi | November 19, 2008 at 11:47 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,

I just wanted to say thank you so much for doing your part to fight for the protection of conscience rights for medical professionals in our nation. No provider should be discriminated against simply because they object to abortion or other procedures on moral grounds. No provider should be coherced or forced to distribute drugs like RU-486 or the morning-after pill which are harmful to women and unborn children alike. God bless you for your role in this battle to preserve the morality, safety and order of freedoms of our nation at such a pivotal time. You will be in my prayers.

Posted by: Brian (Northern Virginia) | November 19, 2008 at 11:59 PM

Thank you Secretary Mike Leavit and President Bush for working to protect the conscience rights of medical personnel and pharmcists who may be asked to perform procedures or provide products which would result in the death of our youngest and most vulnerable innocent unborn children. My prayers are with you!

Posted by: Kendall Hjelmfelt | November 20, 2008 at 01:42 AM

Thank you for your steadfast work on meeting the needs of our Nation, during our time of war. Also, a great job on your work on "conscience exemptions". Hopefully, these rules will soon be in place and provide the much needed protection for faith based health providers.

Posted by: william halvorsen | November 20, 2008 at 02:45 AM

Dear Secretary Leavitt:

I have read your IRAQ BLOGS with particular interest since I have a relative who has been a health care provider in Baghdad for nearly 2 years. Thank you for your visit to Iraq and for clearly describing some of the issues and conditions.

Additionally, thank you for your posture and efforts relating to the conscience protection of health care providers and facility managers whose beliefs are being challenged at this time.

We appreciate your service as HHS Secretary and commitment to improve health care to all Americans as well as those with whom we come in contact.

Posted by: Dennis Bogart | November 20, 2008 at 03:39 AM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
Thank you for working to create a hedge of protection around health care providers who object to abortion or other procedures on moral grounds. Your work is sincerely appreciated.
Best Regards,

Posted by: Lorri | November 20, 2008 at 06:44 AM

Thank you for your hard work on the health conscience matter....Marty Coburn, Wichita KS

Posted by: MARTY COBURN | November 20, 2008 at 07:07 AM

Thanks for taking a stand and working to protect the consciences and integrity of all medical professionals. Allowing them/us to opt out of participation in procedures/actions we conscientiously object to is truly THE RIGHT THING TO DO!! Can you possibly make this *completely non-overturnable*, even by the Supreme(?)Court? You must know that this will almost immediately be moved to the top of the new administration's hit list.

Posted by: Joann | November 20, 2008 at 07:25 AM

I just wanted to say thank you for your work to protect medical professionals who object to performing abortions for reasons of conscience. I know that may not be a popular position to take right now, but I appreciate the work you have done.

Posted by: Michael Stalker | November 20, 2008 at 07:29 AM

I can't thank you enough because there are so many of us out here supporting all of the government in prayer and then to see that you are trying to protect the consciences of medical workers, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who do NOT want to perform an abortion has my deepest gratitude. I have had 2 new grandchildren this year and was privileged to see ultasounds before they were born besides the fact I believe life begins at conception. Thank you for a job well done. Here's to prayers that abortion will be stopped once and for all!

Posted by: Teresa | November 20, 2008 at 07:46 AM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,

Thank you for your stand for freedom of conscience as it relates to abortion and the unborn. Unlike some who use words for personal gain, you have lived them out. JESUS said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of MINE; you did for ME." Matthew 25:40

"GOD is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown HIM as you have helped HIS people and continue to help them." Hebrews 6:10

Thank you and may GOD bless you and show HIMSELF to you in a very special way.

Posted by: The Gassett Family | November 20, 2008 at 07:59 AM

This is not related to your post on Iraq, but I can't find the post I was looking for. I wanted to let you know that I appreciate the protections you have been promoting to protect healthcare workers from discrimination because of their beliefs, specifically pro-life convictions.

Posted by: Lars Huttar | November 20, 2008 at 08:26 AM

Mr. Secretary, Thank you for your courage and hard work to propose regulations that would create a hedge of protection around health care providers who object to abortion or other procedures on moral grounds. I pray that all Americans will stand behind you in this and the new administration will not undo all this hard work.

Posted by: Kathy | November 20, 2008 at 08:39 AM

Thank you, Secretary Leavitt, for pretecting conscience rights.

Posted by: Danna | November 20, 2008 at 09:10 AM

FRC wrote about the work you've done to protect the right of those working in the medical field to refuse to perform procedures that violate conscience. I just want to thank you for standing firm on this issue. May the Lord richly bless your endeavors.

Posted by: Jennifer Bartlett | November 20, 2008 at 09:24 AM

My husband is a pharmacist who has limited his choices of practice because he did not believe in dispensing birth control pills. I am a nurse. We appreciate your hard work to allow us as health professionals to be pro choice for life instead of death.
Thank you and God bless you.
Lynn Stephens

Posted by: Steve and Lynn Stephens | November 20, 2008 at 09:25 AM

Secretary Leavitt,

I just wanted to thank you for all of your hard work on behalf of the American people and more particularly at the moment for your work on the conscience exemptions policy for medical providers helping to ensure that they do not have to perform procedures that are against their consciences.

Posted by: Jacob | November 20, 2008 at 09:30 AM

Secretary Leavitt,

Thank you so much for persevering to protect
conscience rights.

God bless you!

