February 21, 2004

Maimed in Iraq, then mistreated, neglected, and hidden in America.

You have not see this story, or these facts, about the
US soldiers wounded and maimed for life, lead the news on
AnythingButSee, SeeBS, NotBeSeen, SeeNotNews or Faux
News...which is a shame and a disgrace perhaps even
greater than what has befallen these soldiers and
why...because without a "US mainstream news media"
willing to speak truth to power, i.e. provide the
electorate with the information it needs to choose its
leaders, there is no real freedom here to protect...

Frederick Sweet, Intervention Magazine: The Bush
administration, referring to veterans of the war in
Iraq, told a House panel that they would avoid last
year's "mistakes" of leaving sick and injured troops
at U.S. bases to wait for months to be properly
treated by doctors. Adding insult to injury, Army
Surgeon General Lt. Gen. James B. Peake told the House
panel that he "was not aware" that last fall soldiers
were waiting for medical care at U.S. bases and under
substandard living conditions.

Support Our Troops, Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)

http://www.interventionmag.com/cms/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=654

Maimed in Iraq, then mistreated, neglected, and hidden in America.
By Frederick Sweet

Combat veterans wounded in Iraq were left waiting
weeks and even months for proper medical attention at
military bases. According to an officer, their living
conditions were so unacceptable for injured soldiers
he said they "were being treated like dogs." Then the
Pentagon underreported the number wounded.

The Bush administration, referring to veterans of the
war in Iraq, told a House panel that they would avoid
last year's "mistakes" of leaving sick and injured
troops at U.S. bases to wait for months to be properly
treated by doctors. Adding insult to injury, Army
Surgeon General Lt. Gen. James B. Peake told the House
panel that he "was not aware" that last fall soldiers
were waiting for medical care at U.S. bases and under
substandard living conditions.

Wounded "treated like dogs"

Mark Benjaminís investigative report on Oct. 20, 2003
for UPI, revealed that many wounded veterans from Iraq
had to wait "weeks and months at places such as the
Fort Stewart military base in Georgia, for proper
medical help." They had been kept in living conditions
that are "unacceptable for sick and injured soldiers."
One officer characterized conditions for the wounded
by saying, "They're being treated like dogs."

In January, 2004 Benjamin reported that the largest
American troop rotation is now underway. Daniel
Denning, assistant secretary of the Army, testified to
the House Total Force Subcommittee, "We recognize that
last fall, we temporarily lost sight of the situation.
It is likely that during this period of force
rotations, patient loads at some installations may
exceed local capacity. The Army has developed a series
of options to handle this surge."

Subcommittee chairman John McHugh, R-N.Y. said, "In
October of last year a series of articles revealed
that many mobilized Reserve and National Guard
soldiers in a medical holdover status felt the Army
was not treating them as equals to their active
component counterparts. The articles described
substandard living conditions at two Army posts in
particular -- Fort Stewart, Ga., and Fort Knox, Ky.
Many of the ill and injured soldiers interviewed at
these posts reported having to wait for long periods
of time -- sometimes weeks or months -- before
receiving the medical care they needed."

More than 1,000 National Guard and Army Reserve
soldiers at Fort Stewart and Fort Knox, including
hundreds who had served in Iraq, had waited weeks or
months in "medical hold" to be seen by doctors. At
Fort Stewart in Georgia, they waited in hot concrete
barracks with no air-conditioning or running water.

Sgt. Craig Allen LaChance, a soldier who was on
medical hold at Fort Stewart, told the panel that it
"took months to get appointments" with specialists
while sick and injured soldiers waited in what he said
were substandard barracks. "We lived in deplorable
conditions," LaChance said. "We were made to feel like
we had failed the Army."

Col. Keith Armstrong, garrison commander at Fort Knox,
told the congressional committee "we were stretched
pretty thin" last fall. Fort Stewart Garrison
Commander Col. John M. Kidd said, "We recognized that
we had some difficulty here. We recognized that we had
a problem with medical hold." Both commanders said
they had asked for help from the Army and both
described it as slow in coming.

How many wounded?

Combat deaths were accurately reported, but according
to an article in July, 2003 by Editor & Publisher
Online and later in October by National Public Radio,
the numbers of wounded, in and out of battle, were
being underreported. The news media had accepted that
the military high command kept the number of wounded
from the American public. "There could be some
inattention to [the number of injured troops],"
answered Philip Bennett, assistant managing editor of
the foreign desk at the Washington Post when
questioned by E & P Online.

