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Why We Fight: The inspiring lessons of Smearvets and Laura Bush
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Zepp's Commentaries
September 5, 2004

The news has been full of horrific terror attacks in Russia rivaling 9/11 (but it wasn't in New York City, so Republicans haven't had any emotional response to it), hurricanes in Florida, huge Medicare premium hikes, and of course, the Conventions and the campaigns.

Almost lost among all that was a report from Iraq that 1,100 American troops were injured in Iraq during the month of August. The number surprised the guys at the Pentagon who track such things, because it was nearly double the second worst month during America's military adventure in Iraq, while the death toll - 60 - was only the third worst month. Usually the two maintain a similar ratio.

It's worth considering what will become of those 1,100 brave people who found themselves among the re-elect Bush statistics.

A certain number will die in the subsequent days, weeks or months as a direct result of their injuries. Some are horrifically burned and will spend their remaining days screaming themselves to death. Others have suffered grave head injuries, and will linger on life-support in a shadowy realm between life and death before they pull the plug.

They won't get counted in the "Iraqi death toll," which is battlefield deaths only. It won't be until after the war is over that the death toll will include them, and perhaps, if they are lucky, the validity of their deaths will meet with the approval of fussy Pentagon bureaucrats, and their names will be included on a wall or something in DC a generation or two later.

Others - most, perhaps - of that 1,100 will have injuries that will, in one way or another, haunt them for the rest of their lives. Perhaps they have a limb blown off. Or they are blind. Or they took damage to the torso, and will live with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. Often, vets, along with civilian gunfire victims, live with weakened hearts, the result of circulatory damage caused by hydrostatic shock from the impact of the bullets.

Nearly all combat vets suffer, to one degree or another, from post traumatic stress syndrome, which means that they live with depression, anxiety, and deep feelings of alienation and hopelessness, or constant, gnawing anger. These syndromes are commensurately worse among vets who have taken physical injury. Most also suffer from hearing loss, from the blasts of cannon and artillery fire. You don't get Purple Hearts for those. Sorry Œbout that.

Finally, among those 1,100, there will be the ones whose wounds are relatively minor. They will be released for duty in some cases, and go back to facing IEDs and children with grenades and wait to see if they get injured again.

Some of those 1,100 will have "million dollar wounds," the dream of every combat vet. That's an injury bad enough that they send the vet home, but not so bad that it fucks up the rest of his or her life. One can walk without a limp, and it only hurts on damp days. Sure, there's PTSS and hearing loss, but as mentioned above, those don't count.

But one thing that all combat vets know is that they are one of the lucky ones. Even the ones missing limbs or sight know that they could just as easily have been killed. There are thousands, perhaps millions of vets who had the guy sitting right next to them turned instantly into hamburger, while they only suffered light wounds, or none at all. It's so common that it's something of a cliché in war movies.

They all know it could just as easily have been them, killed without warning, or suddenly missing an arm or a knee. That's why we honor ALL combat vets, living or dead, injured or not. All have faced death in a way few of us civilians will ever have to.

Of the 1,100, some will die anyway. Some will be severely impaired for their rest of their lives, or in horrible pain, or both. Some will be able to get on with their lives, although wearing prosthetics or needing a guide dog. Nearly all will suffer emotional and mental trauma, some for the rest of their lives.

A lucky few will be able to make full recoveries from their injuries, and go on to lead productive and meaningful lives.

I can't help but wonder if those incredibly lucky ones will find, 30 or 40 years down the road, that they will be subject to scorn and derision because they weren't injured ENOUGH, didn't bleed ENOUGH, and will be mocked, not because they faced death, but because they were lucky enough to survive the encounter.

Will one of those eleven hundred who are fighting a questionable war for Putsch run for office someday, and find that a pack of vicious, dishonest, political operatives has formed a group that is blatantly lying and smearing his record? Will they find vets and bribe or coerce them into lying about him, even when it contradicts the record, and their own public statements in the past? Will they face a political party that has formally embraced the despicable and disgraceful practices of Hermann Goering, and embrace lies for no better reason than the fact that they work? Will a vacuous, plastic, inane first lady excuse such behavior by whimpering that her husband has had ads run against him that made him look bad? Will preening, strutting, well-fed clowns mock medals given for combat by wearing little bandaids on their cheeks with purple hearts on them? (Perhaps by then the Republicans will have refined their attack, and will have little cartoons of guide dogs with white canes to mock vets who were "only" blinded.)

The behavior of the Republicans is beyond disgraceful. They are not just an embarrassment to America, but an actual insult.

You have to wonder how many, among these returning 1,100, are looking at the disgusting and cowardly tactics of the Republicans in this campaign, and wondering if that is the sort of "honor" they can expect from this country in the future.

If the Pentagon still makes "Why we fight" propaganda movies for the troops, I suggest that they not mention the Swift Boat Vets for Truth. They shouldn't include a tape of the simpering, vacant Laura Bush saying that it's ok to attack Kerry that way because, after all, her husband has been subject to "millions of attack ads." And above all, don't show the troops the national disgraces at the GOP convention.

The troops would not be amused. They would be even less amused to learn that these tawdry, pathetic, cowardly, nasty little liars are supposedly the very reason why they fight.

For anyone reading this who thinks the attacks on Kerry by Karl Rove and his gang of cowardly bastards are justified in any way, ask yourself how you would feel if, 30 or 40 years down the road, someone was doing that to a friend of yours currently stationed in Falluja or Najaf?

Posted: September 7, 2004


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