Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad -- Town Meeting on Health Crisis

Printed in the American Almanac, November 2000.

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Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, who is the director of the Abundant Life Clinic of Washington, D.C., the national spokesman for Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, and NOI Health Minister, addressed an emergency town meeting of the LaRouche political movement, in Baltimore, Oct. 19. The meeting, attended by many activists from the Baltimore-Washington area, was also addressed by former South Carolina State Sen. Theo Mitchell, and Dave Brode of the AFL-CIO, and CORE director for western Maryland.

The edited speech follows. Subheads have been added.

In the name of the Beneficent God, who is merciful, who is the lifegiver to us all, As Salaam Aleikem. Thank you for that wonderful introduction.

I'm very happy to be here. I'm happy to have the opportunity to share the dais with such a distinguished group. I'm happy to have the opportunity, as he spoke, as an American, to speak my mind, to say what I think is right and correct. And that's an opportunity that does not necessarily exist everywhere throughout the world. I've been blessed to be around the world twice, and I've been in places where a forum of this nature would literally get you incarcerated or shot. Now, it might come to that here, come to think of it. But the fact that you have the recognized right to speak, doesn't mean that you won't pay a price for what you speak, but at least you have the right to do it.

I want to speak this evening in a way that I would have liked to have spoken at the Million Family March, but the Million Family March, which took place in Washington on Monday [Oct. 16]--maybe 750,000 people were there, and a tremendous number of people who needed to have something to say, so when they parceled out the time, I got three minutes. Not very much you can say in three minutes--but maybe if I take 15 or 20 minutes this evening, I'll have an opportunity to sort of flesh out some of the points that I was able to make on Monday at the Million Family March.

Before I do that, let me just make a comment about the upcoming election, because I know how it is. You're twisting and turning, you can't decide whether you want to vote for Al Bush or George Gore. It's hard to make up your mind as to which one is lesser of two evils. But I recently came across some information which I'll share with you, and maybe some of you would have the time to look into it. Because I've often wondered, and maybe you have to, how does Dan Rather actually know who won the election on election eve? You know, they actually announce the winner before the polls have closed. How do they do that? And it turns out that it has to do with who counts the votes. You know, Joseph Stalin said that those who vote, decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything. I think there's some point there. I've never thought--after all these years--I never have thought about that point: Who actually counts the votes of the American people? Who actually does that?

I know that when I ran for Congress 10 years ago, in Prince George's County, [Maryland] against Steny Hoyer, and I was sure, based on the exit polling that we did, of people who said they voted for me.... And then I ended up with 21% of the vote! I was sure that something happened there that wasn't quite kosher, as they say. But I never looked into it much further.

But it turns out that there is a corporation--and a lot of what we have to complain about in American today, whether it's in health, or politics, or economics, it has to do with the nature of the modern corporation. Well, there is a particular corporation that is located on 34th Street in New York, that has the name of the Voter News Service, Inc., and this corporation is owned by CBS, ABC, NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and, I believe, the Wall Street Journal. These are the people who actually count the votes. And over the last 20 some years, as paper ballots have given way to electronic balloting, all of those electronic tabulations go into this Voter News Service, and that's how they find out before anybody else, who wins the elections. They get the returns from every county in the United States. They tabulate the results for governorships, senatorial races, and, of course, President.

And so I think we ought to look into that. Because, as slow and inefficient as paper balloting may have been--people said it was--but at least you could go back and trace it, to see if somebody committed fraud. But with electronic balloting, there's no paper trail.

Now, I'm not saying they would really try to steal elections like that. They wouldn't do that, would they? Not these guys! At least not, I don't think Bush would do it, because he's not that smart. And I think we ought to look--if he wins, I think we ought to give him a psychological examination. As a former alcoholic, he shows signs of something called Korsakoff psychosis. I mean, I think he really has a problem.

And Gore also has a very serious problem. I mean, if your child acted like Al Gore acted at the last debate, they would put your child on Ritalin. I mean, this is serious problem.

Declare an Emergency

What I would like to think about is, how to approach the health crisis, as it exists in this country and throughout the world. And I think you would agree with me, that there is a crisis in health, there's an emergency in health. What I think needs to be done, and what I was trying to do at the Million Family March--I want to see the tape of it, to see if I actually was able to accomplish what I was trying to do--but what I was trying to do was ask the people who assembled on the Washington Mall, to make a resolution, that a state of emergency, a health emergency, exists, in the United States.

