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Sunday, April 15, 2007


More hidden victims of U.S. imperialism

The fact that the injuries-to-deaths has gone from 2.6:1 in Vietnam to 16:1 in Iraq, thanks to improved body armor and battlefield medical care, is well-known, and the fact (but definitely not the exact number, which the military does its best to keep secret) that tens of thousands of members of the American military have received serious, life-changing injuries, is also well-known. But this article, by the author of a recently published book "Wounded: Vietnam to Iraq," takes it one step further. According to the author, who is a doctor:
About 1,800 U.S. service members, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, are now suffering from traumatic brain injuries caused by penetrating wounds. But neurologists worry that hundreds of thousands more - at least 30 percent of the troops who have engaged in active combat for four months or longer in Iraq and Afghanistan - are at risk of potentially disabling neurological disorders from the blast waves of IEDs and mortars, without suffering a scratch.

Here's why IEDS carry such hidden danger. The detonation of any powerful explosive generates a blast wave of high pressure that spreads out at 1,600 feet per second from the point of explosion and travels hundreds of yards. The lethal blast wave is a two-part assault that rattles the brain against the skull. The initial shock wave of high pressure is followed closely by the "secondary wind:" a huge volume of displaced air flooding back into the area, again under high pressure. No helmet or armor can defend against such a massive wave front.

It is these sudden and extreme differences in pressures - routinely 1,000 times greater than atmospheric pressure - that lead to significant neurological injury. Blast waves cause severe concussions, resulting in loss of consciousness and obvious neurological deficits such as blindness, deafness and mental retardation. Blast waves causing traumatic brain injuries can leave a 19-year-old private who could easily run a six-minute mile unable to stand or even think.
Note again the sentence in bold. These are "closed-head" injuries we're talking about, injuries we are not immediately obvious. And, what's worse, because of the nature of these injuries (explained in the article):
Despite the usual interventions and treatments, the majority of blast-injury patients who have neurological damage do not fully recover.
Omitted from the article is what should be an obvious fact - there are tens of thousands of Iraqis who have been present at similar explosions, and are subject to precisely the same injuries, but with even less medical care available to them.

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