Toll of Endless War

October 5, 2011

“How can we let this happen? How is that acceptable in the United States of America? The answer is, it’s not. It’s an outrage. And it’s a betrayal — a betrayal — of the ideals that we ask our troops to risk their lives for.”
— Presidential candidate, Barack Obama, April 2008, reacting to the suicide of an 89-year-old WWII veteran

War is nowhere fun.
In this so-called modern age, however, war is everywhere — more of a world at war then even the two named world wars, and US GIs are getting the shit end of the stick.

And from noted war correspondent Richard Engel on NPR last month: “And I’ve seen battles like this on little outposts in other parts of Afghanistan and when you add them up, [you ask] ‘Why? What are these amounting to?'”
Yes, the $1.2 trillion question.

Right now, there’s about 40,000 troops still in Iraq and more than 90,000 in Afghanistan, and although the US is supposed to be out of Iraq by this December, it’s still up in the air about how many will remain, while apparently we’ll be involved in the Afghan horror for years to come.

(Illustration found here).

Not only are these war zones horrible, these GIs are bring the horror home with them.
Although 96 percent of soldiers are proud of their service, the trauma will remain with them seemingly forever.
In a study by Veterans for Common Sense, nearly 20 percent of the more than 2 million troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from mental health conditions, and the situation won’t get better for a long while.
From McClatchy Newspapers:

“A large number of people serving overseas have mental health impacts, and more and more are coming home,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I am deeply concerned that we are not ready.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which is trying to grapple with the wave of new and damaged veterans, has been under considerable stress.
In a related development this week, an internal VA survey requested by Murray’s committee found that its staff doesn’t think it has the resources to handle the growing demand from new veterans for mental health services.
Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said that in 2003, the government expected that the VA would see about 50,000 new patients from both wars.
With nearly three-quarters of a million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans already in the VA system, he said, the long-term estimate was “ominous.”
“More than 1 million total patients from the wars by the end of 2013,” Sullivan predicted.

And some terrible stats:

Of the 109,000 casualties since combat in Iraq and Afghanistan began, 6,200 troops have been killed.
Among those were 298 war-zone suicides, according to the study.
Overall, it reported 2,300 active-duty suicides since 2001.
Suicides have been a persistent problem, underscoring the stress that 10 years of war have placed on the troops as a result of multiple deployments.
In 2009, suicides exceeded deaths in combat.
The study said that nearly 1 million troops — 42 percent of all service members sent to the combat zones — have been deployed at least twice.

And these wars appear nowhere at an end.

A new Pew Research poll reports a third of US military think all this war mongering is not worth it and we should get our ass out of foreign shit and focus more on shit at home.
From the UK’s The Guardian:

One in three US veterans of the post-9/11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that, after 10 years of combat, America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on domestic problems, according to an opinion poll.

The Pew survey found that veterans were ambivalent about the net value of the wars, although they were generally positive about Afghanistan, which has been a more protracted but less deadly conflict for US forces.
One in three veterans said neither war was worth the sacrifice; a view shared by 45 percent of the public polled.
Some 50 percent of veterans said the campaign in Afghanistan had been worthwhile; 41 percent of civilians agreed.
Among veterans, 44 percent said the war in Iraq was necessary; 36 percent of civilians shared that view.
Of the former service members who were seriously wounded or knew someone who was killed or seriously wounded, 48 percent said the war in Iraq was worth fighting, compared with 36 percent of those with no personal exposure to casualties.
Exposure to casualties had an even larger impact on attitudes toward the war in Afghanistan.
Some 55 percent of those exposed to casualties said the military campaign in Afghanistan had been worth the cost to the US, whereas 40 percent of those who were not exposed to casualties held that view.

And the survey also touched upon US civilian outlooks on the military:

Pew said its survey results found “isolationist inclinations” among the war veterans.
About six in 10 said the US should pay less attention to problems overseas and instead concentrate on issues at home.
In a survey it conducted earlier this year, a similar share of the public agreed.
The results also reflected what many view as a troublesome cultural gap between the military and the public.
Although numerous polls have shown that Americans hold troops in high regard, the respondents in the Pew research admitted to a lack of understanding of what military life entails.
Only 27 percent of adult civilians said the public understood the problems facing those in uniform, while the proportion of veterans who said so was even lower at 21 percent.

The toll of war on the homeland for generations to come.
And somebody should ask Obama about the political reality of his use of the word, betrayal.

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