And the reason I was trying to do that was, when I found out that I might have to speak at the Million Family March, realizing that I wouldn't have a lot of time, I was saying, well, really, there's no time to list out the 10,000 problems that exist. What should I choose to talk about? Should I choose to talk about AIDS and cancer, tuberculosis, poor public health? I mean, there's 10,000 different things that could be talked about, we could be there for days, literally, talking about every little problem that is important, and that needs to be talked about, and especially if you are someone who suffers from a particular problem, that's the one you want addressed.

And I said, but wait a minute, we don't have time to list all of those things, or talk about all those things. How should it be dealt with? And then, I thought about the word ``emergency.'' You know, there was a tornado that went through Xenia, Ohio a month or so ago, and the Governor of the state of Ohio got in a helicopter, and flew over the area, and within 10 seconds, or a very short period of time, he declared a state of emergency to exist in that area, and then, instantly, that mobilizes resources and people--it changes the consciousness that you have about it.

When something devastating happens, you don't go around, and say, well, somebody's roof got blown off, this one's window pane got broken, this tree fell down, this car got destroyed, this basement was flooded--someone ultimately will have to do that kind of detailed inventory analysis, but, in order to get things moving, you don't have time to go through that kind of lengthy analysis. You get up in a helicopter, and you look down over the whole field, and you say, ``This is an emergency.'' You declare it. And then, that changes everything--in an instant.

Because now, it doesn't matter whether or not you're trying to balance the budget. There's an emergency, so spend the money. It doesn't matter if you haven't talked to your neighbor in 10 years; if there's an emergency, or there's a flood, or there's some other catastrophe that has struck the community, now people who don't even like each other, who haven't spoken to each other in a long time, now they understand the meaning of ``I am my brother's keeper.'' They're transformed--instantly, because there is a declaration of emergency which transforms the consciousness about the objective conditions that exist. They even let prisoners out of prison, to come and help out, if there's an emergency. If it's bad enough, all kinds of things that are normally unthinkable, undoable, suddenly become good ideas, that have instant acceptability.

So, we can belabor as long as we want to, about all of the individual things that we don't like about our present health-care system, but I thought that it would be a good idea if the people who assembled on the Mall, in the shadow of the Capitol, that is the emblem of democracy; if ``we the people,'' so to speak--the people who are the government--could issue a Declaration, coming from the people, since the leadership in Congress has betrayed the best interests of ``we the people''; since the President has not done what he should do--he's betrayed the interests of the people. All the politicians, all of the corporations, the insurance companies, all of the people who have been in the, as they now call it, the ``health-care business,'' everybody has sold the public's interests down the river.

So, here's an opportunity for ``we the people'' to declare, out of our own mouths, before the government, before God, before the nations of the Earth, that a health-care emergency exists within the borders, and outside of the borders, of the United States of America. And by such declaration, carrying the weight of the people assembled there, and those whom they represent, then that should be a transformative kind of thing, that should mobilize resources and people, and powers, and move towards a solution.

That was my idea a few weeks ago.

A Health Association of People

I thought that what should be done, is, there should be the formation of a health association. Not a professional association for doctors, or nurses, or anything like that, but a health association of people, who recognize this issue as being important.

And then, literally every rational thinking human being must understand, at some point in their life, that health is going to be a big and important issue for you, and your loved ones. And so, this kind of thing needs to be done.

That comes from an experience I had, maybe three or four years ago, in Washington, when I was invited to a meeting with the Health Department there, and others. They were actually making the decision, making the plans, at that time, to cut up the Medicaid population in Washington, D.C., and privatize it, turn it over to HMOs. And they were trying to decide how to divide this money up, among these private companies.

And I innocently raised my hand at a certain point in the meeting, because I saw the representatives of all of the forces and powers that be, but I had a question. I said, ``who's here that represents the people? The consumers? Who actually represents the Medicaid recipients? Is there anybody here that represents them?'' And the room got quiet, and they all turned and said, ``Who is this fool, that would dare to ask such a question? Who represents the Medicaid constituents? Nobody represents them.''

In other words, we are the carnivores who are here to devour them. They get no representation here.

And I thought that that was wrong. I'm glad to see the trade unionists here. Because at a certain point in history, workers realized, nobody's representing us! The people who are making the decisions in the boardrooms of corporate America, they don't think about us, and our interests, and our needs, so we have to associate with one another. We have to unionize. And then we use the clout of our unity, to force changes, and that's what made the life of working people in America somewhat bearable in the past.

And now, those gains in many cases are being eroded, but the same kind of thing needs to be done in health care, because we cannot count on the likes of our Al Gore, or George Bush, to do something right. You know, especially if there's an economic crisis, or a crash. We cannot expect that they're going to do something right. As a matter of fact, the driving force behind the changes in health care, that has privatized and changed it from a profession that is sacred, into an industry, is the economic decline. They're trying to suck the dollars that are in health care, into the stock market. And so the HMOs are interested in taking dollars out of health care, and health-care service delivery, and sending that money to Wall Street, to feed the speculation bubble.

