Tag Archives: Iraq war

Recommended Reading for 12 July 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

BBC News: Families with disabled children ‘struggle to pay bills’

Srabani Sen, chief executive of Contact a Family, said: “Many families with disabled children are in financial dire straits.

“Everyone has been hit hard by the recession but families with disabled children were already having to cope with a harsh combination of extra living costs and the difficulty of holding down a job and caring.

“These financial pressures have been worsened by the economic slump and have left many at breaking point.”

Researchers found that 23%, almost one in four, had to turn off their heating to save money and one in seven, 14%, are going without food.

Politics Daily: Thousands of Soldiers Unfit for War Duty

In an unmistakable sign that the Army is struggling with exhaustion after nine years of fighting, combat commanders whose units are headed to Afghanistan increasingly choose to leave behind soldiers who can no longer perform, putting additional strain on those who still can.

The growing pool of “non-deployable” soldiers make up roughly 10 percent of the 116,423 active-duty soldiers currently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands more Army reservists and National Guard soldiers are also considered unfit to deploy, a growing burden on an Army that has sworn to care for them as long as needed.

“These 13,000 soldiers, that number’s not going to go away,” said Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, who heads the Army’s Warrior Transition Command, which oversees the treatment and disposition of unfit soldiers. “If anything, it’s going to get larger as the Army continues the tempo it’s on.

“This is an Army at war.”

Laura Hershey: Some Thoughts about Public Space

I myself am a very noticeable presence in any public venue. I use a power wheelchair which I operate by blowing into a tube. I have more tubes going into my nose, connected to a mechanical ventilator, which pumps air into my lungs as I breathe. At symphony orchestra concerts, during pianissimo passages, I’ve become acutely aware of the mechanical sounds emanating from my respiratory equipment. My self-consciousness has sometimes veered close to embarrassment, but I’ve reminded myself that I have as much right as anyone to be in the presence of that great music.

Change.org’s Environment blog: Going Under For Surgery? Doctors May Be Going Green Too

So I’m all for rooting out the last vestiges of wasteful carbon from every last corner of our society. But, I have to say, this study makes me slightly nervous. “Going under” is a dangerous procedure, and I’m not sure I want my doctor thinking about the fate of the planet at a time he should be focused solely on my own fate.

Now, obviously the doctors themselves were quick to say that patient safety should and will always come first when choosing the correct drug. But, regardless, doctors who are concerned about the environment would want to know this information, they contend.

SPOUSE CALLS: Born on the 4th of July

In the headline there was no name, just a number: “1000th GI killed in Afghanistan.” I skimmed the story: Name not yet released pending notification of next of kin.

Numeric milestones seem so arbitrary. What makes 1000 more significant than 999? Mourning families don’t care about the math.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Dear Imprudence: The Questions You Don’t Get To Ask

A concerned family member writes to Miss Manners:

Dear Miss Manners:

My brother served in Iraq a couple of years ago. He suffers from PTSD and was wounded. The physical wound is not one you can see, but people (family especially) will still ask him what it was like to fight in the war and even go so far as to ask if he killed anyone.

It never ceases to amaze me the way that people feel entitled to information about other people. They love to ask questions about your disability, and when a person happens to be a veteran and has seen combat, one of the first questions that comes up, almost without fail (unless that inquiring person happens to be a veteran or the family member/close friend of a veteran), is whether or not that particular veteran has killed some body.

Have you ever killed anyone?

I just can not fathom having to live with the reality of having lived through that burden, let alone having to deal w/ having to relive any of the emotions attached to that each time a thoughtless person asks “Have you ever killed anyone?”.

The letter writer wants to avoid having to stay away from a family function to keep zir brother safe from such carelessness from other family members, and honestly that breaks my heart. A PWD should not have to completely cut themselves off from friends, family, and other outside contacts to avoid triggering situations, but the reality is, this is overwhelmingly the way that it usually works.

