Saturday, September 30, 2006

Michael Brown x100

Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor and former Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran has written a behind-the-scenes account ( author of Imperial life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone) of the Bush administration appointees who ran Iraq after the US invasion. Invoking the embattled ex-Director of FEMA, Chandrasekaran calls them “Michael Brown x100.”
AMY GOODMAN: Rajiv, how did James Haveman come to oversee the rehabilitation of Iraq's healthcare system?

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Amy, it's a fascinating story, and again, I try to detail this in the book. The first guy who was assigned to help rebuild Iraq's health sector was named Skip Burkle. And Skip is physician. He has a Master's degree in public health. He has four postgraduate degrees. He teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He had worked in Kosovo, in Somalia and in Northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. He also was employed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and a USAID colleague called him the single most talented post-conflict public health specialist in the U.S. government. But a few weeks after the fall of Saddam's government, Mr. Burkle was informed by an email from a superior at USAID that he was being replaced. He was told that the White House wanted, quote/unquote, "a loyalist" in the job. And I write in the book that Burkle had a wall of degrees, but he didn't have a picture with the President.

In his place was sent Jim Haveman. Jim Haveman does not have a medical degree. He was a social worker, and he was the former Director of Community Health in the State of Michigan. Prior to his stint in government, he had a little bit of international experience, but it was largely in the context of being a director for International Aid, a faith-based relief organization that promotes Christianity in the developing world in conjunction with development assistance. And prior to that, he headed up a large adoption agency in the State of Michigan that urges pregnant women not to have abortions.

Well, Haveman showed up, and his view was that, look, Iraq didn’t need a huge infusion of money to rebuild its hospitals, even though I and other people who have been to Iraqi hospitals have seen them to be thoroughly decrepit and really, you know, in need of an overhaul, and particularly with the violence that’s wracking that country today and the number of injured from insurgent attacks. You would think that really putting resources toward rebuilding emergency rooms would be a top priority.

Instead, Haveman devoted resources to other projects. One of them, as I detail in the book, was rewriting the list of drugs Iraq's government would import for hospitals. Why did he choose to do this? Well, he had done it in Michigan, and he had saved millions of dollars for the state in Michigan by forcing Medicare providers to buy drugs off a formulary. So he thought this would make sense to do in Baghdad, and it would be a good first step before trying to eventually sell off the state agency that imports drugs. He was aghast at the notion that medical care was free in Iraq, and in fact even sought to impose something of a co-pay system for Iraqis before they visited doctors and hospitals.

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