They could care less whether somebody is actually receiving care. You know about that here in Baltimore. They dismantled your public health sector years ago. Prudential came into Balitmore, won a contract to provide medical services to the Medicaid population here, about three years ago. They were awarded a contract in the order of $150 million. And then they were very clever, because what they did, they assigned inner-city residents to doctors and clinics that are in the outer suburbs, knowing that these people don't have cars. They know that there's not such a good transportation system in Baltimore. So they knew--that those people could not actually visit the doctors that they had been assigned to.

At the end of the first year, only 14% of the patients in that health plan actually visited their doctor at least one time. Eighty-six percent never made it, and Prudential got to pocket $127 million, not by delivering care, but by denying care! Well, how does that get calculated in excess deaths, as they speak of it? They call it ``excess deaths.''

Excess morbidities, from all of the different diseases. And then, when you understand that that's how the game is being played, then there's not shock, or amazement, that there are these huge health disparities. Most people who have health plans, health insurance--and they say, 40 million Americans at any one time, don't have any coverage whatsoever--but that's a shifting number. Because if you actually talk to people, ``Well, I had health insurance up to last month. Then something happened last month, and I lost my coverage, and I wasn't insured for a while. I'm hoping to get back on at some point in the future.''

But even people who have cards, that say that they have health care, that card is good until you need it. Then when you need it, then you'll find out that the care that you actually need, you can't get. It's not covered. Because it's cleverly constructed in such a way, that you ultimately get very little quality care at all.

Don't get mad at the doctor. Because, I found out, for example, we're having an epidemic of prostate cancer. So, you know what I've been doing. For the last year or so, I've been recommending to all of my male patients over the age of 45--I've been recommending that they get the PSA blood test for prostate cancer. Now, the insurance companies have informed us, that they no longer will pay for such screening tests. They disallow such tests because ``it doesn't fit the diagnostic criteria.'' In other words, you can only do the test to detect prostate cancer, if the patient already has prostate cancer.

So you have to explain to your patients, that, if they want to be screened for prostate cancer, or any other disease, other than breast cancer, that they will have to pay out of their own pockets. And this was adopted recently by Medicare. And Medicare has the affrontery to actually write in the circular that they send out to doctors: While it may be consistent with good medical care, to obtain these tests, be aware that Medicare will not pay for it!

So, they're telling you--it couldn't be any plainer: Medicare, which represents the gold standard for health insurance in this country, is not in the business of offering quality health care. They have another agenda.

Well, what would you expect?

You see, if, in the past, the tradition in medicine was that we would be able to choose our doctor, or our caregiver, we would be able to select; and if we didn't like the guy, we'd say, ``Sorry, Doc.'' You'd go find someone that you like, someone that you trust, someone that you believe is working in your best interests. And actually, what happens is that there is a sacred covenant, that gets established between you and your physician. It's a sacred kind of a thing, a sacred kind of a bond, because the healing art is not mechanistic: It's a human interaction. There have to be two human beings that bond on an emotional, not just an intellectual, level. Also on a spiritual level, there is a bond of compassion that exists between them. We call that the doctor-patient relationship.

You can understand that. That's what you crave for in your quest for quality care. You want to have that kind of quality human relationship with the person that you entrust your health, and the health of your family, too.

Well, that's all been changed. Because now, health care is controlled by corporations. But what is a corporation? It's a legal fiction. A corporation is a legal fiction that is considered to be an artificial person. So, you might as well have Frankenstein as your doctor. You would have more empathy, sympathy, understanding, compassion, feeling, from Frankenstein, than you get from your HMO. That's who's taking care of you, Frankenstein. And your doctor works for Frankenstein. Didn't Frankenstein have a little imp, or something? That's the doctor.

A Human Right

So, that's the situation that we're dealing with. And so, at this point, you basically are going to have to fend for yourself. There is nobody up there, in the ranks of the experts, who is really, any longer, on your side--nobody! And they don't much care whether you live or die (because: ``I see some grey hair in here''). They look at you as a cost (they have a name for it--you're a ``cost-factor''). They don't look at you as a patient. They want a young, healthy person to be a part of their health plan; they don't want someone who actually needs something. Billie Halliday used to sing that song, ``You can help yourself, but don't take too much.''

That's called rationing.

