Thursday, August 31, 2006

War for Brains

Bush's $2-trillion misadventure in Iraq. In an article published early this summer, The Harvard Magazine reviews cost estimates of Bush's Iraq war. Bilmes, a public-finance specialist, provides context:
“We are not only saddling our young people with this burden,” she adds, “but we are sweeping it under the carpet and not noticing that there’s a big bump. These costs are locked in. The reality is that the government is very, very bad at budgeting for long-term costs...How big is big? The highest-grossing movie ever, Titanic, took in $1.8 billion. We spend that in Iraq in one week.”
Long-term medical costs is another legacy of the Iraq war. Coagulants, armour, and triage practices are saving lives, yet serious injuries multiply. To date, there have been 2,638 deaths, and nearly 20,000 wounded. The injured mortality rate is the lowest in any U.S. war, 10%, but the rate of amputations, a marker for serious injury, has nearly doubled to 6%. Thousands of U.S. servicemen and women are returning home with brain injuries, amputations, blindness, and other neurological conditions, with ongoing costs that have yet to be realized.

Combat veterans object to GOP policy. According to the Navy Times, congress is drawing the ire of the the largest organization of combat veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars. VFW chief, Jim Mueller, asserted that a proposal in congress to cut funding for research and treatment of traumatic brain injury in half, “clearly indicates that the Congress is out of touch with the realities and consequences of war.”

DOD budget shows GOP's true colors. According to USA Today, George Zitnay, co-founder of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, “testified before a Senate subcommittee in May that body armor saves troops caught in blasts but leaves many with brain damage...Zitnay asked for $19 million, and 34 Democratic and six Republican members of Congress signed a letter endorsing the budget request.” The News & Observer reports:
Brain injuries are so common among U.S. troops that they're called the signature injury of the Iraq war, but Congress is poised to cut military spending on researching and treating them...The Pentagon asked only for $7 million and didn't respond properly when congressional staffers tried to find out whether it needed more money for the program, said Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman for the Senate appropriations committee.
New patterns of morbidity and mortality change the costs of war. For a variety of reasons, the morbidity/mortality landscape has changed. Given the rising incidence of long-term traumatic injury, I suspect the new landscape presents a deceptive and incomplete picture of the current and future costs of making war. Earlier this year, James Cavuoto, Editor and Publisher of Neurotech Business Report, mused: "The injured soldiers returning from Iraq deserve our support and all the medical technology we can possibly provide. The question that remains is whether we, in the end, are deserving of their service."

I'm not holding my breath for that answer.

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