Monday, August 13, 2012

Auschwitz East

When you read about the trials and sufferings of western military personnel hurt in our wars, it can't help but make you wonder what happens to the other guys?

 We know that military deaths from combat are at an all-time low in proportion to the numbers serving, compared to previous wars. This is due to quick and effective medical treatment in response to the injury. The 'golden hour' is a reality for most injured western soldiers. They are treated for shock, pain and bleeding and if circumstances are favorable, can be under a surgeon's care within 40 minutes. The result is that the ratio of wounded to dead  has grown from 6 to one to something on the order of 15 to one. For every soldier who comes home dead,  13 or more come home with various stages of severe physical  injury. An unknown number, estimated now at up to 20 percent, suffer emotional or psychological injury - again to varying degrees of severity.

To manage these wounded warriors most western countries have organized a system of military care. Medical resources are available.  Counseling and transition resources are available. Pensions and assistance for retraining or home conversion, etc are available. There are some levels of support, beyond the wounded him (or her)self and their immediate family. But even at this,  the changes in life are tough, long term and significant.

But what about the other side? In comparison, the 'insurgents' facing western forces are fighting, and living, a very primitive form of war. We're told that many wounded and dead are removed from the battlefield by their comrades. This because it is a rare battle where the evidence of corpses could indicate the degree of loss. OK, so removed to where and how? We know the Taliban, or Iraqi insurgents, have no access to helicopters, that most of their fighting took place in areas where a search of built-up areas could rapidly be done and where hospitals might, to some extent, report treating suspicious injuries. Or they happen in inaccessible areas where assistance is not a ready option due to constraints of topography alone. Either these people die of their injuries at much higher ratios due to the lack of immediate basic medical attention, or there are large numbers of them recuperating in fairly primitive conditions at any given time.It seems that, charitable payouts to martyrs aside, there would be little for them in the way of restorative programs or retraining to overcome injury. It would appear that, for them, as in primitive times, the war-wounded are objects of charity as opposed to mandated beneficiaries of the public purse.

Then there's the worst of both worlds.  In another glaring example of the adage about 'good intentions', comes the news of 'Auschwitz East',  the Dawood Afghan Military Hospital in Kabul. Designed and built  to work on the US VA model - a 'showcase' of  'modern' military medicine has been allowed to degenerate into a putrefying embarrassment  for ISAF and a disgrace to Afghanistan. To add insult to injury, the US military commander responsible for the mess tried deferring any investigation, which was first flagged two years ago, until after the November elections in the States.

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