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Coalition Medics Provide Care to Iraqi Soldiers, Civilians

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2003 – American combat medics are treating scores of Iraqi civilians and service members throughout that country, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman said today.

"There are nearly 300 wounded Iraqi soldiers and civilians being treated in coalition hospitals, and many more are being treated by our medics on the battlefield," Torie Clarke, assistant defense secretary for public affairs, said in a Pentagon briefing today.

She added that 75 Iraqi prisoners of war are being treated "for broken bones, gunshots and shrapnel wounds" aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort in the Northern Arabian Gulf. The Comfort is a 1,000-bed floating trauma center with dozens of doctors and nurses, its own translators and on-board operating rooms.

During the briefing, Clarke showed a short video that included shots of American military medical personnel treating several Iraqi children, a civilian woman and an elderly man for illnesses.

"The children are the ones who can touch your hearts the most," Clarke said in relaying the tale of a badly burned Iraqi 6-month-old girl who British forces airlifted to Liverpool, England, for medical treatment. She said the child sustained her injuries in a house fire "unrelated to any fighting."

She also told of an Iraqi prisoner receiving medical care at a U.S. Navy facility who was so impressed by the humane treatment he received that he decided to assist the coalition by providing information about enemy positions in the southern port city of Umm Qasr.

"He told our medical personnel that in all of his 27 years he had never been treated with such care and respect," Clarke said of the young Iraqi.

Clarke and Army Maj. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, vice director of operations for the Joint Staff, expressed their condolences to the families of several Marines and soldiers killed in recent days in fighting in Iraq, as well as to the families of several journalists killed.

Broadcast reports indicate at least two journalists died when an American tank shot a round into the downtown Baghdad hotel where many foreign journalists are working. The reports say the American tanker was firing at a sniper in the area. Clarke and McChrystal could not confirm details of the incident.

Clarke noted that defense officials have repeatedly warned news organizations not to send reporters "unilaterally" that is, not embedded with American troops into Baghdad. "A war zone is a dangerous place," she said.

In response to questions from the media on the appropriate level of force, McChrystal said he felt it's important to "put ground combat into perspective."

"The forces that were moving up and into Baghdad didn't just end up in Baghdad," he said. "They fought their way there."

The general said coalition forces have the "inherent right" to defend themselves. "When they are fired at, they not only have the right to respond, they have the obligation to respond to protect the soldiers with them and to accomplish the mission at large," he said.

Updating the operational situation on the ground, McChrystal said that coalition forces now have a "substantial presence" in Baghdad and continue their efforts to isolate the city.

"We're conducting raids from a couple of directions into Baghdad proper and rooting out resistance wherever we find it," he added.

He noted that coalition air forces have air supremacy over "the entire country, which means the enemy's incapable of effective interference with coalition air operations."

McChrystal listed some impressive statistics about operations to date in Iraq: Coalition forces have flown more than 30,000 fixed-wing sorties, moved more than 10,000 tons of cargo by air, dropped more than 20,000 munitions 70 percent to 80 percent of them precision-guided -- and provided more than 37 million gallons of fuel during aerial refueling missions.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAssistant secretary of defense for public affairs Torie Clarke answers reporters' questions at a DoD news briefing on Operation Iraqi Freedom, April 8, 2003, at the Pentagon. Clarke and Army Maj. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, vice director of operations for the Joint Staff, briefed reporters on the progress of the war effort. DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Maj. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, vice director of operations for the Joint Staff answers reporters' questions at a DoD news briefing on Operation Iraqi Freedom, April 8, 2003, at the Pentagon. McChrystal and Torie Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, briefed reporters on the progress of the war effort. DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel   
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