Health is a human right; see, that's the principle. And what I was trying to get the people in the Mall to agree to, is to that principle. As a human being, you have a right to health care. It's not just for the rich, or people with jobs, or people of some particular socioeconomic category. If you're a human being (and, I would say, even if you're not a human being--animals have a right to be treated kindly, too), certainly, human beings have a right to health care.

Why is that a right? Well, as Minister Farrakhan has said, every human need is a human right. It is God who has created us with needs. God created us to have certain requirements to support our life. So, since we need food, then food cannot be withheld, morally, from a human being who needs it. He has a right to it. A human being has a right to an environment that is conducive to life, and to the proper development of a human being.

So, since we are created by God with these enumerated needs, then all of those enumerated needs represent areas of right. And it is the responsibility of constituted governments to protect those rights, and to see that those needs are met. And any time you have a government that will not recognize the rights of its citizens, and will not see to it that those needs are met, then that is a government that has outlived its usefulness. It needs to be replaced.

Since this government is one ``of, by, and for the people,'' where the government has gone astray, what about the people? If the people have also gone astray, then there's no way to avert disaster. But if the people have, somewhere within them, the common sense that former generations had, the decency that former generations had, the God-centered consciousness that former generations had, then, we the people, today, can correct the wrongful policies of a government that has been taken over by corporations.

So, that's what we need to do. We need to mobilize ``we the people'' around issues of health, so that we can see to it, that at least this issue of ours is met.

What Is Health?

Now, what is health? What do we mean by it. Health is not just the absence of disease--or the absence of a diagnosis. That's how it goes, sometimes. You go to the doctor; he can't think of a diagnosis; so he says, ``It's all in your head.'' Because he can't think of a word to define what you're suffering from.

No. Health has to be defined, based on the proper definition of man. And one of the things that attracted me most about what Mr. LaRouche teaches, is that he always starts from the concept of man in the image of God. Man is to reflect God; not necessarily physically alone, but emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. In every way. What we're all supposed to be asking ourselves, is, ``If God were me, what would he be doing? If God were here, what would he say? What would he do? What would he be concerned about?'' If we all live like that, that's how we establish the community of God that is looking out for the general welfare of all of the people, because that is the nature of God, to look out for the general welfare of all of the people.

If we are created in the image and likeness of God, and Jesus specified that even more--to be in the image and likeness of God, is to be perfect, so Jesus's command to people was, ``Be perfect, even as I am perfect''--well, why would Jesus command people to do that which is impossible to attain? The full definition of health is, that when people, when human beings have attained to that level of perfection that is the original intention of God, their Creator, then people have attained to perfect health.

And so everything that we have in civilization, or by way of government, is to aid in that process: to take human beings, even from before the time that they were born. They should be born into a system that fosters their growth and development into perfection, into the full blossoming of their God-given human potential. And any human being that has not actually had the opportunity to grow and develop to that degree, in that way, is unhealthy. They might not be bleeding at the moment; they might not be in pain at the moment; but, to the degree that they have fallen short of God's intention for them, they are suffering some disability. And it is the responsibility of that individual, but also that individual's family, that individual's community, that individual's government, to foster that growth and development, and to remove any impediments to that growth and development. We are a long way from that. And that's why we, the people, we must form ourselves into some kind of health association, some kind of group that sees to it that those kinds of things are being done, so that the requirements of health are met.

Now, I've already talked about certain points--the flawed policies that we suffer under now. Corporations should be banned from practicing medicine. Only human beings--there has to be certain sacred ground, ``humans only''--and medicine has to be one of those sacred grounds: Only human beings can come here, and take care of other human beings.

We should stop the downsizing of public health. In places like Baltimore, where your public hospital was shut down, it needs to be rebuilt, reopened. We should not be in the hands of the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins, and these private corporate institutions, that see you as a human guinea pig. We should stop this downsizing trend in training people in health careers. It starts in elementary school. When you turn off the minds of young people to science, and to understanding the world as it really is; when you make it impossible for people to actually be the recipients of compassion, so therefore, they don't learn how to be compassionate towards others--this begins in elementary school education. So, we need to change that, so we produce generations of people who come up, and they're competent--not just scientifically and professionally, but they're competent morally to practice the health profession.

The Hill-Burton Precedent

We need to look at the consequences of the abandonment of the Hill-Burton legislation that saw to it that a certain number of hospital beds were available for a certain size of population. Especially in a rural area; why should someone have to drive 100 miles to find the closest clinic or hospital, leave their county of residence, to find some hospital that some of George Bush's friends haven't shut down yet? What about the fact that even hospitals that are left open, are oftentimes understaffed, or the qualifications of the staff have been degraded, so that you think that you are being cared for by, say, a registered nurse, and in fact, it's a nurse's aide, that's doing the job of a registered nurse? And of course, the outcome can't be good, under those circumstances.

