Thursday, April 12, 2007

Human Loss...Part 2

Human loss and “humanity” loss ~ they both countSandy Cook – 3/25/07 ~ Part 2 of 3 parts

Part 1 talked about the quantitative costs of war in bodies and bucks; here we continue the conversation about the hidden costs of the war.

The Army and the Marine Corps are worn out. Their equipment has been ground up by the desert conditions and 72% of army brigades have served multiple tours of duty, some as many as four tours. 84,000 National Guard and Reserves have done multiple tours. Combat stress casualties increase 50% among those on their second or subsequent tour. Two thirds of the active Army regiments are rated “not ready”, and 90% of the Army National Guard units are likewise “not ready”.

Enlistment figures can only be maintained by lowering quotas and soliciting enlistments from sub-standard recruits ~ felons and those with a low IQ. While US unemployment is reported at 4.5%. the unemployment rate for veterans in the 20-24 year age range is over 15%. Is it any wonder that the re-enlistment quotas are being made every quarter? There are no jobs!
In Iraq and Afghanistan mortality rates are up and life expectancy is down. There is no way to know for sure but the estimate of refugees who have left Iraq and Afghanistan are 1.4 million and 2 million, respectively. Internally displaced refugees number at least twice as many, particularly since ethnic and doctrinal cleansing have escalated in Iraq, even if we call it “sectarian violence”.

There is one specific hidden cost that will return to haunt us, just as Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome are now raising the cost of previous wars, even though to date the department of Defense is denying the effects of Depleted Uranium (DU).
DU is a serious internal hazard. Inhalation, ingestion, and wound contamination pose significant and unacceptable health risks due to direct cell damage from alpha and beta particle and gamma ray emissions. Spent penetrators, DU fragments, and contaminated shrapnel can not be touched or picked up without protection. DU is 99.8% by mass U-238, which is made from the by-product of the uranium enrichment process. The United States munitions industry produces the DU munitions in many calibers and for many weapons types. Each time those weapons are fired DU is deposited across the battlefield. For example, one 10-second burst of the GAU-12 Gatling Gun on an AC-130 aircraft deposits 132 lbs of U-238 across a wide area.

In addition, DU weapons have contributed to pollution of Iraq’s land and water, with inevitable spillover effects in other countries. The heavily polluted Tigris River, for example, flows through Iraq, Iran and Kuwait. DU poisoning is producing deformed babies not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the United States in the families of veterans of this war and of the Gulf War before it.

We have over 800 bases and stations in other countries, and are building more. We are building four “super bases” in Iraq, as well as “Fortress Baghdad”, the billion dollar embassy in the Green Zone of Baghdad which is scheduled to have a staff of 5,000. We are funding “cooperative security locations” – secret prisons to the plain-language addicted. And then there are those “black” operations and installations which are hinted at around the globe.

The greatest hidden cost, both now and in the future, may well be the cost of welfare to include homelessness, although with homelessness we begin to approach those other costs that go beyond dollars and cents. We know that almost 10% of the 22.5 million current veterans are homeless. The reasons for homelessness among veterans vary, matching the broad range of reasons among the general homeless population. The Veterans Administration cites their own figures of soldiers enrolled in their programs to say that homelessness is not as bad from this war as it used to be in previous wars such as Vietnam. Of course the figures they are using don’t include the 400,000-person backlog, so they might be just a tad suspicious.

One contributing cause to homelessness and to PTSD among veterans is that the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA) of 1995 is being circumvented regularly and many veterans are not getting their jobs back. Using small-print provisions in the law, many employers are refusing to give back jobs because re-hiring the veteran will “endanger the viability of the business”. Ignoring the provisions of many equal opportunity laws and labor regulations, hiring officials are setting aside and ignoring applications for new hires of those who retain a Guard or Reserve obligation. The result of this “Support the Troops” activity by business is that many veterans are losing their homes and their cars and are ending up on the street. At least 1,000 veterans from this war are believed to be on the street already, perhaps more.

Continued in Part 3 with the qualitative costs of the war.

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