Tuesday, April 10, 2007

One Iraq War Milestone Noted; Longer-Term Damage Grows

Four years have passed since the fall of Baghdad, and what do we have to show for it?

The Washington Post, which recently broke the news about the deplorable state of affairs at the military's Walter Reed hospital, offers another way to understand and measure the real outcome of the war: permanent brain injuries are being inflicted in record numbers, and the military's health-care system can't keep up with this, either.

Two key paragraphs from The Washington Post story, linked above, say it all:

"About 1,800 U.S. troops, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, are now suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by penetrating wounds. But neurologists worry that hundreds of thousands more -- at least 30 percent of the troops who've engaged in active combat for four months or longer in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are at risk of potentially disabling neurological disorders from the blast waves of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and mortars, all without suffering a scratch.

For the first time, the U.S. military is treating more head injuries than chest or abdominal wounds, and it is ill-equipped to do so. According to a July 2005 estimate from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, two-thirds of all soldiers wounded in Iraq who don't immediately return to duty have traumatic brain injuries."

From time to time, our local right-wing radio rangers clumsily try and minimize the impact of US combat casualties by comparing the numbers to those from other wars. The US Civil War, for example. Or World War II.

It's a stupid numbers game. War is war, and pain is pain, and the Iraq War has been excruciatingly long, unnecessary and tragic.

The suffering in store for these brain-injured soldiers and their families is another reason to remove our troops immediately.

As the author of the Post story writes: "Most of the families of our wounded that I have interviewed months, if not years, after the injury say the same thing: "Someone should have told us that with these closed-head injuries, things would not really get all that much better."

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