I know for a fact that there are many veterans living in isolation because of PTSD, and yes, several of them are women, because of people who aren’t veterans, who can’t grasp what that must have been like (and not even all of us, as veterans can know what that is like), who can’t abstain from getting too nosy and triggering their PTSD. Why can’t we just have the same conversations as everyone else? Not everything in our lives revolves around our disabilities and our experiences in The Sandbox. Not everything is about the worst thing that has ever happened to us.

I like the way Miss Manners answers this letter:

Can you do this without creating consternation and even more curiosity about his condition?

She cautions the letter writer to caution the family to avoid the topic of war without creating a more awkward situation that might cause the family to avoid zir brother as if he is a ticking time bomb.

[He] will probably tell us about the war eventually, but right now it’s his least favorite topic, and I know he’d appreciate our staying off the subject.

This is the perfect way to describe this.

This is the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, the Forgotten War, many call it. My grandfather is a proud veteran and a Purple Heart recipient. He didn’t like to talk about the war with us, even when I was a shining eyed, curious young girl, who was almost never denied anything she asked of her grandfather. It was painful for him to remember, and the only time I ever saw him reminisce was when we traveled to Des Moines for his unit’s reunion many years ago.

But after I joined the Navy he sent me a letter at my A-School sharing a moment of understanding for what I was doing, and later, when my partner and I PSC-ed to Korea, he sat and talked to us for hours about what he remembered of the country. He told us harsh and sometimes beautiful stories of his memories. He told his of his marching from Pusan all the way to far North, of being picked up by Navy ships, transported back to Pusan and doing it again, after salvaging boots from the dead to cover their own bleeding feet. He tells it better, and I hope to get it recorded the next time I see him. But he told it to us in his own time, when it didn’t hurt him anymore.

I remember when The Kid’s Tae Kwon Do instructor told us of his memory of being a child during the war. A child in her class said that he was too young to do something or another well. The Master told us a story, of being eight, and of being held by his mother in a drainage tunnel and being told to not make a sound while North Korean soldiers ran over head. He was able to barely breathe, soundlessly, and stand against the side, like you see in movies, as they flashed their lights looking for people. He shared that story with us freely, and I remember the look on his face, as if he could still feel the chills of fear, like he was back there for a moment, but stronger now, sixty years later.

We have no right to ask them to regale us with the details of the horrible things they had to do to get by, to make a living for their families, to live, all because they were told it was the right thing to do. Or because they had to survive. They had a moment to think, but they have a lifetime to live with that decision.

People who live through wars will tell their stories when they are ready, because the pain will give them a moment of release, it will subside for a moment, or forget to pound them with the aggressive flashback or terror.

We, as people who have never lived through that, have no right to inflict that upon them.

Iraq: Depleted Uranium, Political Turmoil, and Disability

It is difficult to find demographic statistics on Iraq. The population has experienced considerable upheaval as a direct consequence of the war my government started there, and it was already tremendously unstable before the United States invaded in 2003 with the ostensible goal of “fighting terrorism.” Seven years later, we are still in Iraq, and some very alarming health trends are emerging.

Iraq is littered with pollutants, many of which are a direct consequence of military activity. This includes dioxins from sites where materiel was burned, depleted uranium1 from scores of shells fired in the 1991 Gulf War and during the present Gulf War, remains of chemical and biological weapons which have not been properly contained, and pollution from the burning of oil fields. Who can forget the televised images from 1991 showing Iraq’s oil fields on fire because Saddam was so determined to keep them from falling into our hands?

It was a horrific image, not least because the oilfield burning generated pollution which would be making Iraqis sick decades into the future. The pollution in Iraq is also not limited to its borders, because pollutants know no national boundaries. Pollutants are carried along waterways, in the air, and on vehicles exiting Iraq. In other words, although this post is about Iraq, the issues I am discussing here are highly relevant to Iraq’s neighbors.

Rates of cancers in Iraq are skyrocketing, especially childhood cancers. Women experience breast and bladder cancer at rates which are, again, very difficult to estimate, but are known to be much higher than the norm. Numerous recent reports have also illustrated the incredibly rapid rise of genetic conditions caused by exposure to pollutants. Between 2008 and 2009, doctors in Falluja alone observed “15 times as many chronic deformities in infants.” War also has profound impact on mental health and many Iraqis are in need of mental health services.

