In the first years following the defeat of Saddam Hussein, there were few dark corners of battle-scarred Iraq less hospitable to Americans than the country’s ministry of health.
The walls of the ministry, headquartered in a dilapidated high-rise in eastern Baghdad, were covered with hundreds of photos of scowling Shiite clerics. Banners proclaimed “Death to America and Israel” and “we must destroy the occupiers.” Death squads commandeered the ministry’s ambulances for missions to hunt Sunnis. Assault rifles were stacked in offices. The morgues were used for torture. Everywhere flapped the flag of the Jaysh al-Mahdim, also known as the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia controlled by the radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
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