A Different Abu Ghraib Story

  1. Want a Different
    Abu Ghraib Story?
    Try This One
    Saddam had their hands cut off. America gave them new ones.

    BY DANIEL HENNINGER
    Friday, May 14, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

    By now, some Americans may feel the need for respite from the images of Abu Ghraib and the five hooded barbarians standing behind Nick Berg. This week's column will try to provide some measure of respite.

    It is the story of Americans, in and out of the U.S. government, who moved mountains to help seven horribly maimed Iraqi men. It is not always pleasant reading, but there are rewards to staying with it, especially now.

    Quite obviously it has been decided, as the handling of the Abu Ghraib story makes plain, that when America stumbles, we are going to have our faces rubbed in it. And rubbed in it and rubbed in it. As far as I can make out, the purpose of this two weeks of media humiliation is that we--the president, all of us--are being asked to morally prostrate ourselves before the rest of the world. Some may choose to do so, but this story should make a few Americans want to simply stand up straight again.

    As perfect justice, the story in fact begins in Abu Ghraib prison, in 1995. With Iraq's economy in a tailspin, Saddam arrested nine Iraqi businessmen to scapegoat them as dollar traders. They got a 30-minute "trial," and were sentenced, after a year's imprisonment, to have their right hands surgically cut off at Abu Ghraib prison.

    The amputations were performed, over two days, by a Baghdad anesthesiologist, a surgeon and medical staff. We know this because Saddam had a videotape made of each procedure. He had the hands brought to him in formalin and then returned to Abu Ghraib. Oh, one more thing: The surgeon carved an X of shame into the forehead of each man. And the authorities charged the men $50.

    Last year, after we liberated Iraq, a veteran TV news producer named Don North--who has worked for major U.S. broadcasters--was in Baghdad with the U.S. to restore TV service. Iraqi contacts there brought him a tape of the men's amputations. Mr. North says dismemberment was common in Saddam's Iraq and that if one walks down a crowded Baghdad street one may see a half-dozen people missing an ear, eye, limb or tongue. He decided to seek out the men whose stubbed arms represented the civilized world's lowest act--the perversion of medicine.
    He found seven. Mr. North determined to make a documentary of their story and get medical help for them. How he found that help, if one may still use this phrase, is an all-American story.

    An oil engineer from Houston, named Roger Brown, overheard Mr. North's tale in a Baghdad caf. He suggested Don North get in touch with a famed Houston TV newsman named Marvin Zindler. Mr. Zindler put him in touch with Dr. Joe Agris, a Houston reconstructive surgeon, who has worked in postwar Vietnam and Nicaragua repairing children.

    Mr. North sent Dr. Agris a copy of the videotape of the surgical atrocities, and Dr. Agris said: Send me the men; I will fix them.

    But flying seven Iraqi men out of Baghdad is easier said than done. In this case, prodded by Don North and government friends, the famous U.S. bureaucracy gave itself a day off. Paul Bremer wrote a memo authorizing their departure. Paul Wolfowitz told the Air Force it could fly them to Frankfurt. Homeland Security waived visa requirements.

    Continental Airlines donated passage to Houston. There, Dr. Agris enlisted a fellow surgeon, Fred Kestler, to assist. The Methodist Hospital donated facilities, and the men arrived in Houston in early April.

    Dr. Agris saw that the Abu Ghraib "surgeries" were a botch. They'd cut through the joining of the wrist's carpal bones, "like carving a Turkey leg." Saddam's doctors did nothing to repair the nerve endings, which left the men with constant real and "phantom" pain. Drs. Agris and Kestler had two preliminary tasks: Repair the nerves, and, alas, take another inch off the men's lower arms, to leave a smooth surface for attaching their new prosthetic "hands." They worked for two days operating on the seven men, who then took a week to recover before receiving their new hands.

    Those devices were donated by the German-American prosthetic company Otto Bock, at a cost of $50,000 each. They are state-of-the-art electronic hands, with fingers, which respond to trained muscular movements. The rehabilitation and training is being donated by two other Houston companies, TIRR and Dynamic Orthotics. The Iraqi men are in Houston now, spending five hours a day learning to use their new right hands. And oh yes, the brands on their heads were removed.

    Don North completed his documentary on what happened to these men in Iraq. I watched "Remembering Saddam" this week. Several of the men insisted on seeing Saddam's home video of the atrocity, and so it's in the film--a bizarre, almost dainty image of forceps, scalpel, surgical gloves and green operating-room garments. Nothing like it since Dr. Mengele. Watching his hand come off, Baasim Al Fadhly says: "Look at this doctor, who considers his career noble and swears to God to be a noble person. Let everyone see this film."

    This crime deserves condemnation from international medical societies, such as the U.N.'s World Health Organization, or the Red Cross. And Don North's film indeed should be seen--but may not be. After two months of trying, no U.S. broadcast or cable network will take it. This is incredible. TV can run Abu Ghraib photos 24/7 but can't find 55 minutes for Saddam's crimes against humanity?

    On May 23, the American Foreign Policy Council will bring the restored men to Washington. They will visit maimed GIs at Walter Reed Army Hospital. It wouldn't be surprising if they said something positive about the U.S. soldiers who have not been on television the past two weeks.

    Then Don North and Joe Agris will fly with the men back to Iraq, to survey the rest of Saddam's dismembered population. "The practice of prosthetics is very archaic," Mr. North says,"for a country where this is such an affliction." Dr. Agris hopes to survey the hospitals and bring in some modern equipment and supplies. "If they let me, I'll do some of the kids," he says. "Let's show the good side of what we can do."

    Sure. Why not?

    Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
    http://www.opinionjournal.com/column.../?id=110005081

    I hope this story is covered on May 23 when these restored men are brought to Washington. "Send me the men, I will fix them". "Let's show the good side of what we can do".
    Last edit by mkue on May 14, '04
    •  
  2. 17 Comments

  3. by   Wolfpax
    Amazing that there is no one willing to jump on this bandwagon. They are probably less inclined to spread this word. I had the privilege and honor to listen to a lecture, on Nurses' day, by an Army Nurse Captain about treating the casualties of war. As it turns out, many of who they treat are civillians who cannot get the treatment they need from the Iraqui hospitals, they turn away no one, and the civillians know this. They come for non-emergant medical care as well, and again they are not turned away. They deserve our support, and our pride. America should know about them just as much , if not more than capitalizing on the lowest forms of American life.
  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    In 1992 a former co worker wrote from Saudi where she was working. The ER staffed uo every Friday because all convicted of theft had their right hand cut off.
    Capitol convictions from murder to adultery were decapitated, thus needed no care. Trials were held on Wednesday, punishment on Friday morning.
  5. by   Torachan
    No-one is going to tell a "good news" story from Iraq. Just like Bush and co decided a long time ago (some suggest years) and nothing could sway him from his course so has the world media (and thus opinion) decided on the way Iraq is going to be reported. I can't see it changing and the coalition of the willing could be there for the next 10 years building bridges, sorting out their health care, curing aids etc etc etc and all we will hear is the bad things and if there were no bad things someone would make them up.

    An unbiased media would be real nice
  6. by   elkpark
    No-one is going to tell a "good news" story from Iraq. Just like Bush and co decided a long time ago (some suggest years) and nothing could sway him from his course so has the world media (and thus opinion) decided on the way Iraq is going to be reported. I can't see it changing and the coalition of the willing could be there for the next 10 years building bridges, sorting out their health care, curing aids etc etc etc and all we will hear is the bad things and if there were no bad things someone would make them up.

    An unbiased media would be real nice
    Well, obviously, this story did get told, didn't it, or it wouldn't be posted here -- in the Wall Street Journal, which is hardly some marginalized little broadside getting handed out on a street corner. What, exactly, would an "unbiased media" look like? As long as human beings are involved, there will be some degree of bias. Some journalists and organizations try to minimize the bias in their reporting, and some capitalize on it for all they're worth ... There's plenty of right-wing bias out there in the media, too, for those who prefer their news slanted in that direction ...
  7. by   Torachan
    Well, obviously, this story did get told, didn't it, or it wouldn't be posted here -- in the Wall Street Journal, which is hardly some marginalized little broadside getting handed out on a street corner. - How many "positive" articles v "negative" articles and I don't just mean in one paper. Add up all of them and work out how the media is reporting the whole issue. Not everyone reads the Wall Street Journal. You know what they say "nothing sells like bad news"



    What, exactly, would an "unbiased media" look like? - Facts, assumptions and opinions are clearly dileniated.

    As long as human beings are involved, there will be some degree of bias. Some journalists and organizations try to minimize the bias in their reporting, and some capitalize on it for all they're worth ... - Couldn't agree more

    There's plenty of right-wing bias out there in the media, too, for those who prefer their news slanted in that direction ... - Agreed

    I am not sure what prompted this attack. Although I hazard a guess that the whole Iraq "issue" is white hot all over the world at the moment and will remain so for a long time to come (shades of vietnam IMO)

    As a hobby of mine I always look out for discrepencies in reporting. Remember the guy who was caught trying to smuggle an anti-aircraft missile into the US? The range of the missile was anywhere from 2 - 6 kilometers depending on which network you watched.

    Was the editor of the British Tabloid the Daily mirror sacked or did he quit? Again depends on which channel you watch.

    I saw three reports where police broke up a demonstration. One network showed the police hooking in with the batons with people screaming and covered in blood. Another showed what happened just before that where a policeman was hit in the head with a brick then kicked by four thugs. The third showed people chanting and no violence and all it said were the number of people arrested.

    Anyway I digress. There are three sides to every story. yours, mine and the truth. *(and no I am not suggesting that you are lying its an expression)

    What I want from the media are the facts. I can read the editorials to see what they make of it but by leaving information out I can not make an informed choice.
  8. by   elkpark
    I am not sure what prompted this attack.
    Well, I'm surprised you perceived my comments as an attack, but I apologize. I thought I was just participating in the conversation and responding to what you said. I do apologize, and "attacking" you was not my intention at all.
  9. by   Torachan
    Sorry for being so defensive. It's one of my faults I am trying to work on. The toughest thing with this on-line stuff is you miss out on all the non-verbal cues and it is so easy to misconstrue (sp.) what someone says. After all non-verbal makes up most of our communication (hey my uni assaignment just passed the "real world" test)

    Anyway I was at fault
  10. by   Mkue
    It's just a different story about Abu Ghraib. Several things interest me in this true story,

    7 men were given new hands
    State of the art electronic hands were
    given to these men.

    brands on their heads were removed

    The Documentary of this story which
    includes botched amputations of these
    mens hands is forbidden to be seen here
    in the US.

    "Don North and Joe Agris will fly with the men back to Iraq, to survey the rest of Saddam's dismembered population."

    This is a Documentary which should be seen by those who want to see it. IMO.
  11. by   Mkue
    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/met....3db2f295.html

    Hands of Friendship

    Another link to the story with pictures
  12. by   SmilingBluEyes
    This is indeed an encouraging story. Thank you for sharing it, marie.
  13. by   nekhismom
    Good to hear something positive for once. Thanks.
  14. by   Mkue
    You are all welcome.

    I'm going to follow this story to the White House

close