Sunday, August 31, 2003

Calculating the Real Costs of War

The most important under-reported story about the Iraq war may be that of the thousands of wounded it has produced. The estimate from the officer in charge of airlifting the wounded home puts the figure at about 8,000. The most astounding thing about this is the near silence in the media about the cost of the Iraq War in terms of suffering and permanent disabilities. Coverage pretends that the only price is the relatively few lives claimed and the 4 billion a month, or more, cost of the occupation. But this is this tip of an iceberg.

It is true that fatalities have been lighter than most past wars, but that is mainly due to the improvements in medical science which allow even some of the most greivously wounded to live. It is not because our troops are no longer being wounded. If somewhat less than 400 soliers have died, that makes the ratio of medi-vaced casualties to fatalities about 20 to one. Twenty soldiers seriously wounded enough to require medivac to the States for every one killed.

How many more are treated in the field hosptials and returned to action, as is the army's normal practice? We don't know exactly. That, too, is classified information. But even if it's only equal to those medi-vaced, and that's an unreasonably lowe estimate, that's 16,000 casualties, so far. More than 1 in 10 soldiers in Iraq may already bear the scars of this war. Every time that death toll increments by one soldier martyred to Bush's hubris, one can estimate there are probably 40 more who are injured by accident or mayhem.

If the public were exposed to the real cost of this war in blood and suffering would they still support Bush's War? How much longer would he sit in the office that allows him to order the carnage to continue if people were allowed to know of the hidden price we are paying? Meanwhile, at the same time our soldiers are wounded and maimed and disabled by the thousands, Bush is seeking reductions in their medical and disability benefits.

I remember reading what is likely an apocryphal story about Bush meeting a soldier during a hospital tour whose hand had been blown off in his war, and he grabbed the boys stump and began to pray over it. I can only imagine that if really happened, he was praying for forgiveness.

Tell people about the toll Bush's rush to war and refusal to internationalize the occupation is taking. If the media doesn't do thier jobs, we'll have to do for them.


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