Three cheers to Esquire magazine.
The publication, whose tagline is Man at His Best, delivers an astounding 16-page spread in its March issue. Special Report: The Iraq War, Three Years Later (not available online) contains the following articles:
- The Best Years of Our Lives - After being stateside for the past year, one Iraq vet catches up with the guys he served with.
- Ten Numbers on the State of the Iraq-War Veterans - Shows the impact of a conflict that's about to surpass the Korean War in duration.
- The Monks of War - An interesting piece on Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, Lt. Gen. James Mattis, and Commander on the `Thunder Run' to Baghdad, Gen. William Wallace.
- What They Were Thinking - My personal favorite; predictions from the prominent war planners in 2003 on how the war would go. Oh, boy...
I've got all the goodies (well, except for the Evangeline Lilly spread) below the fold...
Total American Troops Who've Served: 360,000
This figure is for combat troops on the ground. Add in all US military forces (pilots and support personnel from all branches) and the OIF count nears 1 million. In contrast, during 14 years of the Vietnam War, 2.6 million combat troops took part. In Korea, nearly 200,000.
Fraction of Army's Active-Duty Force Deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan: 63%
And 40% of the Army's troops have been redeployed at least once.
Number of American Troops Seriously Injured or Wounded: 16,155
And 7, 529 of the seriously wounded have been listed as WIA/not RTD (Wounded in Action, Not Returned to Duty). In other words: nearly 50% of those listed in this category don't return to military service.
Number of US Casualties Who Survive: 90%
Now this is a better figure, and it's actually pretty unbelievable. They attribute this fact to 1) the extensive use of body armor (despite the debate on this issue, what they have does offer "some protection to the torso and vital organs"), and 2) surgical teams in the combat zone that can "provide sophisticated trauma care and emergency surgery in the field." Compare this figure to Vietnam, where 25% of the war's wounded was listed as KIA. The reason for this: "The most seriously injured are evacuated to permanent hospitals in Iraq within hours, to US military hospitals in Europe within two days, and in the most dire cases, to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC, within four days. During the Vietnam era, the same trip took an average of six weeks. Most soldiers killed in Vietnam died without ever receiving professional medical help."
Number of Amputations Among Iraq-War Veterans Performed at Walter Reed: 285
This amounts to "6% of injured troops in Iraq [requiring] amputations, twice the rate of any previous war." The more lives that are saved by quick access to medical care, unfortunately, translate to more single and multiple amputations. The road forward for these individuals is a rough one as their "mobility, employability, and sexual activity" is impaired.
The Approximate Share of All US Troops in Iraq That Comes From the National Guard: 40%
Not surprisingly, this percentage is higher than that found in any previous war. The reason? No draft. Veterans Administration (VA) studies show that these troops (comprised of Army National Guard, and Army/Marine Reserves) have a harder time after they return to civilian life. They "are more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] than enlisted soldiers and, perhaps relatedly, significantly more likely to describe themselves as having low morale and feeling unprepared for combat." It doesn't say in the article, but I would conjecture the main reason these troops have a harder time of it after their return may be related to not being attached to a large military base. In post-deployment, they go back to their individual lives and homes -- rather than coming back as a unit with others they've served with.
Fraction of Iraq War Veterans Later Diagnosed with Psychological Disorders: 20%
This is a great concern for everyone, not just those who have loved ones serving in the military. "PTSD is of particular concern to the VA and veterans' support groups, as it is closely linked with domestic violence, depression, unemployment, and homelessness. Adding to fears is the change in the nature of war in Iraq from traditional combat to guerilla or insurgent warfare. Because violence in the latter affects not only soldiers but medics, administrators, and other support staff, a larger number of Americans in Iraq are exposed to conditions that frequently cause PTSD: violence, unpredictable attacks, and a constant sense of vulnerability." There are figures available, but we won't know the final tally for many, many years.
Number of Iraq and/or Afghanistan Veterans Confirmed to Be Homeless: 500
Reported by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), they believe the number is actually higher and will most likely grow in the coming years. It is estimated that we currently have 500,000 homeless American vets nationwide -- 50% of them fought in Vietnam (10% of that war's veterans).
