11 April 2010
Because Another Wept
This week's Take This Tune is John Prine's "Sam Stone", a graphic song about a veteran who comes home from Viet Nam with PTSD and drug addicted. The toll both physical and mental that war takes on the men and women sent to fight is horrendous. You would think the reasons to fight would be good ones. Unfortunately, this often is more political than patriotic.
Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in 5396 American deaths in nine years. So far 30,490 U.S. service members have been wounded due to combat actions in Iraq and 2,309 in Afghanistan (32,799 total). The signature wounds of this war are amputations and brain injury due to IEDs. No one questions the heroism of these men and women. They are doing their duty where their country sends them. At some point we have to ask, when do we stop sending them? There will be thousands of men and women receiving medical care for their injuries for decades, and there will be a lot more Sam Stones for whom the battle never ends.
None of the numbers above indicates the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan citizens who have lost their lives or been wounded by the conflict in their nation. Seeing a child such as the one above always reminds me of W. H. Auden's "Shield of Achilles" and it's closing lines about the shield created by the armorer to the gods for Thetis to give to her son Achilles in the Trojan War.
A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.
The thin-lipped armorer,
Hephaestus, hobbled away,
Thetis of the shining breasts
Cried out in dismay
At what the god had wrought
To please her son, the strong
Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
Who would not live long.