Costs Of War Not Seen In Dover Repatriation Photos; and Bill Moyers Closing Comments

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross-posted at DKos, Open Left, and Firedoglake

Hat tip to Henry Porter and the other diarists who posted on the videos and photos yesterday of the repatriation of service members slain in Afghanistan.

Henry wrote of how enraged he is that war criminals of the previous administration are walking free, of the pain he felt when he encountered a young disabled veteran, and that he finds “a measure of comfort in the hope that unlike his predecessor, this president has the courage, the character , the compassion and the judgment to make his decisions based on the best possible information and advice available to him.”

It is not often that we are able to see photos depicting the cost of war to our troops and their families.  Few people encounter our disabled veterans.  The face of war is rarely seen.

During the war in Vietnam, Walter Cronkite made sure that Mr. and Mrs. America saw plenty of the reality, during the dinner hour.

Sensitivity to the wishes of our soldiers and their families must prevail over other considerations.

And, there are some soldiers and families who have been willing to share images of their sacrifice with us.

Below, we see grim realities which are not adequately conveyed by the flag-draped caskets in the repatriation ceremonies.

Bill Moyers’ website has a small collection of photos by photographer Nina Berman.  More of these photos may be viewed here.  These are part of a section at Moyers’ website titled “Picturing The Costs Of War”.

Photographer Nina Berman better understands soldiers and their war by meeting face to face with those who had fought it. With no official list of the wounded to go by, she tracked down newspaper articles on returning vets. She put her photographs of twenty veterans and their stories in her book PURPLE HEARTS.

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Family photo of Ty Ziegel at his post in Iraq in 2004.

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Ty Ziegel has some help getting dressed in his Marine uniform for his wedding.

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Ty Ziegel at the candy store at his home in Washington, Illinois. When kids ask Ty what happened to his ears, he says, “the bad guys took them.”

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Ty Ziegel and Renee Kline have their portrait taken before their wedding.

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The following photos from the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan are by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times.  They accompany an article in The New York Times Magazine by Elizabeth Rubin, titled “Battle Company Is Out There”, published Feb. 24, 2008.  More photos by Ms Addario may be seen here.

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Sgt. Tanner Stichter tends to a wounded Specialist Carl Vandenberge.

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Specialist Carl Vandenberge, right, and Staff Sgt. Kevin Rice, left, are assisted as they walk to a medevac helicopter after being shot by insurgents in the ambush.

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U.S. troops carry the body of Staff Sgt. Larry Rougle, who was killed when the insurgents ambushed their squad in the Korengal Valley.

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For every flag-draped coffin which arrives at Dover AFB, there are three more members of our Armed Forces who sustain life-altering wounds.

If you want our troops to be re-deployed, please put your concerns into action, by contacting your members of congress, preferably in person at their local offices.  It is not necessary to have an appointment to go to their offices and make your thoughts known.  And go back to their offices, write, and call as often as you can.  Also, please convey your thoughts to the President.

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I urge that no one make any comments in this diary which show disrespect to the service members and families who are depicted.  It is my hope that all will understand and respect these service members’ dignity. Should someone be disrespectful, I will be saddened by it, and will be led to rate the comment HR.

May God bless these service members for their courage and sacrifices, and for their courage in sharing these visual stories.

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And, Bill Moyers closing comments tonight are now available as a transcript at his web site:  

October, as you know, was the bloodiest month for our troops in all eight years of the war. And beyond the human loss, the United States has spent more than 223 billion dollars there. In 2010 we will be spending roughly 65 billion dollars every year. 65 billion dollars a year.

The President is just about ready to send more troops. Maybe 44 thousand, that’s the number General McChrystal wants, bringing the total to over 100 thousand. When I read speculation last weekend that the actual number needed might be 600 thousand, I winced.

I can still see President Lyndon Johnson’s face when he asked his generals how many years and how many troops it would take to win in Vietnam. One of them answered, “Ten years and one million.” He was right on the time and wrong on the number– two and a half million American soldiers would serve in Vietnam, and we still lost.

