by Milo Clark
(Swans - December 5, 2005) Since the American Revolutionary War, more than 50 million Americans have been directly affected by war deaths, wounds, or those who have become lost. Approximately 2,000,000 have died (KIA: Killed In Action), plus those gone missing or otherwise unaccounted for (KIA-BNR: Killed In Action-But Not Recovered or MIA: Missing In Action). Another 12,000,000 have been wounded in combat. Thirty-eight million family members have had their lives scarred as a result. (1) Having lost a nineteen-year-old brother in WWII, I can assure you that there are scars little assuaged by time.
Given that there are approximately 300,000,000 Americans today and assuming that roughly 500,000,000 have come and gone since the late 1700s, about 6% of all Americans thus know the pains of wars.
The present war in Iraq beginning March 2003 has accumulated about 2,100 soldier dead, another 16,000 wounded and very few acknowledged as MIA or lost at this time. Enemy dead, insurgent dead, civilian dead, non-combatant wounded, lost are little reported. I assume that these numbers represent a small price to pay as measured by those who direct this war and are, so far, acting unaffected personally.
In Soldier Dead, Michael Sledge details the evolving practices used to account for casualties. The men and women assigned to these often-gruesome tasks tend to work far beyond reasonable expectations. From callous disdain in the early wars to overzealous and very expensive protocols now employed to collect, account for, and return remains, top brass and politicians have preferred to ignore or delegate responsibilities.
Beginning with Bush I during the first Iraq War (1991) and made yet more rigid under Bush II, a heavy shroud has been drawn over soldier dead. Reporters are not allowed to take pictures or to report on processing. Dover Air Force Base where soldier dead are returned is strictly off limits to media. Media, we will note, go along with these practices.
Sledge notes: ". . . while our leaders must make tough decisions, they should not contrive to limit the visual impact of returning Soldier Dead so as to minimize discussion and decent." (p.300) Further, to add in the enemy dead and collaterally damaged (now virtually ignored by U.S.), ". . . we will be unmasked for the men that we are and will pay a terrible price. If we do not ask or attempt to answer the question, 'Was the cost in all lives worth it?' the unrecognized dead will haunt us forever." (p. 301)
If there is validity to the laws of karma, those who have led us into this most recent war will carry their burdens beyond the end of time.