It’s worth noting that pollution appears to be concentrated in Iraq’s poorest areas. Iraq’s poor are already at a disadvantaged position, and this has been made worse by exposure to pollutants. Problems like asthma are common among people inhaling harmful smoke, for example, and these problems make it difficult to work and support families. Iraqi women in particular are in a difficult position as they are expected to care for their families, get food on the table, and manage the household, whether or not they are sick. Across Iraq, there are very wide gender disparities when it comes to things like access to education, as well; around 84% of Iraqi men were literate in 2000, for example, in contrast with 64% of Iraqi women.

Meanwhile, numerous Iraqis are experiencing amputations as a result of being involved in bombings, and this includes innocent bystanders as well as Iraqi police and military personnel, and of course insurgents. The United States military does provide services like surgery and some rehabilitation to injured Iraqis brought to our military facilities for treatment, which is excellent, but those services are needed because we are there, and legitimate questions can and should be raised about what kind of long term support we are providing for disabled Iraqis. It should also be noted that getting medical attention from the US military can be dangerous; families with children in our care, for example, have faced reprisals from people who assume that they must be aiding the enemy if their children are being cared for. (Even though treatment is provided in military facilities to all who need it.)

Despite a lot of hunting, I could not find a recent and accurate count of the number of people in Iraq living with disabilities. I know it’s high, and I know that the United States government, which controls many services in Iraq, doesn’t have the greatest record on serving disabled Iraqis. In 2004, for example, Iraq’s only hospital serving people with disabilities was basically left to its own devices. We are trying to administer a country while theoretically supporting it so that it can be independent and also managing a war. It’s not working out very well for us.

Iraq’s infrastructure has been repeatedly torn apart after decades of war. Whether or not you think we should be in Iraq now, whether or not you agree with me politically on what is happening in Iraq and what the United States is doing around the world, the consequences of long term war and military occupation are indisputable. Iraq is in desperate need of rebuilding, and that rebuilding needs to include people with disabilities.

The pollution in Iraq is not, of course, solely the fault of the United States and our allies. Under Saddam, environmental controls were not exactly top notch, and Saddam infamously tested weapons on the Kurdish population of Iraq. Those who survived were often left with long term health problems. Improper containment of Iraqi materiel also led to pollution. But, given the fact that Iraq’s government clearly cannot handle the level of environmental cleanup involved, I think that the global community has a responsibility to provide assistance.

Iraq needs a lot of help. What can you do?

If you are a citizen of a country which is involved in Iraq’s reconstruction, you can make it clear to your representatives that you want to see people with disabilities represented in Iraq, and that you are concerned about the availability of health services to Iraqis. This includes everything from the need for rehabilitation facilities for people who have just been injured to basic sanitation in impoverished areas to prevent the spread of parasitic infections. It is also important to stress that the focus of aid needs to be on empowering Iraqis, not just providing services; instead of putting in new wells, we should be teaching Iraqis to put in wells. Likewise, instead of sending in medical personnel from other countries, we should be supporting training of doctors, nurses, and rehabilitation professionals drawn from Iraq’s own population.

You can also push for environmental cleanup in Iraq, along with the cleanup of unexploded ordinance, which poses a serious hazard. This does not necessarily have to be done by governments; there are also private organizations which could assist with cleanup. The Danish Demining Group, for example, has been active in Iraq since 2003.

You can join people in lobbying for tighter controls on the use and cleanup of depleted uranium. Iraq is not the only region of the world struggling with DU contamination; it’s also a big problem in the Balkans.

Finally, if you’re from a country which sent soldiers to Iraq or currently has troops in Iraq, you can advocate at home for disabled service members. Many people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are developing health problems as a result of exposure to the same pollutants which are causing health problems for Iraqis.

Writing letters and lobbying can be hard work, and you may not have the energy for it. Just raising awareness by talking about these issues and linking to posts about this is also an important action.

  1. Depleted uranium is a nuclear waste product which is utilized in munitions because it is extremely heavy. It’s used for things like armor-piercing shells, and, guess what, it’s radioactive!