UNKNOWN soldier - New England Journal of Medicine
History is full of coincidences. Today, we learned that 1,000 U.S. soldiers have now died in Afghanistan. On GlobalSecurity.org, meanwhile, we can see the fatalities since the Iraq war began in March, 2003: 4,287. The "winding-down-war" is only producing 20 fatalities a month now, though over seven times that many wounded. We are supposed to believe this is good news, just as we are supposed to believe the disproportionate number of wounded to killed is progress. In Vietnam, the ratio was about 5.22:1 (58,169 were killed and 304,000 wounded).
Of course, we now have vets with injuries who would never have survived in the days of Vietnam. We must look askance at these "survival" rates then. Plus, as GlobalSecurity.com makes clear, even the casualty figures are highly open to interpretation, misleading, and plain absent.
One thing is clear, we will be paying, and the families of our Veterans will especially be paying for years, decades, to come, not only directly, but indirectly in lost potential. Who knows how many inventors, entrepreneurs, or just plain good family men and women we've lost?
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote the Three Trillion Dollar War in September 17, 2008, counting just the Iraq war in his title, though internally allowing for $7 Trillion after borrowing costs (oh yes, we borrow from the Chinese for that too), and for Afghanistan. But already his figures have been eclipsed by the then unanticipated escalation in Afghanistan.
Perhaps it is better to check the other clock about to flip over a trillion (see, I said there were consequences), at the National Priorities Project. Dig a little deeper, and you'll find we are already past a trillion - the clock has to be sped up, you see - and they are only counting direct spending, not the big and little tricks to fund the wars that make liars equally out of politicians and accountants.
Here is what NPP says we could have had, had we not gone to war in 2001 (so long ago now that it represents the entire teenage years of most of our new soldiers):
That's right, even by the National Priority Project's very conservative estimates, we could have provided healthcare for the entire U.S. population (only 20% of which are actually uncovered) for an entire year. If being wounded carries a lingering effect, then doesn't a year of free health care? Imagine all those healthy Americans walking around now, instead of all those crippled ones. Children are an even better bargain, and we could have provided healthcare to nearly all the uninsured children each year, every year, for less than the money we spent on the two wars.
Feel free to mix it up any way you want, or choose your state on the NPP site and see what you've lost. See, it is not, as we are told, just a distant war. Though Americans were told to get on with their lives, or famously, as George Bush put it, to "go shopping" we have sacrificed.
Not in the way our Vets have, but still, we have sacrificed. When forced to confront what we've done, we often don't.
I do not mean to say our allies - the Coalition of the Willing (or the coerced?) are any better. Wounded vets were literally thrown out of the pool in England, lest they "scare little children." Well, the children should be scared! They are next on the military conveyor belt that takes promising lives and returns them home brutalized, ravaged, and ruined. The children should run screaming from the pool and they, and their parents, if they really care, should rise up and say, "No! It is too much already! I will not sacrifice my son or daughter to your war machine!" Perhaps we should dare to dream a little bigger for our children as well. Could some of them, yet to grow, perhaps find a cure for our being "Addicted to Oil"? We will never know if we never stop the wars.
The "wars" - it still sounds strange to me to talk about wars, two at a time, especially when one of them, is now the second longest American war in history, and the other is the third. Are we aiming for a record?
Are we safe yet?