Physician-Activists Socially Irresponsible on War

Physicians for Social Responsibility this week took its anti-war shrieking to a new level of irrationality. The swift progress of Operation Iraqi Freedom has driven PSR to proclaiming America's success a disaster.

"Has a deadly new threat just been unleashed?" screamed PSR's full-page advertisement featuring a face in a gas mask, which ran this week in some editions of the New York Times.

"Americans of all political persuasions fear that our government's ‘go-it-alone’ preemptive war policy is a prescription for more conflict and less security, and that it will only fuel anger against America. PSR believes we must stop this policy, and stop the spread of more medical and humanitarian disasters. We must prevent wars, not start them," proclaimed PSR's ad.

The ad completely ignores the possibility that, with the destruction of Iraq's brutal and aggressively militaristic regime, the world is a safer place.

And exactly what aspect of their medical training qualifies PSR's physicians to pontificate with anything approaching expertise on international politics and security? I don't question their right to express an opinion, just the implied presumption that, as a group of physician-activists, PSR possesses some sort of intellectual and moral superiority.

PSR's position on the prospect of civilian casualties and near-term humanitarian crisis is notably shortsighted.

First, any limited suffering caused by the war must be balanced against the unending humanitarian crisis posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's murderous regime — already a 30-year reign of terror founded on mass execution, institutional rape, torture, weapons of mass destruction, and mass political and psychological oppression.

Iraqi life expectancy under Saddam is 48 and 53 years of age for men and women, respectively — a far cry from the 70s and 80s for men and women in developed countries. Thousands of Iraqi children die preventable deaths every month.

Where is PSR's concern for those public health tragedies?

Second, PSR doesn't have a monopoly on humanitarian concern. Our military has painstakingly engineered Iraq’s liberation to minimize civilian casualties and avoid a humanitarian crisis.

One of PSR's tenets is "a belief that as physicians and teachers, we can also convince people and nations to choose policies which contribute to our common health and security."

I don't recall PSR ever attempting to persuade Saddam to forgo weapons of mass destruction or to end his country's humanitarian crisis. (Did I miss the newspaper ads?)

Instead, PSR opts to mindlessly beat the anti-war drums in the U.S. with scary newspaper advertisements and outrageous claims.

Right before Operation Iraqi Freedom began, PSR trumpeted a report concluding, "In the event of war, 30 percent [more than one million] of [Iraqi] children under five are at risk of dying from malnutrition."

Hours after the war began, PSR stated, "We believe it is our professional responsibility to state our considered judgment that our young American men and women in uniform, as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians … are not best protected by a policy of preemptive war." PSR claimed the "combined air assault and invasion" would "result in significant civilian casualties."

On April 7, however, PSR admitted in a press release, "The human costs of this war have not been so high as anticipated," but then went on to criticize American troops for entering the city of Najaf without bringing the residents water.

Perhaps PSR would prefer that Najaf residents were left with Saddam's Fedayeen paramilitary thugs while U.S. troops went back for bottled water supplies.

PSR claims the "critical humanitarian action for postwar Iraq is in disarray as the endgame approaches in Baghdad" and blames the Pentagon — get this — for coordinating "nearly all prewar planning behind closed doors."

And now PSR claims America has set a dangerous precedent by winning quickly and relatively painlessly. Apparently, it never occurred to PSR that the precedent might just make North Korea, Iran, and Syria think twice before continuing their rogue behaviors.

Ironically, PSR's lefty membership doesn't seem to oppose all war — just those conducted by Republican presidents. Though opposing the 1991 Gulf War and the current war, PSR expressed no dire warnings of humanitarian disaster or dangerous precedent when the President Clinton-led NATO forces bombed Serbia to liberate Kosovo.

Finally, PSR's newspaper ads aren't simple position statements. They're fund-raising devices. Should you want to "help change U.S. policy on preemptive war before it spreads," all you need do is "join PSR."

Not a physician? Don't worry. None of PSR's national staff, including its executive and deputy directors, are physicians.

In fact, as long as you're willing to fork over $50, PSR will let you play doctor for anti-war purposes. It's cheaper and less of a hassle than medical school, I suppose.

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