In Washington Dulles airport I noticed a large advertisement. I’d seen it before and not paid attention. (No doubt that’s why they saturate public space with the things.) It showed a woman’s face with the words: “A car crash in California almost took her leg. A bomb blast in Iraq helped save it.” It directed one to a website: orthoinfo.org/dominique
I’m against car crashes in California. I’m in favor of saving Dominique’s leg. But at the website what we find is a claim that her leg was saved because her orthopaedic surgeon had experience in Iraq. And I don’t mean in the Iraqi hospitals that existed before we destroyed that country. I mean he had experience in the destruction process.
“Thank you, Dr. Paul Girard. How lucky was I to have an orthopaedic surgeon with wartime experience and special insights on how to treat an injury like mine?” Thus writes Dominique, whose partner James comments on the doctor: “His experience as a wartime orthopaedic surgeon in Iraq gave him a special familiarity with traumatic limb injuries.” How would James know this? Presumably the doctor, whose own comments don’t mention the war, told him. Or someone ghost wrote the website.
The orthoinfo.org website was created by three societies of orthopaedic surgeons that clearly know which side of the mutilated troop their bread is buttered on. (Orthopaedic comes through French from the Greek for boneheaded.)
Surely a few people walk through U.S. airports while simultaneously living in reality, the reality in which the United States destroyed the nation of Iraq, slaughtered 1.4 million people, created 4.5 million refugees, destroyed the health and education and energy infrastructures, created epidemics of disease and birth defects, traumatized millions of children, and left behind a ruined violent anarchic state cursed with deep divisions previously unknown.
Surely some of those reality-based people are aware that a majority of Americans believes the war benefited Iraq, and a plurality believes Iraqis are grateful. To read, on top of that perversity, the claim that a bomb blast in Iraq saved Dominique’s leg is sickening. A doctor saved her leg. He found a silver lining in a genocide. The bomb blasts didn’t fucking save people. The bomb blasts killed people. And very few of the killers or their funders or their voters seem to care.
~ from Wartime U.S. Travelogue by David Swanson ~
Have Americans and members of the world, in general, benefited from innovations developed on the battlefield? An honest answer would be a resounding yes. Lessons learned in war frequently are applied in peacetime.
But that is no excuse for war! Just because a few positives come out of it, this in no way negates or justifies the many negatives. War is an abomination and there is no way to dress it up otherwise.
The questions left unasked in the advertisement that Swanson saw are: How many Iraqis died to save Dominique's leg? How many were maimed and injured? How many lost their homes? How many became refugees? How many were so traumatized that life will never be the same?
Swanson's article offers another example of the insidious nature of American Exceptionalism. It treats the Iraqi people as if THEIR lives don't matter. What is a shattered Iraqi's life compared to the saving of one American leg?