Our troops in Iraq are being afflicted with the Baghdad Boil:
Leishmaniasis, which soldiers have coined the “Baghdad Boil,” is carried by biting sand flies and doesn’t spread from person to person. It causes skin lesions that if untreated may take months, even years, to heal. The lesions can be disfiguring, doctors say. … Sand flies are active during warm weather, and soon after U.S. troops arrived in Iraq in late March, “we started seeing soldiers basically eaten alive,” Coleman says. “They’d get a hundred, in some cases 1,000 bites in a single night.” … Insect repellants and bed nets are standard issue, Coleman says, but many units failed to pack them when they were deployed.
(Via The Command Post).
This story reminded me of something I’d read a long time ago in The Road to Oxiana, that most snide of travel books, by Robert Byron. Byron was an even more eccentric and less PC writer than his contemporary Evelyn Waugh. Byron passed through Baghdad in 1933, and wrote this:
The prime fact of Mesopotamian history is that in the thirteenth century Hulagu destroyed the irrigation system; and that from that day to this Mesopotamia has remained a land of mud deprived of mud’s only possible advantage, vegetable fertility. It is a mud plain, so flat that a single heron, reposing one leg beside some rare trickle of water in a ditch, looks as tall as a wireless aerial. From this plain rise villages of mud and cities of mud. The rivers flow with liquid mud. The air is composed of mud refined into a gas. The people are mud-coloured; they wear mud-coloured clothes, and their national hat is nothing more than a formalised mud pie. Baghdad is the capital one would expect of this divinely favoured land. It lurks in a mud fog; when the temperature drops below 110, the residents complain of the chill and get out their furs. For only one thing is it now justly famous: a kind of boil which takes nine months to heal, and leaves a scar.
(Emphasis added.) If Iraq was famous for its boils 70 years ago, why was no adequate provision to have the appropriate medication available to treat our troops, when we were going to station tens of thousands of them there? One of many such questions.
The Bush administration is vulnerable to much, much criticism for the failures of its pre-war planning for the occupation, and the actual handling of the occupation. I have only skimmed this lengthy essay from the New Yorker entitled War After the War in the New Yorker. (Via Arts & Letters.) It is full of specific criticisms of the prewar planning and the actual conduct of the post-war occupation, which seemed to have contained far too much wishful thinking. It is a blue print for the Democrat presidential candidate.
The situation has changed in the last few weeks. It used to be that the “Left” media was criticizing the Bush administration unfairly, and the “Right”, especially the Blogosphere would respond that things were going fine. The media seem to be trying to do their homework and come up with better-founded criticisms. This article even seems to be trying to be fair. Most impressive to me is how it shows our soldiers struggling to do an extremely difficult job. If you’ve got time, read it all. Meanwhile, we need to move from thinking that any criticism of Bush and his team is simply malicious, to trying to understand what is actually happening there. This essay by Anthony Cordesman is a good item to read, as is this worrisome report from the front. (both via Soldiers for the Truth.) We need to be willing to offer constructive criticism and analysis rather than cheerleading or we will be doing “our side” a major disservice.