And there are other policies that are in place, that have a detrimental effect. We need to address the particular issues that have genocidal implications: which is to say, the intention to commit genocide. There are certain things, you might say, that are an unintended consequence of policy, but certain policies, in fact, are genocidal from the beginning.

Is it genocidal to go through neighborhoods and spray malathion? And listen to all the people in the room coughing, evidently struggling to get their breath? Why are you doing that? Is that a natural consequence of natural events? Or, are you a victim of some spraying taking place at street level? Some of the spraying above your head--you see these contrails, these white military planes, and some civilian planes, laying out grid-patterns in the sky. What is that stuff that lingers in the sky, that coalesces into clouds, and causes respiratory difficulties? Why is the Pentagon doing that? We know why they have the right to do it. Because in 1996, Congress passed a law, that said that the Pentagon had the right to do those kinds of experiments on civilian populations. They have to notify one public official before they do it; they didn't specify which public official, but one--I guess the dogcatcher--``we'll tell him we're getting ready to do this.'' But they don't have to tell you. And they do it. And we don't quite understand what that is, and what the consequences of that are.

Is West Nile virus really a natural crow disease, that's killing crows? Is that what it is? What about all of the other newly-emerged diseases? WHO [the World Health Organization] counts more than 29 newly-emerged viruses, that didn't exist 20 years ago; but now they exist, and, as we find, in Uganda, there is an outbreak of Ebola, decimating populations on top of the AIDS decimation.

We have whole nations of Africa that are now approaching the horizon of extinction. South Africa has a situation where two-thirds of its military personnel are infected with HIV. Two out of five nurses in South Africa--HIV positive; 180,000 teachers, schoolteachers, have died already of AIDS in Africa. Ten million orphans--and by the year 2010, ten years from now, it's expected that in Africa, there will be 40 million orphans due to HIV alone.

What About You?

So now, what does that mean to you? What kind of person are you and I, that we can know these things, and yet seemingly, have not the capacity to respond in an appropriate way? Look at the Scripture of Jesus, where it says, ``When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion, because they were faint''; or, translated another way, that they were sick, that their condition was terrible. So, he was moved with compassion, and compassion being that emotion that compels one to go to the aid of one's fellow man. Well, how is it, that we can hear of the devastation of whole continents, whole nations--and I'm not going to go into the details of everything we know--how can we hear about 500,000 children killed in Iraq, as a result of the sanctions after the war; outbreaks of neo-plastic diseases, or basically cancerous diseases as a result of the use of depleted-uranium weapons against Iraq? Such weapons continue to be used even as we speak; there are bombings going on in Iraq, the same depleted-uranium weapons being used in Kosovo in the recent war there by NATO forces. Bombing infrastructure, bombing the water plants, bombing the sewage plants, bombing hospitals, bombing those things that people need in order to live.

What is going on here? This is genocide; clear and simple genocide. And that is really evil of those people to do that; but what about us? What is our response? Where's our compassion towards such things? Where's our action? And if there is no action, if there is no compassion, does that make us just as bad as those people who are carrying out these policies?

In the election, if you are voting for the lesser of two evils, does that make you just as bad as the evil that you're voting for? Why should you vote for evil, even if it's lesser than another evil? You're still voting for that which is evil. Vote for that which is good. Even though the liars tell you that you are wasting your vote, at least you have a clean conscience. Isn't it a corruption of the electorate when they are told and deceived that they should corrupt their vote, and vote for evil? And when the people get just as corrupt as the leadership, then it's over--it's over.|...

We need to organize ourselves around these issues, because I think if you step back, if you get in your helicopter and fly over the health scene in America, you don't have to get lost in the details; you can see instantly, that this is an emergency. And we, the people, need to declare it to be an emergency, and we need to allow our consciousness about such things to be transformed, so that then, we are found in motion, in action, organizing and mobilizing ourselves; because actually, the life that you save, is going to be your life, and my life, and the life of your family.

If we sit back and allow the experts to take care of all these problems, pretend that we don't understand it well enough to have anything to say about it, we may be the intended victims of the actual genocide, that we are witnessing. We're actually witnesses to it. If you were a witness to a single murder, to a bloody murder in the street, wouldn't you feel that you had a sense of responsibility to tell what you know, about a single murder? Well, what about genocide? where you can see, just as well as I can see, that this is what the policy is all over the world.

What responsibilities do we have, where that's concerned? So please, consider these things. I thank you for the opportunity to share my views.

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