Skip to comments.Medic treated imprisoned Iraqi leaders (Including Sadam)
Posted on 11/14/2004 7:11:43 AM PST by edfrank_1998
Medic treated imprisoned Iraqi leaders
His patients came right from the top - of old regime
By SCOTT WILLIAMS email@example.com
Posted: Nov. 13, 2004
Entering a small prison cell under heavy security, Cook used Arabic to exchange a few introductory words with the patient.
"Hello. God be with you," he said, employing a common Muslim greeting.
"God be with you," replied Saddam Hussein.
It was the first of a handful of face-to-face encounters Cook had with the ousted Iraqi leader while serving on an elite medical team entrusted to care for top officials of Hussein's regime.
Cook also worked unsuccessfully to revive a heart attack victim who later turned out to be Abu Abbas, the captured mastermind of the 1985 Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking.
"It was just surreal," Cook said at his home in Elkhorn, where he is recovering from a Sept. 12 car bombing that cut short his yearlong tour of duty as a sergeant with the Wisconsin National Guard. Cook, who suffered a badly broken leg, was credited with saving lives for shooting the driver before the car could reach his Guard unit.
During his special assignment between March and June, Cook and the other medics spent nights sorting through the now-famous U.S. deck of cards of most-wanted Iraqi leaders, excitedly picking out those they recognized from their daily medical rounds.
"If you were to look at the deck of cards, they were there," he recalled. "We were just like, 'Can you believe we're doing this?' "
National Guard officials confirmed that Cook and other members of the Waukesha-based 118th Medical Battalion Company B were responsible for treating Hussein and other captured members of the regime.
But those officials declined to comment further, citing the sensitivity of the information.
Cook, who would not divulge exactly where he encountered Hussein, said he obeyed tight security rules throughout his work in Iraq, but that military officials gave him permission to discuss his experiences later.
His fiancee, Michelle Tenhagen, said she was stunned to hear that Cook had helped care for Iraq's notorious ex-president.
"I think that's fascinating that he had an opportunity to do that," she said. "It's certainly something that he will never forget."
Special duty Cook, 35, an emergency room nurse at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, arrived in Iraq in February along with about 70 other medical professionals in a National Guard group assigned to treat injured soldiers and civilians.
A short time after their arrival, Cook and two other members of the unit were informed that they would be relocated and assigned to care for a special population of prisoners.
Cook said he was escorted under tight security each time he was summoned to take a blood sample from "the big guy," as he and the other medics called Hussein. The ousted dictator wore a floor-length dress, appeared neatly groomed and was polite and cooperative, Cook said.
At the beginning of each visit, Hussein quietly handed Cook a wet wipe with which to clean his hands - an indication, Cook said, that the jailed ex-president felt a need to exert authority.
"Even in a jail cell, he was still in control," Cook said. "He was going to make me wash my hands."
The compound was similar to a nursing home, with nearly 100 aging Iraqi officials eager to take advantage of American-provided health care, Cook said. Many requested blood tests and other exams.
Treated 'Chemical Ali' Among others Cook treated were former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz and Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as "Chemical Ali."
Cook described Ali as a frail and elderly diabetic whose appearance belied his reputed ruthless use of chemical weapons to kill thousands of Iraqi Kurds.
"It was difficult to look at him and see that he would have it in him," Cook said.
One day in March, Cook was summoned to check on a patient who was experiencing chest pains. The patient insisted on walking to an examining room, where a heart monitor revealed that he was having a major heart attack.
When the man went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing, Cook thumped on his chest and others performed CPR. But the patient died.
Cook later learned that the patient was Abbas, who devised the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, during which American tourist Leon Klinghoffer was murdered and his body and wheelchair dumped overboard. U.S. forces captured Abbas in Iraq in 2003.
Acknowledging that caring for terrorists and other declared enemies of the United States presented a unique dilemma, Cook said he and his colleagues were able to put such concerns aside.
"It's a personal conflict," he said. "Yet as medical providers we have a responsibility."
Excellent story. And it highlights one of those "cultural differences" for which the US always gets bashed for not understanding. We heal our prisoners, even if they are criminals like Saddam. They behead theirs. Moral equivalency bump.
"We heal our prisoners, even if they are criminals like Saddam. They behead theirs."
Very poignant statement, my friend. And yet, we are still considered the "terrorists" by the majority of the world...
Not that I give a rat's ass about what the world thinks...
And think of the condition Jessica Lynch was in when she was rescued.
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