Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Costs of War

November 13, 2013

This column is written in response to a reader’s question of my assertion that “we train our service men and women to kill innocent children and others, to destroy their homes, their communities, their water supplies, the simplest rudiments of living,” in my recent PTSD column.

It is a known effect of war that many civilians, including children, will be killed as a result of training in how to kill whatever is perceived as “the enemy”. It is my opinion that we’ve got to stop glossing over the questionable reasons for war and face the fact that many civilians, including children, now live in fear of US attacks, whatever reasons service people are given for their orders.

I recognize that we may not all come to agreement on issues facing us today. My hope is that we will each inform ourselves to the best of our ability and share what we learn. In my column, I include references and resources for topics covered that I hope will stimulate responsible thought. I appreciate reader feedback that keeps me on track as well.

Cost of Wars is a study put out by the Watson Institute of International Studies at BrownUniversity. Codirectors of the study were Catherine Lutz, Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at BrownUniversity and Neta Crawford, Political Science professor at BostonUniversity. Here are three sources that report the findings of the study: http://costsofwar.org; http:/news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2013/03/warcosts; and http://truth-out.org/news/item/8238-the-real-costs-of-war.

The Cost of Wars study found that of the 224,475 total lives lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 136, 700 were Iraq and Afghanistan civilians. Sixty percent of the lives lost were civilians. Also cited were war related pollution that has affected Iraqis’ health with increased rates of cancer and infant mortality, and the toxic dust in military bases which contributes to increased rates of neurological disorders, respiratory problems and cardiovascular disease in military service members since 2001.

The team of researchers for Costs of War included Andrew Bacevich, Military historian, US Army Colonel 1969-1992, (Ret.), currently, Professor of International Relations at BostonUniversity. His latest book is, Breach of Trust: How Americans failed their soldiers and their country. He writes, “now that the war in Iraq has ended, Americans might ponder the question of what the loss of several thousand soldiers there signifies.” His son Andrew died in the Iraq War. Bacevich notes that his skepticism precedes his son’s death.

It is also a known effect of war that there is destruction of infrastructure, public as well as private buildings and homes, schools, water systems, and the basic necessities that we may take for granted here in New England. 146,000 civilians were wounded as a result of the wars, 40 percent of the total. 7,815,000 civilians became refugees and internally displaced people.

The reason many of our European ancestors came to the US was to avoid conscription. They’d had enough war. If we can recognize that the costs of war, (to the extent that we assert that while war may be an innate response to disagreements, war is not the best way to resolve our differences), then people will not have died, been wounded, or displaced in vain; they will inspire us to do better, to figure out how to best share this world together.

We would do well to ponder our next steps.