This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Over the past four years, thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police officers have been injured. The Iraqi government does not know exactly know how many. Last year, the U.S. Congressional Research Service estimated that more than 33,000 have been wounded.

There are few Iraqi military medics and no military hospitals. NPR's Anne Garrels reports that the wounded have been left to the mercy of inadequate civilian facilities and a military compensation system that does not work.

ANNE GARRELS: Piles of rubble - that's all that's left of an Iraqi army safe house in the southern Gazaliya(ph) district of Baghdad. A bomb ripped through the walls; two Iraqi soldiers were killed, three wounded, one critically. The toll would have been higher, but most of the soldiers were out on patrol.

Sergeant Hashim(ph), the only trained medic for a battalion of 700, escorted the wounded to a nearby civilian hospital. He says the treatment was up hauling.

Sgt. HASHIM (Iraqi Military Medic): (Through translator) In the terrible heat, there were not even any fans let alone decent beds. There were no sheets. I had to bring them. The government has money, but I don't know where it has gone. I hated Saddam, but at least under him, we had military hospitals with good equipments.

GARRELS: Sergeant Hashim gets fulsome praise from Sergeant Joel Cushing, an American trainer.

Sgt. JOEL CUSHING (U.S. Army Medical Trainer, Iraq): Hashim's a one-in-a-million Iraqi officer. He's very motivated. He's just amazing guy. Amazing dude.

GARRELS: He's also one of the few Iraqi medics in the field. At the combat outpost in South Gazoliya, Captain John Brooks tries to help Hashim get the critically wounded soldier moved to a U.S. military facility.

Captain JOHN BROOKS (U.S. Army, Iraq): Here's what I'm going to need from you and from that team. If I can get a helicopter, I'm going to need help getting that guy transported to the landing pad.

GARRELS: An Iraqi officer blocked the transfer that might have saved the soldiers life. That happens a lot. But even if the U.S. military had gotten him to the sophisticated U.S. military hospital in the Green Zone, the soldier would have only been able to stay there a few days; then, he would been transferred back to an Iraqi public hospital where medicines and highly trained staff are scarce. American official say they must maintain space in their own hospitals for the next wave of casualties.

Hussein, a major in the Iraqi battalion, says the Iraqi military does nothing to help its own.

Major HUSSEIN (Iraqi Military Officer): (Through translator) Even when our soldiers are killed, they do nothing. We have to take the body to the family on our own time. We collect money from soldiers to this. It really gets us down.

GARRELS: U.S. Captain Eric Wilkinson, another military trainer, says the Iraqi military has improved its ability to conduct operations, but it still relies on the U.S. for logistics.

Captain ERIC WILKINSON (U.S. Army Medical Trainer, Iraq): The system just isn't really there - in place where they can get the supplies and the quantities that they need in the time that they need it to do the operation. So a lot of times, we - the coalition ends up giving them these supplies just to keep them out there providing that security.

GARRELS: And that includes medical supplies.

Another Iraqi battalion is stationed in North Gazoliya. It has no medics at all. Captain Dustin Canals(ph) says he's had to go out on the market to buy antibiotics for Iraqi soldiers to save their lives.

Captain DUSTIN CANALS (American Military Officer): If the hospital didn't have it in stock, the soldier would have gotten it. And the hospital didn't have it in stock.

GARRELS: Canals says the Iraqi military now has a training program for medics though in reality, after a month, they learn little more than first aid. Canals would like them to shadow the American medics so they can gain valuable experience.

But the Iraqi military doesn't put the medics out on the field where they are desperately needed, keeping them back at safe Iraqi bases. He says it doesn't make any sense, and it drives him crazy.

Captain CANALS: They don't have any kind of authority except for advisers - would tell them, we need to do this, but it's their own decision to what they want to do.

GARRELS: With no medics of their own, Iraqi soldiers constantly come to the American medic in the sector for treatment. Late one steamy night, Sgt. Ray Cipher(ph) stands holding an IV bag dripping medicine into a convulsing Iraqi soldier.

Captain RAY CIPHER (American Military Officer): It's been the third time this week they'd come in like this. They stand out on guard all day long, don't drink enough water, (unintelligible) at the checkpoints and sitting in houses that don't have any seats.

GARRELS: The young Iraqi soldier became dangerously dehydrated in the hundred-plus degree heat. Medic Ernest Galindes(ph) stabilized him.

Sgt. ERNEST GALINDES (American Medic Officer): The Iraqi don't get enough water to drink, so they're able to have to ration out the water that they give for the whole day. If (unintelligible), it probably would have been fatal.

GARRELS: Qatar-Abdul Zerahamdan(ph) a 26-year-old soldier, limps into a Baghdad restaurant. He was shot in the legs, arms and stomach while guarding the Green Zone. He says the other guards ran away. There were no army ambulances available. He survived only thanks to some civilians who helped him get to the hospital. He's bitter.

Mr. QATAR-ABDUL ZERAHAMDAN(ph) (Iraqi Soldier): (Through translator) I didn't get necessary operations because it is too complicated. When you ask for a specialist, you are told he has fled the country to Syria or Jordan.

GARRELS: His arm is now permanently paralyzed. As if he had sought compensation from the government, he just scoffs.

Mr. ZERAHAMDAN: (Through translator) They are busy robbing us. Officials don't care. Anyway, most of them are out of the country.

GARRELS: This sense of abandonment is shared by Ali Hazam-Katum(ph), who hobbles into the restaurant on crutches. He was injured in a car bomb attack at his checkpoint. One of his legs is totally useless. He's critically traumatized by the explosion, and his family has gone into debt to pay for his care.

Mr. ALI HAZAM-KATUM(ph) (Iraqi Military Soldier): (Through translator) My family had to pay all the expenses - the operations, the medicines, everything. They promise compensation but don't pay anything. They didn't even pay for the crutches.

GARRELS: Public hospitals are supposed to be free, and in theory, soldiers can be reimbursed for private services unavailable on the public system. But theory doesn't translate into practice. The Iraqi government has allocated money for a new military hospital, but the project has been stalled and the facility will not open for at least another year.

The U.S. is counting on the Iraqi forces standing on their own, so U.S. troops can be withdrawn. If the state of military medical care is any indication, that may still be quite a ways off. Anne Garrels, NPR News, Baghdad.

NORRIS: And here's another story from Iraq we're following on the program today. An al-Qaida group warned the United States to stop searching for three missing U.S. soldiers. They've been missing since Saturday. Yesterday, the group called the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for their capture.


Also, the U.S. military announced five more deaths today in Iraq. One marine was killed in Anbar province, two soldiers were killed Southeast of Baghdad when their patrol came under small arms fire. And IED's killed a soldier and an airman in Baghdad. The names of all the dead are being withheld until their families have been notified.

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