And while battlefield suffering is likely unavoidable once the guns have opened up we certainly do have control over what happens to battlefield casualties. For the dead there is little that can be done other than giving them a proper burial and giving their families as much comfort and support as is humanly possible. I don't believe we are doing such a good job of that, but I will save that subject for later. For the wounded, there is a lot more that needs to be done. They need medical care, psychological care, help with readjustment and rotating back into civilian life if they are no longer fit to serve. And it appears that the way we as a nation treat Iraq war wounded is nothing short of a national outrage.
According to this report by Frederick Sweet the wounded are far from being a priority on the military's list.
Mark Benjamin’s investigative report on Oct. 20, 2003 for UPI, revealed that many wounded veterans from Iraq had to wait "weeks and months at places such as the Fort Stewart military base in Georgia, for proper medical help." They had been kept in living conditions that are "unacceptable for sick and injured soldiers." One officer characterized conditions for the wounded by saying, "They're being treated like dogs."And what are those unacceptable conditions?
At Fort Stewart in Georgia, they waited in hot concrete barracks with no air-conditioning or running water.Advances in the body armor technology mean that a lot of people who would have died in previous wars now survive as their body is protected,- but the limbs take the brunt of the damage, and thus the percentage of limb loss is unusually high among the wounded. That fact is not being widely disclosed by the Pentagon. In general it appears that the defense establishment is going out of its way to conceal the scale of the issue.
As American casualties increased during the summer of 2003, US military officials suppressed discussion of the total number wounded. Only by July 10, 2003, nearly four months after the invasion of Iraq had been launched, did CNN report that for "the first time since the start of the war in Iraq, Pentagon officials have released the number of US troops wounded from the beginning of the war through Wednesday [July 9, 2003]."And the mainstream US media were hardly the watchdog one would hope they are trying to be,- they didn't seem to ask the hard questions and pressure the Pentagon to have them answered.
However, Seth Porges wrote in Editor & Publisher (10/23/03) that coverage of injured and wounded U.S. soldiers gets very little media attention. "For months, the press has barely mentioned non-fatal casualties or the severity of their wounds," writes Porges. "Few newspapers routinely report injuries in Iraq, beyond references to specific incidents. Since the war began in March, 1,927 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq, many quite severely."
But newspapers neglected to report or keep a tally on the wounded, as an informal survey of some top papers has shown. This comes on the heels of reports that attacks on American troops in Iraq had increased in recent weeks from an average of 15 to 20 attacks per day to about 20 to 25 attacks a day, with a peak at about 35 attacks in one day, according to the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.
Overall, Dr Sweet's article is a great summary of how we treat our wounded. Whether or not you support the war in Iraq I believe it is your duty as a citizen to face those facts and assess them for what they are.