Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Which Way Out?

From Bob Herbert in the New York Times, looking for an endgame in Iraq and Afghanistan: 

We’ve already paid a fearful price for these wars. In addition to the many thousands of service members who have been killed or suffered obvious disabling injuries, a study by the RAND Corporation found that some 300,000 are currently suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and that 320,000 have most likely experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Time magazine has reported that “for the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Suicides among soldiers rose in 2008 for the fourth consecutive year, largely because of the stress of combat deployments. It’s believed that 128 soldiers took their own lives last year.

Much of the country can work itself up to a high pitch of outrage because a banker or an automobile executive flies on a private jet. But we’ll send young men and women by the thousands off to repeated excursions through the hell of combat — three tours, four tours or more — without raising so much as a peep of protest.

If the true cost in treasure of the Iraq invasion hadn't been glossed over by its being left out of the Bush budgets every year, maybe more people would have questioned our involvement there. If Baby Bush hadn't followed Daddy's 1991 dictum disallowing photos and television coverage of the flag-draped coffins of dead soldiers, maybe the country would be less apathetic about all that spilled blood. 

President Obama has pledged an end to the Iraq invasion, but tens of thousands of troops will remain there, evidently as that hellhole is in transition. Our presence in Afghanistan will grow, and we may get bogged down there for many more years.

Ask a Russian how that worked out for them. 

This country's collective head in the sand has remained buried with the help of huge swaths of the nation's media neglecting to apply the basic journalistic standard of asking who, what, where, when, why and how, and--when stonewalled--failing to ask again and again and again.  

The Obama Administration did the right thing when including the costs of war in the budget and by relaxing the ban on press coverage of our returning war dead. It's our right as citizens to know these things. We can only hope that the media's need to camp out at Dover Air Force Base to cover coffins doesn't drag on for years. 

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