I can’t ask him if he watched the PBS program Need to Know and heard Col. Andrew Bacavic (ret) say the war in Afghanistan is “a war without end.”
And I certainly cannot talk to him about the so-called “Great Game” the First Anglo/Afghan War (1839-1842), or say, “My grandfather was in Quetta during the Third Anglo/Afghan War of 1919.” (Forty percent of the doctors who served in the British Army in India were Irish and he was one of them).
Medical advances since my grandfather’s time (he was also in The Somme Offensive that began on July 1, 1916, and Gallipoli) mean that more lives are saved but at what cost? I saw one statistic that said one in five will suffer some kind of traumatic brain injury.
Need to Know highlighted the struggle of two young wives as they cared for husbands suffering severe brain injuries who will probably never walk again, never play football or hold their kids, or perhaps even speak.
More than Five hundred and seventy seven soldiers from California have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (two from Landon Donovan’s home town). Two hundred and forty nine soldiers from New York have been killed. In total 5,521 Americans (according to Faces of the Fallen http://projects.washingtonpost.com/fallen/ have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq and some estimates place the American injured at over 100,000.
And as I write this 30,000 troops, part of the new American surge, are leaving for a year long deployment to Afghanistan.
And so many innocent bystanders have died. There is no website that lists their numbers or names.
The British writer Robert Fisk wrote a thoughtful piece on the recently released Bloody Sunday Report for the UK Independent that ended thusly:
“But at least the people of Derry care about others who have died unjustly. In 2003, as the Americans occupied Iraq, American paratroopers opened fire on a crowd of protesting Iraqis in the city of Fallujah. They killed 14, claiming they were shot at. Subsequent inquiries suggested this was a lie. A few days later, in Baghdad, I took a call from an old friend in Derry. He wanted to lead a delegation of Bloody Sunday relatives to Fallujah, he said, to show their sorrow for the dead Iraqis. I don't think the Americans cared about the Iraqis. But the Irish of Bloody Sunday cared.”
Let's talk about that.
Note on the Illustration:
WAITING FOR THE WOUNDED
A British advance has just begun, and the surgeons of a Divisional Collecting Station near the Somme are awaiting the arrival of the first laden stretcher-bearers. In a few minutes the three officers will be at work, perhaps for twenty-four hours on end. At one Casualty Clearing Station a distinguished surgeon performed, without resting, nineteen difficult operations, each lasting more than an hour, in cases of severe abdominal wounds, where delay would have meant the loss of life. In almost every case the man was saved. Another surgeon operated for thirty-six hours without relief. Such devotion is not exceptional in the R.A.M.C. – WWI sketched of Muirhead Bone.