Monday, December 26, 2005

A Story You Probably Missed During 2005

Still, a Wounded Military
In last year’s list, we pointed out that the health of the U.S. military was in serious decline. At 7 to 1, the ratio of wounded to dead in Iraq was the highest of any conflict in recent memory, including Vietnam, where the ratio was 3 to 1. A year later, the story is worse—and still largely ignored.

In 2005, the most common number cited regarding the war in Iraq was the more than 2,100 U.S. soldiers that have died. When the number of wounded was mentioned, the Pentagon figure of more than 15,500 U.S. troops, or the Army Medical Department’s total of 20,748 medical evacuations, was usually rolled out.

Today, the wounded-to-dead ratio remains near 7 to 1 by this official count. But a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) report released in October tells a bigger story. Its data shows that 119,247 veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have sought VA healthcare. Of those, 46,450 were diagnosed primarily with musculoskeletal problems, such as joint ailments and back disorders. More than 36,800 veterans, or 31 percent of those the VA cared for, were treated primarily for mental disorders.

Not even the VA had anticipated the number of soldiers they would be asked to help. In June, the agency told lawmakers that it had underestimated the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and required $1 billion in emergency funding.
But careful readers of this blog wouldn't be surprised by this last bit.
While the US armed forces and the mental health community are acutely aware of PTSD, and Vietnam veterans had a much harder time of it because not only were they in combat but the support system at home was non-existent for many veterans, the Iraqi vets aren't going to have it a whole lot easier.

In addition, the study on posttraumatic stress disorder found that the percentage of troops suffering from PTSD increased by between 7-10% after deployment to Iraq, which would represent 25,000 to 35,000 initial periodcases of PTSD among the roughly 350,000 U.S. troops who have served in Iraq.

That's as of July of 2005. That's nearly half the number of fatalities we had in Vietnam.

Why will this war be a challenge to the mental health of so many soldiers?

Simple. It's an unpopular war in which Americans are killing Iraqis by the thousands, much like in Vietnam. We were led into the war under false pretenses, so the responsibility for those deaths has shifted from a just cause (fighting terrorism, stopping a WMD from being launched at America) to one that is much ore nuanced (removing a dictator from power).

When a soldier questions his rationale for being in a combat zone, that soldier will call into question his own motives for serving. Even in a forced recycling such as we've seen in the Guard and Reserve troops sent to Iraq, the slender justifications for fighting are peeling away as each day's bad news....more American dead, undercover psyops involving shooting people supposedly on our side by British troops dressed as civilians...piles on.