Posted by: Judy Ledford | November 20, 2008 at 09:38 AM

I would like to thank you for your efforts in protecting health care providers from being forced to provide abortions or similar procedures against their will and conscience. Your work at HHS has been appreciated.
Thank you!

Posted by: Cindy Sigmon | November 20, 2008 at 09:40 AM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
Thank you for supporting life in these trying times. I ask you to please investigate abuses of the Hyde Amendment as drastic increases in claims underneath that amendment are leading many to believe it is either being ignored or abused.
After serving in Iraq I found I would like to go into the medical field, however the prospect of having to ignore every ethical bone in my body is making me very wary of entering that field(and that's coming from a grunt soldier). Please help keep the medical field ethical, providing medical treatments to help and not hurt people.

Posted by: Peter | November 20, 2008 at 11:05 AM

Thank you Secretary Leavitt for remaining true to America's conscience and being a true ambassador for America for our troops and keeping doctor's and nurses's from having to perform abortions against their conscience. God bless you and God keep America safe and bless Israel also by not dividing Jerusalem.

Posted by: Joan Okada | November 20, 2008 at 11:21 AM

As others have recently written, I too wish to say thank you for standing by the President in upholding his conservative, life-supporting, conscience-driven policy in the field of healthcare and for pharmacists. This issue is a huge indicator of the direction our country will be going. Forcing an individual to act against his conscience, or lose his job, definitely crosses the line between democracy and a downhill slide to no freedom at all. You efforts are appreciated and will not be forgotten by the One who's approval matters most of all.

Posted by: Patty Gibbs | November 20, 2008 at 11:40 AM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
This is not in response to your current blog, but I wanted to express my appreciate for your work. Thank you so much for persevering in protecting conscience rights for those in the medical field. You are to be commended!

Posted by: Pamela | November 20, 2008 at 12:52 PM

Thankyou and President Bush for supporting life issues and conscience clauses.
I believe in life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness in the US Constitution.
Abortion is abslolutely not health care for women or for any female.
Abortion not only kills the unborn growing baby, it can also kill the mother.
I have seen what aborted babies look like.
Abortion is a huge money maker.

Posted by: Lisa Bates | November 20, 2008 at 02:16 PM

Thank you for your respect of those who feel the unborn have rights that must be upheld.

Posted by: B Horvath | November 20, 2008 at 02:48 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
On behalf of the members of Alabama Physicians For Life, Inc., I commend you for your efforts to combine and simplify all regulations that support the Right of Conscience for medical professionals in our nation.
We are very grateful for your efforts to organize and strengthen support for all those who desire to respect the innate value of human life from conception through natural death.
"If we must err, let us err on the side of life."

Posted by: Sue Turner | November 20, 2008 at 03:20 PM

Thank you for your work on protecting the moral rights of healthcare providers.

Posted by: Greg Sharkey | November 20, 2008 at 04:44 PM

Thank you for your efforts to preserve the conscienctious rights of those in the medical field who believe in the sanctity and right to life.

Posted by: Jim & Phyllis Kaelin | November 20, 2008 at 04:57 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
Thank you so much for your work to implement conscience protections for those in the medical profession. As someone with friends who are in the medical field and are unwilling to participate in activities that undermine the dignity of life, I am grateful for your work.

Posted by: Emily B. | November 20, 2008 at 04:58 PM

Thank you, Secretary Leavitt, for defending the conscience rights of healthcare providers!! No one should have to perform an abortion or prescribe medicine to end a baby's life is they believe this is morally wrong.

Posted by: Martin Bentz | November 20, 2008 at 05:25 PM

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your courage in standing up for the rights of the unborn and protection of our medical professionals. May God richly bless you and enlarge your territory!

Cindy Moseley

Posted by: Cindy Moseley | November 20, 2008 at 07:57 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,
As a member of Alabama Physicians For Life, Inc., I commend you for your efforts to combine and simplify all regulations that support the Right of Conscience for medical professionals in our nation.
We are very grateful for your efforts to organize and strengthen support for all those who desire to respect the innate value of human life from conception through natural death. "If we must err, let us err on the side of life."

Posted by: Robert G. Rosser, M.D. | November 20, 2008 at 08:05 PM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,

As a member of the Alabama Physicians for Life, Inc. I want to thank you for your support for the Right of Conscience bill. We need more righteous men like you and President Bush in our government. May the Lord bless you.

Posted by: Earl Glenn, MD | November 20, 2008 at 08:49 PM

Thanks so much Senator Leavitt and your supporters who stand for LIFE at these times when it is so critical and may God bless your efforts always.

Posted by: Debbie | November 20, 2008 at 11:07 PM

Another who wishes to thank you for your support of the unborn as you work to implement conscience protections for those in the medical field. I commend you and i am grateful for your work.

Posted by: Lisa Sutton | November 21, 2008 at 12:42 AM

Dear Mr. Secretary: Thank you for promulgating the conscience rules protecting medical personnel. Those who say they are "pro-choice," should allow individuals to choose not to support the abortion culture.

Posted by: Raymond J. Adamek | November 21, 2008 at 11:34 AM

Dear Secretary Leavitt,

I want to add my voice to the many others saying THANK YOU for protecting the conscience of medical workers, including pharmacists, when it comes to abortion. This is such an important issue right now. So, coming from a family of doctors and pharmacists, we are all very grateful for your hard work!

Heidi Cox

Posted by: Heidi Cox | November 21, 2008 at 03:59 PM

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