As American casualties increased during the summer of
2003, US military officials suppressed discussion of
the total number wounded. Only by July 10, 2003,
nearly four months after the invasion of Iraq had been
launched, did CNN report that for "the first time
since the start of the war in Iraq, Pentagon officials
have released the number of US troops wounded from the
beginning of the war through Wednesday [July 9,
2003]."

However, Seth Porges wrote in Editor & Publisher
(10/23/03) that coverage of injured and wounded U.S.
soldiers gets very little media attention. "For
months, the press has barely mentioned non-fatal
casualties or the severity of their wounds," writes
Porges. "Few newspapers routinely report injuries in
Iraq, beyond references to specific incidents. Since
the war began in March, 1,927 soldiers have been
wounded in Iraq, many quite severely."

But newspapers neglected to report or keep a tally on
the wounded, as an informal survey of some top papers
has shown. This comes on the heels of reports that
attacks on American troops in Iraq had increased in
recent weeks from an average of 15 to 20 attacks per
day to about 20 to 25 attacks a day, with a peak at
about 35 attacks in one day, according to the
commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo
Sanchez.

Julian Borger, writing in the British Guardian last
August, cited the comments of Lieut. Col. Allen
DeLane, in charge of airlifting injured GIs into
Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.
According to Bolger, DeLane, who had already seen
thousands of wounded flown in, told National Public
Radio, in regard to the sharp increase in the number
of US wounded last autumn, "the official number of
combat wounded alone averaged nearly 100 a week
between mid-September and mid-November
(lunaville.org)." This made the resistance of the
military to giving out accurate figures increasingly
suspicious.

As the US media began to request injury figures, the
Pentagon put up as much resistance as it could. In
September, 2003, the Washington Post noted, "Although
Central Command keeps a running total of the wounded,
it releases the number only when asked" making the
combat injuries of US troops in Iraq one of the untold
stories in the war.

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, the ranking Democrat on
the Senate Intelligence Committee, had complained in
September 2003 that he was unable to find out how many
US soldiers had been wounded in Iraq because the
administration refused to release this information.

Higher Survival Rates

Because of the higher survival rate of injured
soldiers compared with previous wars, information
about the seriously wounded is essential to any
accurate assessment of the success of the war in Iraq.

But Lawrence F. Kaplan wrote in the October 13 New
Republic: "Pentagon officials have rebuked public
affairs officers who release casualty figures, and,
until recently, US Central Command did not regularly
publicize the injured total either."

Kaplanís report cited the condition of many injured
soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, pointing
out that modern medicine and rapid response techniques
allow many wounded soldiers to survive injuries that
would otherwise have killed them in previous wars.
Kevlar body armor also reduced deaths. Still, many of
these wounded soldiers are left with debilitating
injury or loss of limbs.

Kaplan wrote: "The near-invisibility of the wounded
has several sources. The media has always treated
combat deaths as the most reliable measure of
battlefield progress, while for its part the
administration has been reluctant to divulge the full
number of wounded."

Last December, Congressman Gene Taylor
(Dem.-Mississippi) complained that the Pentagon
deliberately undercounted combat casualties. He cited
the case of five members in the Mississippi National
Guard who had been wounded in a booby-trap bomb
explosion. Incredibly, their injuries were listed by
the military as "non combat." The truth emerged only
because Taylor spoke face to face with the most
seriously injured of the five at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center in Washington DC. Taylor sent a memo to
the other members of Congress to "ask if anyone has
had a similar incident."

On October 3rd UPI reported that 4,000 soldiers had
been medically evacuated from Iraq for non-combat
reasons. As for the tally of total deaths in Iraq,
most of the media continue to cite only those killed
in hostile action. The administrationís numbers game
of "combat" and "non combat" injuries, however, is far
from the whole story. That still leaves out the
thousands who have become physically or mentally ill
in Iraq not resulting from bombs and bullets.
Estimates of the real number of US servicemen and
women evacuated for medical reasons from Iraq by the
end of 2003 vary widely.

Last January 7, National Public Radioís Daniel
Zwerdling reported on the difficulties in finding out
the truth about US casualties in Iraq. He said few
Americans are aware of the surprisingly large number
of US wounded in Iraq. Questioning several dozen
people on the street about the total number of
American soldiers who had died in Iraq, he had found
that most could answer correctly. But when the NPR
reporter asked about the number of US military
personnel that had been wounded, no one came close to
the actual figure. The answers ranged from a few
hundred to a thousand.