Whatever the total for Afghanistan, every additional thousand troops will cost us about a billion dollars a year. At a time when foreclosures are rising, benefits for the unemployed are running out, cities are firing teachers, closing libraries and cutting essential maintenance and services. That sound you hear is the ripping of our social fabric.

Which makes even more perplexing an editorial in THE WASHINGTON POST last week. You’ll remember the “Post” was a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq, often sounding like a megaphone for the Bush-Cheney propaganda machine. Now it’s calling for escalating the war in Afghanistan. In a time of historic budget deficits, the paper said, Afghanistan has to take priority over universal health care for Americans. Fixing Afghanistan, it seems, is “a ‘necessity'”; fixing America’s social contract is not.

But listen to what an Afghan villager recently told a correspondent for the “Economist:” “We need security. But the Americans are just making trouble for us. They cannot bring peace, not if they stay for 50 years.”

Listen, too, to Andrew Bacevich, the long-time professional soldier, graduate of West Point, veteran of Vietnam, and now a respected scholar of military and foreign affairs, who was on this program a year ago. He recently told “The Christian Science Monitor,” “The notion that fixing Afghanistan will somehow drive a stake through the heart of jihadism is wrong. If we give General McChrystal everything he wants, the jihadist threat will still exist.”

This from a warrior who lost his own soldier son in Iraq, and who doesn’t need animated graphics to know what the rest of us never see.

So here’s a suggestion. In a week or so, when the president announces he is escalating the war, let’s not hide the reality behind eloquence or animation. No more soaring rhetoric, please. No more video games. If our governing class wants more war, let’s not allow them to fight it with young men and women who sign up because they don’t have jobs here at home, or can’t afford college or health care for their families.

Let’s share the sacrifice. Spread the suffering. Let’s bring back the draft.

Yes, bring back the draft — for as long as it takes our politicians and pundits to “fix” Afghanistan to their satisfaction.

Bring back the draft, and then watch them dive for cover on Capitol Hill, in the watering holes and think tanks of the Beltway, and in the quiet little offices where editorial writers spin clever phrases justifying other people’s sacrifice. Let’s insist our governing class show the courage to make this long and dirty war our war, or the guts to end it.

That’s right: He said, Courage to make this war into a war that this nation truly supports, or end it.  Thank you, Bill Moyers.

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Amazing Grace is sung by Leann Rimes

7 comments

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  1. thank you, hound dog.

    • TMC on October 31, 2009 at 4:01 am

    On this Samhein Eve. May the Goddess guide them on their journey to the Summerlands. May the Goddess protect those who serve that we may sleep safe. May their families, friends and the world find Peace. Blessed

  2. Bring back the draft and see the war end tomorrow!

    • Inky99 on October 31, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    More delusional thinking on the part of a prominent DK writer.

    What a joke.

    Obama has no intention of doing anything different from Bush.   The wars continue, not just unabated but accelerated.

    57 soldiers dead in October last I checked.

    Hope is for dopes.

  3. Those of us who were around during the 1960s may well remember Huntley & Brinkley from NBC and Walter Cronkite from CBS, delivering the visual imagery from the Vietnam War into living rooms across the country on a nightly basis.  

    It is obvious that the MSM has done their best to ensure that these wars remain invisible.  

    Unfortunately, Karl Rove was apparently correct when he asserted early last year that Iraq would become a peripheral issue by the time of the 2008 elections.  

    Wonder if Rove shorted the market maybe in August, 2008, shortly prior to the free fall in September?  A fair graphic representation of this decline can be seen here.

    Many of us are familiar with Vietnam War veterans who, to this day, are still traumatized by their experiences from more than three decades ago, and this after one year-long tour of duty.  One can only imagine the impact of repeated deployments on the walking wounded, including those whose scars are not outwardly visible.   The ghosts of these twin debacles will haunt us until the middle of this century and most likely beyond.

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