Today is our 1,910th day in Iraq.
We'll start as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from the warron terra, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4094
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3955
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3633
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3235
Since Election (1/31/05): 2657
Other Coalition Troops: 313
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 517
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $527, 057, 650, 000 .00
I really hate 'potpourri'....but I've got a mishmosh of stories I've been collecting for the past few days, so I guess the term fits today.
First off, the most common injury from this war is "traumatic brain injury"...but perhaps second on the list is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Those of us that lived through September 11 are carry a touch of PTSD...now imagine that increased by a thousand fold. How did you get through it? Even to this day, the sight of a low-flying commercial jet gives me pause, and I wasn't even in New York. So how do you think the soldiers at Ft. Benning feel?
A Washington Post article published Tuesday tells the story of three Fort Benning soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The soldiers say living in barracks across from a firing range is setting off the disorder.
The claims made in Tuesday morning's Washington Post focus on the fact the Warrior Transition Battalion which houses wounded soldiers is located across the street from a firing range.
News 3 spent the afternoon at Fort Benning and got some answers directly from the battalion commander.
Imagine coming home after being wounded in a battle zone, then move into a barrack right across from a firing range.
It's the recent claim made by three Fort Benning soldiers, who live at the Warrior Transition Battalion on post.
“In the time that I’ve been here we haven't had any issues relating to the noise,” said Lieutenant Colonel Sean Mulcahey, the commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion.
The noise the soldiers are talking about is gunfire. They claim it's setting off their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
“We take PTSD very seriously because we have about 10 to 15 percent of our soldiers out of 350 that we currently have assigned have been diagnosed with PTSD,” he said.
Mulcahey says the barracks were built at their location for a reason.
“They are in close proximity to the theatre, mini mall, PX, dining facilities and to other post services, and so those are the things that went into the decision as I understand it,” he said.
Along the lines of PTSD...'collateral damage' refers to those unintended targets that are destroyed when a legitimate target is hit...kinda like a school or hospital across the street from a military base. But what happens when those unintended targets are men? Or worse, American soldiers?
Troops, when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in “atrocity producing situations.” Being surrounded by a hostile population makes simple acts, such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke, dangerous. The fear and stress push troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.
Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. These civilians, who rarely interact with soldiers or Marines, are to most of the occupation troops in Iraq nameless, faceless, and easily turned into abstractions of hate. They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing — the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm — to murder — the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.
The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13% increase in suicides over 2006. And the suicides, as they did in the Vietnam War years, will only rise as distraught veterans come home, unwrap the self-protective layers of cotton wool that keep them from feeling, and face the awful reality of what they did to innocents in Iraq
American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The killing project is not described in these terms to a distant public. The politicians still speak in the abstract terms of glory, honor, and heroism, in the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a virtue. The campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed within the confines of this rhetoric, as if once all terrorists are destroyed evil itself will vanish.
The reality behind the myth, however, is very different. The reality and the ideal tragically clash when soldiers and Marines return home. These combat veterans are often alienated from the world around them, a world that still believes in the myth of war and the virtues of the nation. They confront the grave, existential crisis of all who go through combat and understand that we have no monopoly on virtue, that in war we become as barbaric and savage as those we oppose.
This is a profound crisis of faith. It shatters the myths, national and religious, that these young men and women were fed before they left for Iraq. In short, they uncover the lie they have been told. Their relationship with the nation will never be the same. These veterans give us a true narrative of the war — one that exposes the vast enterprise of industrial slaughter unleashed in Iraq. They expose the lie...
Lastly this morning....a commentary by Jim Hightower.
And if you don't routinely read or listen to his columns....you need to start.
On January 2nd, yet another American soldier died in Iraq. But Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, a highly-decorated Green Beret, didn’t die from a roadside bomb or an al Queda sniper. He was killed by his shower.
More accurately, Sgt. Maseth's killer was privatization. That's the out-of-control policy of turning over essential military support systems to a sprawling, unregulated network of for-profit corporations and letting them get away again and again with shoddy - even deadly - work.
Sgt. Maseth was safely inside his Army base in Baghdad when he reached for the shower faucet. Electricity instantly shot through the pipes, through the water itself, and through his entire body, electrocuting him. His mother, stunned, pressed the Army for details, but got only hemming and hawing at first, then she got a lie: she was told that her son had a "small appliance" with him in the shower. She knew better and kept pushing, finally learning that the facility's water pump had not been properly grounded.
Worse, Army documents reveal that Halliburton, under contract to inspect such systems, had found serious electrical problems in this facility nearly a year before Sgt. Maseth’s last shower. Why wasn't it fixed? Because Halliburton's contract did not cover "fixing potential hazards," instead requiring only that it fix equipment already malfunctioning. Meanwhile, the Army itself should have known about this death trap, but under the Pentagon's convoluted privatized system, the danger that
Halliburton found was not red-flagged and was never reviewed by a "qualified government employee."
At least a dozen of our soldiers have been killed by improper grounding of electrical equipment, but Halliburton coldly claims that it is not part of the Army and has no contractual obligation to prevent the electrocution of American Troops.
"Green Beret electrocuted in shower on Iraq base," www.cnn.com, May 28, 2008
And don't think for one minute that "President" McCain would change a thing...