Friday, November 23, 2007

Brain damage

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What more can be said regarding the human costs of Bush's wars? Thousands of Americans dead, many more thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis dead, countless wounded, countless lives ruined... And all for what? Iraq has been a disaster, a lost war, and Afghanistan has been badly neglected, so much so that the Taliban are well on rise again.

Well, you know what else can be said? It's all much worse than we thought. Consider this:

At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries, according to military and veterans records compiled by USA TODAY.

The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.

As Steve Benen puts it, "the discrepancy comes as a result of time. Troops whose wounds are discovered after they return home are not added to the official tally."

Fair enough. Maybe the Pentagon isn't willfully hiding this from us. Still, these revised numbers reveal something that is deeply troubling, namely, that we are only beginning to learn of the true human costs of these wars.

And, of course, these numbers reflect only what has happened to U.S. troops. What about the suffering of the Iraqi and Afghani people themselves. Not to say life for them was better under Saddam and the Taliban -- no, I would suggest nothing of the kind -- but how many of them have been killed? been injured? had their lives ruined? lost loved ones? suffered brain damage?

Maybe one day those numbers will be revealed -- if they can ever be known with any degree of accuracy. And then... then... maybe then... a fuller perspective on these horrendous wars can be achieved.

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