The Human Cost of War: We have become the Enemy

The news today (April 17, 2008) included this: "A prominent research organization estimated Thursday that 300,000 of the 1.5 million U.S. troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, and a similar number may have suffered traumatic brain injuries, mainly from explosions." These were the first words of a Voice of America story with the headline, "Study Estimates Huge Need for US Military Mental Health Care."

Every week a group stands on a corner in Lewes with signs bearing the number of US dead, and wounded, and Iraqi civilians dead. I stand with them as often as possible. The US dead now stands at 4037. The number of Iraqi dead, by cautious estimates stands at almost 30,000. (There is a much larger estimate, 151,000 being used as well.) But we have been using the number given by the Department of Defense for injuries, which stand now at just over 29,000.

The estimate given today by the Rand Corporation and used as a valid figure by VoA in an article written by Al Pessin, belies that figure. Now it is established that about 300,000 service personnel have PTSD or major depression and a similar number may have traumatic brain injuries. Suddenly the numbers have jumped:

4037 US Dead in Iraq
303,000 US Wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan
151,000 Iraqi civilians dead.

We are only now beginning to get the real figures.

And in the Democratic Debate held last night the ABC "hosts" had the audacity to spend much of the time checking out if Senator Obama could provide proof that he could take "it", "it" being moronic questions of the sort the ABC hosts thought would come later from the Republicans. There was the "you associate with the wrong people" questions, the "you are an elitist" questions, the "you are not patriotic enough" questions.

But where were the hard questions about the war...not just when do you promise to get out of there, but what are you prepared to do for 303,000 or more wounded veterans and when will a President go to Dover and receive the dead home?

And, while we are at it: when will there be a serious discussion of the fact that this god awful war and its human cost have deflected the concern for the poor to some sort of pity party for the middle class. The war is killing the poor. It is inconveniencing the middle class. But we hear little of the poor in the debates.

The human cost of this war includes the injury it does to our consciences: it turns us into zombies who feed on stupidity in the debates, into idolatrous fools who think that flags in our lapels have anything at all to do with love of country, and into class warfare based on feeding on middle class greed and ignoring poor people's needs.

And will we turn our attention as a church to the crimes of our Nation and get off the stupidity of our momentary snits about so called proper Christian morality in the Church?


  1. AMEN! Thank you. AMEN!

  2. Counterlight18/4/08 8:48 AM

    I never expected to see this country brought to so low and decadent a point: a war of aggression built on a web of lies; the official use of torture on prisoners of war, especially a method invented by the Spanish Inquisition and used on American POWs in WWII and the Vietnam War; and treating the men and women of the military like the hired help, for all the meaningless "support the troops!" rhetoric and bumper stickers. "Well, they volunteered for this" we lamely offer as an excuse for negligence and shabby treatment.

    No folks, "we" are not at war. Barely 5 percent of our population is bearing the full cost of this war. If this is a "war of survival" for the United States, then why is nothing being asked of the rest of us? Why is there no draft? Where are the appeals for war bond purchases? In fact, we are the first nation in the history of the world to cut taxes in a time of "war."
    We expect the same class of people that does most of our cooking, cleaning, farming, repair work, and construction to go clean up a mess in the Middle East for us. If they do a decent job, then maybe we'll throw them a tip. They are lead by politicians who all dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, including God's President who went AWOL from a champagne unit of the National Guard.

    I remember sitting on the steps of the Federal Hall Memorial about a month after the 9/11 attacks looking at the NY Stock Exchange with a huge American flag across its facade and thinking, "how patriotic is it really to maintain an overseas tax shelter in a time of national crisis?"

  3. So what are we going to do about it?

  4. Aside from the tragic human costs borne by American solders and Iraqis, I am still amazed that in the midst of this several-trillion-dollar war on top of the 9 trillion dollar deficit there are Republicans like McCain talking about tax cuts with a straight face.

  5. chuck...got any ideas? Aside from pushing those running for office to speak to the issues and not to the single issue of exit and standing on the corner trying to get local folk to remember, I'm involved in a peace group on the Delmarva peninsula and connecting in with our Public Policy Network that is working to address issues like the use of torture, poverty in the US, etc.

    There must be more. What do you have in mind?

  6. What an ugly mess we have created.

    I fear I lack the wisdom to know how best to get ourselves, and the Iraqi's out of it. I cannot think of a single correct answer I want to hear candidates, or anyone else deliver.

    What I would like to hear is a bit of humility. I would like to hear that they do not know the way, but that they will seek it. That they do not know the way but they know some things: torture, imprisonment without trial, and the like are not signs along that way. I at least would think of that as a start towards the path.

    I would also like to hear some ideas on safeguards. We should never, ever, for any reason, let ourselves walk this way again.



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