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Quote of the day: "War kills all those who participate in it, even the ones who survive." - ewar 100204
There's no emotional sting like the one inflicted by that 500 number. It's larger now, the total of Americans dead from an Iraq war launched on false pretenses, but 500 is getting a lot of usage as the ultimate cost of this mess. It's a cost 500 can't begin to illuminate.
How about at least 9,000 servicemen and women wounded, sickened or injured? How about 6,891 troops medically evacuated for non-combat conditions between March 19 and Oct. 30, 2003?
"There are about 2,500 combat casualties," Dave Autry said on the phone from the Disabled American Veterans offices in Washington. "The rest are attempted suicides, vehicle accidents, other accidents, illness. Something that's becoming a big concern is lesions caused by exposure to sand fleas that carry a particularly virulent bacteria."
All of this could be categorized as the inevitably horrible cost of post-modern war in the desert, but the scandal is what is happening to these survivors once their government brings them home. Tom Keller, the immediate past commander of the DAV in Ohio, wrote to me last month about the secretive nature of the process.
"I can't speak for the DAV's national organization," Tom said, "but I have my own feelings about why the Bush administration is bringing the casualties back to the States in the middle of the night and wants to keep organizations like the DAV away from them. I believe the administration wants to keep the American people in the dark about the number of troops being wounded, the severity of the injuries they are receiving and the types of illnesses that may be surfacing."
There are reasons potentially too disturbing even to ponder as to why the Defense Department, for example, would want to do what Keller is suggesting, but the evident reason appears to be depressingly common: money. It appears that the government does not want these veterans even to be aware of, let alone receive, the benefits due them for donating their limbs and their souls and their innocence to America.
The DAV's executive director, David Gorman, who left both his legs in a stinking Southeast Asian jungle more than 30 years ago, took up the subject early last month in a letter to Secretary of Offense Donald Rumsfeld.