A hit piece takes more hits

Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s hit piece on the Bush administration’s Iraq reaconsturction program — “Ties To GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq” — was unpersuasive on its face. Before long, moreover, we learned that Chandrasekaran failed to get simple facts (those pertaining to Simone Ledeen) at the core of his story straight because he didn’t bother to check them with Ms. Ledeen.

Now Pat Cleary gives us “the rest of the story” on another of Chandrasekaran’s targets — Jim Haveman, who oversaw the reconstruction of Iraq’s health care system. Haveman was never going to be much of a poster person for Chandrasekaran’s thesis that the administration ignored qualifications and focused on political loyalty. He had been the director of International Aid, a faith-based relief organization that provided health care overseas, and also Michigan’s community health director. And his only tie to the GOP, so far as Chandrasekaran claimed, was his connection with the well-regarded Republican Governor of Michigan (John Engler) for whom he served.

But Cleary takes the discussion of Haveman credentials one step further. He writes:

Describing Jim Haveman as a social worker who was a community health director is a little like describing Bill Gates as a college dropout who now runs an electronics company. Jim Haveman ran the $9.5 billion Michigan Department of Community Health, one of the largest in the country. Were this 5,000-employee, Cabinet-level agency a private corporation, its size alone would place it well into the Fortune 500 list. The adoption agency that he ran happened to be the largest in the world, with employees in the US and 12 other countries. You can see his full curriculum vitae here and judge for yourself.

And what of Chandrasekaran’s attack on Haveman’s record once he got to Iraq? Again, it was not particularly persuasive on its face, reflecting as it did the bias of Chandrasekaran and/or his sources against market-based approaches. Here is an alternative view of Haveman’s record, as set forth by Cleary:

– When the Coalition Provisional Authority health team arrived, there was no functioning Ministry of Health. Saddam’s Ministry was riddled with corruption and health care delivery was poor to non-existent.

– Under Haveman’s direction, The CPA health team acquired, distributed and administered 30 million doses of vaccines for a monthly immunization program that reached 3 million children under the age of 5 — vaccines against such potentially fatal diseases as polio, diphtheria, TB and measles.

– Saddam’s health ministry spent $16 million on Iraq’s population of 26 million. Within a year, Haveman had a budget of $1 billion — bereft of the corruption and graft that had marked Saddam’s system.

– They distributed supplementary food rations providing high-protein supplements to almost a quarter of a million high-risk Iraqi citizens, including pregnant mother and malnourished children;

– The national blood service was reconstituted and they secured $2 million of World Health Organization funding to modernize the central blood bank, enabling a viable blood bank throughout Iraq;

– They provided tetanus vaccinations for 700,000 pregnant women;

– Some 30,000 tons of medicines and supplies were procured and distributed;

– More than 8,000 health workers were trained in diagnosing and treating malnourished children.

It strikes me that Chandrasekaran had to overlook an awful lot of evidence to cast Haveman in a purely negative light. But that’s the nature of a hit piece.

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