In episode 13 of this series–and “episode” is the only word for a war that resembles a reality TV show–I pointed out that the Trump Administration misstated the number of casualties suffered by American troops in the recent Iranian attack on Iraqi military bases where those troops are stationed. Trump had originally said there were no casualties, but at that point, it was reported that 11 soldiers had been evacuated for injuries suffered in the attacks. But it gets better. Now the number evacuated is starting to rise. From 11, it’s become “about a dozen.” One report puts the number in the “teens.” So what’s the explanation for the discrepancy–that the Pentagon is hiding the truth from us, or that it can’t count?
But it gets better still. Here is our President’s comment on the injuries suffered by the troops under his command (ht: Fiona Stevens):
“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report it is not very serious,” Trump told a news conference in Davos, Switzerland.
“I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen,” Trump said. “I’ve seen people with no legs and no arms.”
Right–all those injuries he’s seen from the extensive time he’s spent on the battlefield and in military medical centers. Evidently, a brain injury is not a serious injury because you can’t see it. Well, you can’t see cancer, either, so is cancer not a serious condition? Bone spurs aren’t a particularly serious condition, and yet they can be invoked to avoid military conscription. You can’t, for that matter, see the source of a person’s moral stupidity, and yet it can still be pretty devastating despite its invisibility.
If this Administration is prepared to prevaricate and obfuscate over an issue this narrow, what part of its case for war can be believed? We might as well conclude that every word has been a lie–that the actual reasons for the Administration’s desire for war are a miasma of ulterior motives and hidden agendas. A president willing to describe brain injuries as “headaches” can’t be presumed to have any interest in the welfare or safety of the people he’s sworn to protect. We’re all cannon fodder in his mind, ready to be sacrificed to any passing whim. Something to keep in mind the next time some angry bigot waves a flag in your face in the name of “supporting the troops.” Support the troops how? By trivializing their injuries and throwing their lives away for Donald Trump’s pathological ego?
I teach at a military friendly school, and have had combat veterans in my classrooms. The ones who have seen front-line combat duty can always be distinguished from the ones who haven’t. Whether visible to the eye or not, they always bear wounds of some sort. You can’t go to war and fight and not bear wounds.
I think in particular of the Afghan war veteran I had in one of my classes a few years ago, the survivor of an IED explosion and victim of a traumatic brain injury. Believe it or not, this student’s brain injury was not visible to the naked eye. And yet every day of the student’s life was a constant struggle–driving, eating, studying, sleeping, simply getting through the day. Part of the day was spent struggling with the VA, part of it struggling with the side-effects of medications, part of it with school work, and yet another part struggling (not always successfully) to keep out of a homeless shelter. Frankly, I thought it a miracle that my student didn’t commit suicide. To trivialize suffering of this magnitude is an obscenity beyond words, but at this point, and in particular under this president, we’ve become inured to such obscenities. When we become completely inured to them, we’ll have lost anything that was ever worth fighting for.
The wreckage war leaves is not always visible. But it’s least visible to those who willfully close their eyes to it, and most visible to those who have no choice but to look. There’s no better way to “support our troops” than to put yourself in the latter group, and act accordingly.