Thursday, August 04, 2005

Tired of hearing about the war? Change the channel.

Forget the War? Many Can't - New York Times

Torture. Suffering. Death. War is thrilling at first, but it does drag after a while. Doesn't everyone find Doonesbury boring these days, as Trudeau persists in exploring the very unfunny experiences of BD? [Update: I'm being sarcastic. See the comments.]

Bob Herbert is particularly stuck on this topic. Just can't seem to shake it. You'd think he'd know his ratings must be falling. Here he tells yet another story no-one will read:
...I interviewed Specialist Gonzalez on Tuesday in the quiet, air-conditioned offices of Disabled American Veterans, which is helping to prepare him for the transition to civilian life. He sat rigidly on the edge of a sofa, his left hand clinging to the knee of his wife, Any, who is 27. They were married last February.

'She has to be my eyes now,' he said.

I asked Specialist Gonzalez if he had ever become depressed during his ordeal. 'Yes, I did, sir,' he said. 'Actually, I've been getting more depressed lately than in the beginning.'

After a pause, he said, 'Frustration makes me sad sometimes. And I have mood changes. From very happy to kind of sad from one moment to another. And I've become judgmental. Criticizing others. I do that most of the time. Even Any. People have pointed it out to me.'

His ability to concentrate has deteriorated, he said. 'I have to accept it. My room is like a whole map where I keep big chart boards to remind myself which day I went to the gym, which bills I have to pay, so I don't pay them again.'

These are the kinds of sacrifices some Americans are making because of the war. If we're already sick of hearing about the troops getting killed, there's not much hope left for increased attention to those who are wounded.

Specialist Gonzalez said his chief worry, the concern that keeps him awake at night, is what lies in wait when he finally leaves the hospital and returns - newly married and without many of the tools he previously took for granted - to the 'real world.'
The New York Times magazine covered this topic in an excellent article last year. It's been noted elsewhere [1] that the combination of modern body armor, the use of high potency explosive devices in Iraq, and sophisticated trauma care has shifted the spectrum of morbidity for US soldiers from death to head injury.

These veterans with post-traumatic brain disorders will never fully recover (barring radical stem cell therapies that will be developed, thanks to Bush, not in the US but in China). They may work again, but they will never follow the road they started on. I recall one calculation that estimated that for every fatality noted in Iraq there were 5-10 significant head injuries with some measure of lifelong effect. That would put the number of cognitively impacted veterans now at 9,000 to 17,000.

Let's say the cumulative total for the 10 year Iraq war ends up being on the order of 50,000 disabled veterans. If each one is compensated for their lifelong disability at about $2 million each, that's $100 billion in addition to their medical care.

We should increase our taxes to pay for their disability. Or we could send the bill to George Bush -- not because he chose to invade Iraq, but rather because he chose to retain the incompetent architects of the occupation.

[1] I can't find my 2003/2004 post on this topic -- which is how I discovered Blogger's search function is really weird. Hard to believe Blogger is owned by Google! Well, at least the performance and reliability has recovered from last year.

1 comment:

JGF said...

WD -- just to clarify a bit -- my post was saturated with bitter sarcasm. I am extremely supportive of what Gary Trudeau is doing -- even though it's costing him some readership.

Try reading as a very sarcastic statement; I mean precisely the opposite of what I wrote.