Join ADC in Protesting Refusal of US Military to Treat Injured Iraqi Civilians

Today, July 1, ADC President Mary Rose Oakar wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld expressing ADC’s deep concern at reports of a pattern of U.S. military medical personnel refusing to treat injured Iraqi civilians, including burned children. Former Congresswoman Oakar points out in her letter that such failures are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Convention and the United States’ status as the Occupying Power in Iraq as designated by the United Nations Security Council.
ADC urges all its members and supporters to join us in urging the Secretary of Defense to ensure that U.S. military medical personnel are not prohibited or restrained in anyway from treating injured Iraqi civilians.
Please contact:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Through the DOD’s (somewhat confusing) online form at:
You can also cc President Bush at
Or, send your concerns via snail mail, to:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Please feel free to use ADC President Oakar’s letter bellow as a model, but bear in mind that original letters carry more weight.
Please also cc all letters to
July 1, 2003
Donald Rumsfeld United States Secretary of Defense Department of Defense
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld,
I am writing to you as President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) to express our deep concern at persistent press reports suggesting that our troops in Iraq are declining to assist wounded civilians. We are, of course, well aware of the serious challenges our troops face in the field and the fact that they are inundated with responsibilities in an environment which has yet to become fully secure. Nonetheless, the seriousness of the reports requires this letter of concern. Yesterday, June 30, the BBC reports that a large explosion took place over the last weekend in a desert area near the town of Haditha, which it says is about 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. The report suggests that at least 25 people were killed and scores injured when an explosion occurred as local residents were going through an abandoned ammunition dump looking for items to salvage for sale. Other reports put the death toll slightly lower, but still report massive injuries. According to the BBC, “a spokesman for U.S. central command in Baghdad said the dump was Iraqi, not American. Because of that, he said, U.S. forces in the area were not taking responsibility for caring for the wounded.”
This report would be disturbing enough were it an isolated incident, but last week, on June 23, AP carried a story quoting Sgt. David J. Borell who tried to get U.S. military doctors to assist three Iraqi children who were burned when they set fire to a bag containing explosive powder. AP reports, “Borell immediately called for assistance. But army doctors who arrived about an hour later refused to help the children because their injuries were not life-threatening and had not been inflicted by U.S. troops. Now the two girls and a boy are covered with scabs and the boy cannot use his right leg.” AP quotes Borell as saying, “I have never seen in almost 14 years of Army experience anything that callous.” Even more disturbingly, AP reports that “a U.S. military spokesman said the childrenâ?Ts condition did not fall into a category that requires Army physicians to treat them — and that there was no inappropriate response on the part of the doctors.”
As you know, the United States, along with the United Kingdom, requested and received recognition from the United Nations Security Council as the Occupying Powers in Iraq. This commits our country and our military forces to abide by the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949, and its subsequent revisions. Article 16 clearly states that, “the wounded and the sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect.” Moreover, Article 55 states that the Occupying Power, “should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.” Clearly, refusal to treat wounded Iraqi civilians on the grounds that their injuries were not caused by the United States military, if true, is inconsistent with both the letter and the spirit of the Geneva Convention. The alleged refusal by U.S. Army medical personnel to treat burned Iraqi children is indeed a serious failure to meet our responsibilities as the occupying power in Iraq. Of course we realize that our troops in the field face serious challenges in terms of supplies and the logistical ability to meet the needs of Iraqi civilians in every case. However, I believe it is unacceptable to argue, as AP reports was done by Maj. David Accetta, a public affairs officer with the 3rd Corps Support Command, that burned children should not be considered for treatment because, “our goal is for the Iraqis to use their own existing infrastructure and become self-sufficient, not dependent on U.S. forces for medical care.”
I ask you to clarify that it is, in fact, not U.S. government policy that Army medical services will only be provided to Iraqis in the event that their injuries are:
a) caused by American military action and/or
b) life-threatening.
I believe we have a clear obligation to the civilian population Iraq, as long as we are the Occupying Power in that country, to do our best to assist them and not to turn them away in pain and suffering because they do not meet criteria for treatment that are, in practice, unconscionable and indefensible.
I look forward to hearing from you soon regarding this important and urgent issue.
Mary Rose Oakar
President, ADC

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