George Bush’s attempt to redefine success in Iraq by diverting attention from body counts to the provision of health-care and schools was met with disbelief by Iraqis.

“I define success or failure as whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves. I define success or failure as whether schools are being built or hospitals are being opened. I define success or failure as whether we’re seeing a democracy grow in the heart of the Middle East,” he told ABC News.

Half of the deaths that have occured in Iraq due to violence could have been prevented if proper medical care was available. The Independent reports that in the 14 months following the 2003 invasion, $20 bn of British and American funds was spent on reconstruction and reequipping Iraq’s 180 hostpitals. Half of that went missing through corruption, incompetence and criminal activity.

Since the invasion not a single Iraqi hospital has been built, according to Amar al-Saffar, in charge of construction at the Health Ministry.

In fact, no hospital had been built since the Qaddumiya hospital opened in 1986 in Baghdad, he said. When the war started it had 20 intensive care unit beds. Now it has half that, with many patients forced to buy their own oxygen supplies on the black market.

The only significant attempt to build a hospital was a project promoted by Laura Bush, the First Lady, in Basra. She frequently praised the $50 million paediatric hospital being built in the southern city. But Mr al-Saffar said that through financial mismanagement — the bane of postwar reconstruction across the country — it had never been completed.

Another senior Health Ministry official was surprised that Mr Bush had latched on to healthcare as proof of progress in Iraq. “It is the worst situation that the Ministry of Health has been in in its entire history,” he said. Healthcare had become so dire that half of those who died of injuries from terrorist attacks might have been saved, according to Bassim al-Sheibani, of the Diwaniyah College of Medicine, writing in the British Medical Journal.

While only 3000 of Iraq’s 18,000 schools have been refurbished.

56 per cent of Americans believe going to war in Iraq was a mistake; compare that to 23% who thought it was a mistake in March 2003 while 75% then thought invading Iraq was the right thing to do. More worryingly for Bush, a Newsweek poll carried out on October 5th found that a majority believe that the US is losing ground in it’s efforts to establish a stable democratic Iraq while over 50% say that they think the administration lied about WMD prior to the invasion.