Free medical clinic in Baghdad tempers ill will
April 10, 2009
BAGHDAD — Seeking to counter any ill will fostered by a militia leader’s arrest, U.S. troops, along with the Iraqi army, hosted a free medical clinic for Baghdad’s Fadhil neighborhood on April 1, which brought out the young and old, sick and healthy.
The March 28 detention of Adil al-Mashhadani, who led the local "Sons of Iraq" group in Fadhil since 2007, set off a day of furious clashes between coalition troops and some of his supporters.
U.S. officials said al-Mashhadani was detained under a December 2008 arrest warrant charging him with extortion, robbery, ties to militia groups and involvement in attacks on Iraqi forces.
On the day of al-Mashhadani’s arrest, the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division "jumped immediately into consequence management" and planned the clinic event as a result, according to Maj. Dave Zinn, executive officer for the brigade’s 5th Squadron, 73rd U.S. Cavalry Regiment.
The event was aimed at generating public support after al-Mashhadani’s arrest, which led about 50 of his hard-core supporters to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces for eight hours on March 28.
Zinn said building Iraqi capabilities for the long term is preferable to one-day events like the free clinic. Still, Zinn said, such events are key to building public support for the Iraqi government and military, whose soldiers are now becoming regular faces in the impoverished and largely Sunni neighborhood.
"This is what victory looks like," he said. "This is the way home."
Maj. Robert Sexton of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion was on hand to treat the ailments of local children.
Trying to help poor kids in any poverty-ridden area is never easy, he said.
"They’re so stoic and tough," Sexton said. "They don’t even know they have a problem."