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Medics at Abu Ghraib Helping to Win Iraqis' Hearts, Minds

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 17, 2005 – Mention Abu Ghraib, and the last thing that's likely to come to mind is the thought of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis - especially detainees at the complex.

But that's exactly what Army Lt. Col. Christian Macedonia believes he and his fellow soldiers are doing every day as they provide what he calls "top-notch" medical care to more than 9,000 detainees at the complex.

As deputy commander for clinical services for Task Force Med 115, Macedonia and his 350 Fort Polk, La.-based soldiers care for people who, in many cases, were injured in attacks against coalition troops. Wounds run the full range, he said, but many are serious because the insurgents wear no body armor or helmets.

In one highly publicized case, the unit treated a truck bomber who was severely burned when his truck detonated prematurely as he approached a coalition target. Two and a half months later, the attacker is still being treated at Abu Ghraib, where he is now undergoing physical therapy.

"He's had the most advanced care he had ever imagined possible," Macedonia said. "This guy has been nothing but effusive about the treatment he's received."

Medical care at Abu Ghraib is "the best America has to offer," Macedonia said. "These people are getting really top-flight care." The unit is installing a CT-scanner to further improve its services, he added.

Macedonia said he recognizes that some people may consider his unit's work as providing comfort and aid to the enemy. And he openly acknowledges that some of his patients ultimately could return to anti-coalition activity, putting his fellow troops in harm's way.

But Macedonia said he considers the care his unit offers its enemies a higher calling: caring for a fellow human being in need, and providing a way to help restore honor to the prison complex that's been tainted by scandal.

"Taking care of human beings is a reflection of the type of people our society is," Macedonia said. And that's a message he said is not lost on his patients. "They've been fed hate all their lives, and many say they didn't realize how Americans could be," he said.

Macedonia said he believes Task Force Med 115 is helping win the hearts and minds of the detainees they treat "one patient at a time."

"Some, hopefully, will turn around and say, 'We were fighting the wrong enemy,'" he said.

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