Monday, February 25, 2008

New Battleground Against AQI: Improving Iraq's Psychiatric Infrastructure

This might sound like a snarky shot at mentally deficient jihadis, but this the logical conclusion to be drawn from Rabia Altaf's last post at her Iraq FPA blog. She says:

Iraqi security officials have been ordered to round up homeless people, beggars, and vagrants in effort at preventive counter terrorism [due to the] suicide bombings...supposedly carried out by two women with Down’s Syndrome...but recent statements made by US and Iraqi forces indicate that this was probably not the case...However, they were noted to have suffered depression and schizophrenia. The fear is that Al-Qaeda will target these vulnerable people and recruit them to the insurgency, using them as suicide bombers.

In this vein, Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf says that beggars and homeless people would be taken to state-run shelters, while the mentally disabled would be hospitalized.

Rabia gives kudos to this preemptive plan, but argues that the hospitals and shelters are so underfunded and understaffed that the plan is doomed. Well, maybe. However, first comes the need and then comes the money, in my experience. Funding is never preemptive. Hopefully, fear of al-Qaeda in Iraq will help win the argument for more of Iraq's public funds to go to hospitals. Yet, Iraq (like the rest of the Middle East) has suffered from the need to fix dozens of problems at the same time. So, psychiatric hospitals will probably not go to the top of the stack above military, police, electricity and sanitation.

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