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November 23, 2004



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I have been resisting the temptation to peel off every twisted magnetic yellow ribbon I see attached to a bumper, (except the one that said "I support the man in China who makes these magnets"). I will, as soon as I figure out a good way to recycle them. I think they trivialize the horrible costs of this war. It's just too easy to buy a little expression at the checkout and stay unconscious.

I was horrified to discover that soldiers who had lost limbs in Iraq are being rehabilitated and retrained so that they can rejoin their units. Another sequela of a professional military, I presume. The only amputees I've seen on TV were running the New York City Marathon, and, when interviewed, said, without exception, that they had no regrets about their mutilating losses. I suspect they are an unusual group, meant to loll civilians into the comforting notion that losing a limb is no big deal. There must be many who are stunned and immobilized by their trauma. I only hope that these second tours of duty, with prostheses, are voluntary, not required. Just how much can a person be expected to sacrifice?

Nina Berman, in an interview about her new book of photographs, "Purple Hearts: Home From the War" offers an explanation:

"I expected bitter soldiers, but as I talked to more people and family members, I realized that wasn't really the experience of a wounded soldier returning home. Most of the soldiers I photographed had literally just been released from the hospital. They’re still in shock. For them to turn around and say, “I’m blind” or “I don’t have any legs” and then think that it wasn’t worth it -- that's a very hard leap to make. So I expected more bitterness and the pictures reveal soldiers who look quite lonely and almost in a state of shock.....

Martinez, [a recently returned soldier with terrible facial burns] like many soldiers I spoke with, really wants to stay in the Army. This is all they know and their short time in the Army is their first adult experience in the world. They had jobs, they had routines, and they were usually pretty good at their jobs. For a wounded soldier it’s all taken away from you. Not only are you wounded, and your life completely changed, but you also don’t have the Army structure and the so-called Army family that many soldiers become attached."

From the Institute for Policy Studies report on the mounting costs of the war in Iraq

"Costs to Veteran Health Care: About 64 percent of the more than 7,000 U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq received wounds that prevented them from returning to duty. One trend has been an increase in amputees, the result of improved body armor that protects vital organs but not extremities. As in previous wars, many soldiers are likely to have received ailments that will not be detected for years to come. The Veterans Administration healthcare system is not prepared for the swelling number of claims. In May, the House of Representatives approved funding for FY 2005 that is $2.6 billion less than needed, according to veterans' groups."

From from American Free Press.

"According to experts AFP consulted, among those 30,000 airlifted from Iraq and Afghanistan are an unknown number of seriously wounded, who, like thousands of others before them in previous wars, are hidden from the public.

No one knows—or at least no one has been able to find out—just how many of these men still exist in underfunded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities throughout America, and possibly abroad, as the U.S. government maintains no public accounting of the “living dead.”

As this scenario of America’s “living dead” plays out during the Iraq war, the irony is that, according to recent reports, “Kevlar helmets, body armor equipped with ceramic panels, field improvisations to personal and vehicle armor all have contributed to better protection against [often fatal] bullet and shrapnel wounds but have left the extremities vulnerable.”

Some have had their faces blown away or suffered irreparable brain damage. Some have no limbs, and some are totally paralyzed.

Somewhere in the many facilities run by the VA, these men exist, hidden away in the department’s 163 hospitals, 135 nursing homes, 43 domiciliaries and 73 “comprehensive home-care programs.”

How many of these men are there?".

Can we bear to see a fraction of the devastation wrought by war?

Photos from The Memory Hole, who tells us that in the Gulf War there were about three wounded soldiers for every one killed. In the Iraq War the figure is seven wounded for every soldier killed..

Photos from Nina Berman's book
More photos from her essay in Mother Jones.

American Free press again:

"George W. Bush is the only president to delight in posing for photographs, in combat gear, with real soldiers as one of ‘the boys,’ ” a WWII vet told AFP. “However, he knows absolutely nothing about war and its costs. If he were to take a tour through a veterans hospital and see some of the devastated young men his belligerency has produced, he might have a different view of his record.”

And this doesn't even consider the huge number of wounded and mutilated Iraqi men, women and children who are without medical attention, because we have destroyed their hospitals and as well as their futures.

Photo note: Broken branches, snapped off limbs. Too pretty for this subject.

Posted by Dakota at November 23, 2004 07:20 AM