The actual estimates are between 11,000 and 22,000 for
the number of US soldiers, sailors and Marines
medically evacuated from Iraq by the end of 2003
because of battlefield wounds, illness or other
battlefield reasons.

Trying to get more accurate casualty figures,
Zwerdling said he contacted Sen. Chuck Hagel
(Rep.-Nebraska), a Vietnam veteran and former deputy
administrator of the Veterans Administration. Hagel
had tried to obtain the "total number of American
battlefield casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq" from
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The senator had
also tried to find out: "What is the official Pentagon
definition of wounded in action? What is the procedure
for releasing this information in a timely way to the
public and the criteria for awarding a Purple Heart
[awarded to those wounded in combat or posthumously to
the next of kin of those killed or those who die of
wounds received in action]?"

Hagel had been seeking an accurate, updated count on
the number of Purple Hearts and the dates they were
awarded to US military personnel in Iraq. That number
is significant because it is an official record of the
total number of battlefield casualties. After six
weeks, the reply Hagel received was, "the Department
of Defense does not have the requested information."

Stars and Stripes (November 5, 2003 European edition)
noted that the Landstuhl military hospital in Germany
had "treated more than 7,000 injured and ill service
members from Iraq." But at the same time, the military
had recorded some 2,000 combat casualties. This
discrepancy is 3.5-times (350%) between the number of
wounded in combat listed by the military and the
number of service personnel medically evacuated from
Iraq for treatment in Germany!

The Landstuhl facility, located near the huge US air
base at Ramstein Germany, reported on January 23, 2004
that the total US medical evacuations from Iraq to
Germany by the end of 2003 was 9,433. The number of
hostile and "non-hostile" wounded listed by the Army
at that point was approximately 2,750. The under
reporting of wounded continues.

Figures donít lie, but . . .

Clearly, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld donít really care
about the US servicemen and women casualties from
their war on Iraq. They rarely acknowledge it
publicly.

But why did the Bush administration knock itself out
to conceal the number of combat veterans injured in
Iraq? Answer: To avoid the appearance of a Vietnam
quagmire. The seemingly low, "acceptable" number for
American loss of life in Iraq looks much better than
Vietnam, but the injury figures are much worse. Thatís
why.

The Bush administration claims an overwhelmingly
popular support for its war on Iraq. But the political
and media establishment can see that the publicís
opposition to the war is constantly growing. Like the
sensation caused by recent revelations of Bush being
AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard in 1972-73
during the Vietnam war, the tide of public opinion
would further turn if the true picture entered the
public mind of the warís real effects on American
troops. But how can the "success" of Bush's war be
measured?

Comparing the war in Iraq with that in Vietnam, the
total number of combat troops in Vietnam was 550,000.
As many as 155,000 of them were wounded while 10.7%
were killed during 10 years. In Iraq, so far, the
total number of combat troops total 150,000 and
between 11,000 and 22,000 of them have been wounded
during nine months. Thus 28.2% of combat troops were
wounded in Vietnam while in Iraq "only" 0.3% died in
combat, so far, and as many as 14.7% had been wounded
in combat.

At first glance, Bush's war in Iraq seems to be much
more "successful" than the war in Vietnam --
especially when the number of wounded are eliminated
from the equation. The proportion of combat troops
killed in Vietnam appears to be 35-times more than in
Iraq. By contrast, the proportion of Vietnam wounded
is only two-times that sustained in Iraq. That's
getting pretty close.

A fairer comparison of casualties in the Vietnam war,
lasting ten long years, and Iraq, now less than one
year old, should include how long each of the two wars
has lasted. While the war in Vietnam has been over for
more than three decades, American soldiers in Iraq are
still being killed and wounded on a daily basis. The
casualty figures in Iraq are still rising -- and
there's no end in sight.

Clearly, if Bush's war continues for another two to
five years, according to most estimates, the casualty
figures from the Vietnam debacle could make it look
even more "successful" than Bush's war!

With the specter of the Vietnam quagmire hanging over
them, Bush and Rumsfeld can only talk about a
"successful" war by emphasizing the relatively low
number of Americans killed in Iraq, and hiding the
extraordinarily high number of wounded. But for those
who had sacrificed their lives and limbs to
preemptively protect the U.S. against Saddam Husseinís
nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, Bushís war
has been a complete failure.

(Wednesday, February 18, 2004)


Frederick Sweet is Professor of Reproductive Biology
in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University
School of Medicine in St. Louis. You can email your
comments to Fred@interventionmag.com

Posted by richard at February 21, 2004 05:08 PM