Monday, October 23, 2006

Esprit de Corps tallies up the true cost of casualties in Afghanistan

Esprit de Corps magazine*, the unofficial, unauthorized magazine of the Canadian armed forces, features a tally in this week's issue of the Canadian casualties in Afghanistan.

The article counts 274 casualties -- 43 killed, 231 wounded. They say the bland reports from official sources about "non-life-threatening injuries" of those not killed outright don't tell the whole story.

"We hear that phrase and we go back to sleep," said magazine editor Scott Taylor, a former soldier. He is quoted in a report in the Ottawa Sun. "We don't realize in some cases it's a bullet to the throat and the guy is paralyzed from the chest down, or he's lost an arm. They realize when they stabilize these guys they're not going to die, but 'non-life-threatening injury' doesn't reflect the actual severity."

Taylor said the government has a vested interest in keeping the spotlight away from soldiers who lose limbs or mobility as it works to sell the Afghanistan mission to the public and to recruit new troops to the military ranks.

"The worst aspect for recruiting is seeing people who have been dismembered," he said. "It's easier to glorify a flag-draped coffin than a guy with no legs."

But better protective gear like helmets and flak jackets means more soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are surviving blasts and gunshot wounds, but suffering more damage to outer extremities, says the Sun story. That means more spinal damage and amputations -- and Taylor believes Canadians should know about those sacrifices.

"Whatever the government and the military are selling to us as the right thing for Canada, it has to be balanced off against what it's actually costing us in dollars, in lives and in the sacrifices these guys are making."
[*Esprit de Corps seems to be gradually rebranding itself from the rather arcane name to something self-explanatory -- Canadian Military. We'd be interested to hear more.]


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