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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Real Clear Numbers: 101,000 US Casualties a Year

A friend of mine who's a librarian was recently reviewing job applicants. Asked his qualifications in library skills, one man put "machine-gunner." He was a vet who'd served in Falluja. The library is in a state school that, last fall, had 650 such vets enrolled. The young man got the job but soon became irked by what he saw as the trivial preoccupations of his colleagues. He applied for a job at a nearby police department. All over the country police departments are advertising for Iraq vets. Three-quarters of the way through the hiring process, the PD signaled to him that things looked good. Then, in rapid succession, three Iraq vets in the area were involved in lethal episodes: two murders and one suicide. The PD immediately called the young man in for a second psychological evaluation, then nixed him for the job. He's 24. He can't find anything satisfying to do and is thinking of re-enlisting. He's against the war.

Those violent episodes are just part of bringing the war home. It'll be active on the home front for years to come. Just under one in three--31 percent--of those who've been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from a brain injury or stress disorder or a mix of both these conditions.

On April 17 the RAND Corporation released a study of service members and veterans back home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The 500-page study was titled Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery. It was sponsored by a grant from the California Community Foundation and done by twenty-five researchers from RAND Health and the RAND National Security Research Division. From last August to January, the team conducted a phone survey with 1,965 service members, reservists and veterans in twenty-four areas across the country with high concentrations of those people. Some had done more than one tour.

By Alexander Cockburn