The Pentagon likes to refer to combat euphemistically as “kinetic” activity. This very important report documents the truly impressive advances in battlefield medicine in Afghanistan to cope with the kinetic activity that hurts our troops. The bottom line: the ratio of killed to wounded has decreased at an amazing rate, because many troop suffering from heretofore fatal wounds involving the destruction of multiple limbs, severe groin, traumatic brain injuries, massive losses of blood, and battlefield shock are now surviving, albeit many in a severely handicapped state. The need to provide quality care and rehabilitation to the severely wounded (as well as the lessor wounded–particularly those with the sharply rising cases of the milder forms of brain trauma) is an as yet unaccounted for cost of the Afghan war that will haunt the American medical system and the larger society for generations.
We can only imagine what is happening to the Afghan civilians on the receiving end of our kinetics.
January 7, 2011
KHAKREZ DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Intensified fighting and a larger troop presence in Afghanistan in 2010 led to the highest American combat casualties yet in the war, as the number of troops wounded by bullets, shrapnel and bombs approached that of the bloodiest periods of the war in Iraq.
But the available data points to advances in the treatment of the fallen, as the rate at which wounded soldiers who died reached a wartime low.
More than 430 American service members died from hostile action in Afghanistan last year through Dec. 21, according to official data released by the Pentagon last week at the request of The New York Times.
This was a small fraction of those struck. Nearly 5,500 American troops were wounded in action — more than double the total of 2,415 in 2009, and almost six times the number wounded in 2008.
In all, fewer than 7.9 percent of the Americans wounded in 2010 died, down from more than 11 percent the previous year and 14.3 percent in 2008.
Phi Beta Iota: Brother Chuck raises philosophical, practical, and political points. Philosophically, one must ask if combatants should be fully informed and given opportunities to create living wills specifying levels of future disability they do not wish to endure. Practically, we are seeing–and deeply moved by–double amputees returning to combat and meeting the highest physical standards at the same time that we have seen that the Veteran’s Administration is neither funded, nor trained, equipped, and organized to deal with a massive increase in permanently disabled veterans. Gulf I produced over 250,000 disabled veterans, and that was before tactical medicine got as good as it has. Politically we must recognize, and Russell Ackoff observes in his Systems Thinking, that what is good for one part of the system is often very bad for other parts of the system. The cost of war has always been very high, and highly decorated generals such as Smedley Butler are not alone in saying that “war is a racket.” It is. As a society, America is confronting its moral, financial, and political bankrupcy, not only at the federal levels, but at the state level. One can only pray that the Internet and the innate common sense of We the People can confront the “systemic corruption, and what one author calls ill triumph over what one author has called Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.