Friday, March 02, 2007

Hidden Costs of the Iraq War

Advancements in battlefield medical care have reduced the number of deaths suffered by wounded U.S. soldiers relative to previous military conflicts. As a result, large numbers of soldiers are returning home with debilitating medical conditions.

Official U.S. Government figures list the number of severe battlefield injuries at 10,535 soldiers. This number, however, does not reflect the full extent of severe injuries suffered by soldiers. Some 18,704 soldiers suffering from infectious disease have thus far required evacuation by air transport. This is in keeping with figures from past wars, which often see greater numbers of soldiers succumb to disease than combat injuries.

Furthermore, these figures do not reflect the casualties suffered by the 100,000 civilian contractors currently serving in Iraq. Some 800 contractors have been killed in Iraq and 3,300 wounded. It is probably safe to assume that a large number of contractors have also suffered from infectious disease.

We are often asked to support our troops in Iraq, an assertion that plays off the good nature of citizens, who don't want to see fellow citizens hurt or killed. This assertion, which really equates to a plea to support our continued military presence, is dishonest: the same politicians who ask us to support our troops have themselves failed to do so in their vainglorious pursuit of a war predicated on a lie. This war demands an enormous investment in future medical care, and if we are to consider our troops to be fellow citizens and human beings, we must carefully consider what it means to support them.

It has become quite clear to me that the best way to support our troops is to ensure they have access to adequate medical care, and for our politicians seek a diplomatic victory in this conflict.

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