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The Horror

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“The horror. The horror.”

- dying words of Georges-Antoine Kurtz from the Joseph Conrad short novel Heart of Darkness

There’s so much bad news these days surrounding the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that reading the news is like cherry picking from the a diseased tree – the fruit’s all rotten.

As an example, this morning’s news inbox included an educator’s packet (I’m a teacher) with lesson plans designed to inform high school students – whose names and personal information are required by law to be supplied to U.S. military recruiters – about the long-term health effects of exposure to depleted uranium dust.

These include various cancers, birth defects, and all of the illnesses attributable to radiation poisoning. Nearly half of the roughly 700 thousand soldiers from the first Gulf War in 1991, a short war if anyone even remembers, have reported serious medical problems and a significant increase in the number of birth defects among their children.

Today’s news also included a report published on from a highly regarded British journalist discussing the growing likelihood of an American attack on Iran led by “neo-conservative ideologues who still run the Bush Administration and have nothing to lose politically”. Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Rudy Guiliani.

The Palestinian government has been dissolved. Five more U.S. troops were killed in Iraq amid ongoing sectarian violence and attacks on Islamic holy sites. Yada, yada, yada.

In America, life goes on. Nobody you run into talks about any of this. Too divisive. Too difficult. The war dead arrive home in the dark of night. The nearly 20 thousand maimed and disfigured American combatants are kept largely out of sight. Bloodied images of dead and dying Iraqi civilians are mostly spared from the front pages of newspapers and the nightly news shows by well-meaning editors and producers. Contractor casualties are rarely, if ever, reported. Contractor atrocities aren’t even tallied. Congress approves $78 million for the expansion of national cemeteries.

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Mark McVay has lived and taught school in Oregon, Michigan, California, and Colorado. He is a Vietnam veteran and served in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in South Vietnam in 1969-70. His wife is a retired USMC officer. McVay's writing has (more...)

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