Saturday, June 17, 2006

George Bush Told Them, "Go Fight My War." And They Have.

What We Need to Read, Know & Appreciate This Day, Every Day, and for the Indefinite Future About Iraq*
USA Killed in Action (Iraq) 01-Jan-08: 3,904; 31-Jan-08: 3,943
USA Wounded in Action (Iraq)* 01-Jan-08:
12,888; 31-Jan-08: 12,986*
Contractors KIA: 113 identified as USA.
What kind of a war can we fight without feeling any national collective pain? The servile American news media is not only allowing the administration to hide the financial cost by not including it in the budget; it is also obfuscating the human cost. Not only is there no press coverage of the transportation of the remains of dead American service men & women back into the states; there is also a suppression of news about the arrival of American wounded. Very little is seen on TV, in photographs in the nation's newspapers. Except in anecdotal information on individual cases followed in local press, statistics on American wounded remains actually invisible to the American people.

The media basically focuses on the hit-and-run guerrilla attacks that claim one or two GIs in Iraq almost daily. Little attention has been paid to the long, difficult and very personal struggles that ensue in wards at the Brooke Army Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. The media has always treated combat deaths as the most reliable measure of battlefield progress, The result is that many injuries go unreported. When you add in the numbers of wounded, it becomes a toll the country has not seen since Vietnam, said Aseneth Blackwell, former national president of Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.

In Gulf War I, about three troops were wounded in action for every fatality. In Gulf War II about seven are being wounded for every one killed. Two major factors are responsible for the greater proportion of wounded. One, using medical personnel - deploying well-equipped surgical teams closer to combat, for example - mean that injured soldiers are getting attention quickly. Modern medical techniques also mean that a far higher percentage of soldiers who would have died in previous wars now survive and come back as amputees.

Secondly, there is the current technology in improved body armor, helmets and even goggles are credited with saving American lives in Iraq. An improvement over previous generations of flak vests, the $1,585 Interceptor Body Armor is a green 16-pound vest which contains two ceramic plates backed with sheets of fibers. It is designed stop direct hits from an AK-47.

But in Iraq the problem is that rocket-propelled grenades, remote-controlled mines and what the Pentagon refers to as "improvised explosive devices” can wound multiple troops at a time and cause the kind of amputating damage that you don't necessarily see with a bullet wound to the arm or leg. Explosions shatter and sever legs and arms. They char flesh and drive debris deep into the soft tissue that remains. Unattached muscles, nerves and tendons dangle. Red-hot shrapnel sometimes punctures torsos below waist-length body armor, ripping bowels and bladders. Concussions bruise skulls and brains. Soldiers thrown into the air are injured again when they hit ground. Large numbers of troops coming are back to Walter Reed and National Naval Medical with serious blast wounds and arms and legs that have been amputated. The hidden numbers are appalling. Thousands of U.S. troops have been wounded and injured in Iraq. They have been paralyzed, lost limbs, suffered blindness, suffered horrible burns and so on. They are heroes, without question, but their stories have largely gone untold. "Our nation doesn't know," said Susan Brewer, president and founder of America's Heroes of Freedom, a nonprofit organization that collects clothing and other personal items for the returning troops. "Sort of out of sight and out of mind."

Also hidden is the impact of wounded on the military units. In an article, "Saddam’s in the Slammer, So Why Are We on Orange?" retired US Army Col. David Hackworth, writes,
Even I...was staggered when a Pentagon source gave me
a copy of a Nov. 30 dispatch showing that since George W. Bush unleashed the
dogs of war, our armed forces have taken 14,000 casualties in Iraq—about the
number of warriors in a line tank division…. This means we’ve lost the
equivalent of a fighting division since March. At least 10 percent of the total
number (of available personnel—135,000) has been evacuated back to the
The deliberate obscuring of the total human toll of the war and occupation in Iraq is an indication of increasing nervousness within the Bush administration. Despite the official claims of overwhelming popular support, the political and media establishment knows full well that opposition to this war is growing, and that an accurate picture of the war’s devastating consequences will further turn the tide of public opinion.
* This WIA stat includes only life-altering wounds; it is about half of the total number of total USA WIA's; the other half of the statistic which are not counted here are 'wounded but returned to action'

** This article was originally published on 14-March 2004, and since then updated monthly.