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?