Unemployment Rate Among Veterans Under Age Twenty-Five: 15%
That's "more than twice the rate for the same demographic in the general population." And 1/3 of our veterans under 25 doesn't have health insurance. Support the troops, indeed.
Annual Medical Budget Increase Needed by the VA to Cover Rising Medical Costs: 13%
And the chances of them getting it: 0%. The VA got a paltry 1% increase in 2005; less than 3% in 2006. "In June of last year, the VA stated that due to greatly increased costs, its 2006 medical budget fell nearly $2 billion short of its immediate needs."
That final statistic is a good bridge to the following rosy quotes given the American people by this administration's war planners and players. Has anyone been held to account for their miscalculations? To me, it seems the only people paying for their mistakes are the American taxpayers -- and the American troops.
Former Chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee Richard Perle:
I believe, and I think there's a lot of evidence to suggest, that most Iraqis will regard us as liberators, and it will not take anything like that number of troops [several hundred thousand] to maintain peace and order in Iraq.
...It may not go smoothly as we all hope it will, but I don't believe you will get civil war. There is no indication from the people we talked to who are coming out of Iraq all the time and people who are talking to Iraqis. There are hundreds, thousands of such conversations. There are differences, to be sure, among these groups, but it's not like Bosnia. It's not as if they have been destroying each other for many years. They haven't, and I don't believe they will. -- Hannity and Colmes, February 28, 2003
Mr. Perle's crystal ball must have been cracked at the time.
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz:
The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. Now, there are a lot of claims on that money, but...we are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon. -- Testimony to the US House Appropriations Committee, March 27, 2003
Yep, the reconstruction has hardly cost us a thing, eh?
New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman:
Let's start with one simple fact: Iraq is a black box that has been sealed shut since Saddam came to dominate Iraqi politics in the late 1960's. Therefore, one needs to have a great deal of humility when it comes to predicting what sorts of bats and demons may fly out if the US and its allies remove the lid. Think of it this way: If and when we take the lid off Iraq, we will find an envelope inside. It will tell us what we have won, and it will say one of two things.
It could say, 'Congratulations! You've won the Arab Germany -- a country with enormous human talent, enormous natural resources, but with an evil dictator, whom you've just removed.'
Or the envelope could say, 'You've just won the Arab Yugoslavia -- and artificial country congenitally divided among Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, Nasserites, leftists, and a host of tribes and clans that can only be held together with a Saddam-like iron fist.'
In the first scenario, Iraq is the way it is today because Saddam is the way he is. In the second scenario, Saddam is the way he is because Iraq is what it is. Those are two very different problems. And we will know which we've won only when we take off the lid. The conservatives and neocons, who have been pounding the table for war, should be a lot more humble about this question, because they don't know either. -- New York Times, January 26, 2003
It doesn't sound like the Vice President listened:
Vice President Dick Cheney:
We need, obviously, a large force, and we've deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such a time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement.
...[I]f you look at the opposition, they've come together. I think, very effectively, with representatives from Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish elements in the population. They understood the importance of preserving and building on an Iraqi national identity. They don't like to have the US, for example, come in and insist on dealing with people sort of on a hyphenated basis -- the Iraqi-Shia, Iraqi-Sunni -- but rather to focus on Iraq as a nation and all that it can accomplish as a nation, and we try to be sensible to those concerns. I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world. -- Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
Did the Army Chief of Staff at the time get it right, or did the VP? You be the judge:
Former Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki:
I would say that what's been mobilized to this point -- something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers -- are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground-force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this. -- Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 25, 2003
Someone please tell me why Shinseki was the only one to be forced out?
Definitely pick up a copy of the March issue of Esquire if you can. The two main articles in the Special Report not covered above are well worth it, as are the replies Esquire received from Richard Perle and Thomas Friedman elaborating on their 2003 quotes.
Too bad they couldn't get Cheney and Wolfowitz to do the same...
Throw Esquire an LTE -- after purchasing and reading, of course -- here.
KEYWORDS: Iraq, veterans, Esquire, Bush administration, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Thomas Friedman
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