OPINION

A war veteran at the age of 22

A documentary aired as part of Mega’s «Fakeli» (Documents) series earlier this week gave us an insider’s view of a military hospital in Washington. There, investigative journalist Alexis Papachelas met some veterans from the war in Iraq, youngsters who had lost one, two or even three limbs in battle. One of the interviewees, a 22-year-old woman who lost the bottom half of both her legs in a bomb blast, had learned to walk again with the aid of two prosthetic limbs. A 22-year-old American of Asian extraction, who suffered similar injuries, had also been fitted with artificial limbs. Both these war veterans spoke openly to Papachelas about their experiences. Another former soldier, who had also lost both of his legs, was shown doing abdominal exercises and lifting weights to boost strength in his arms. In between these accounts, the documentary showed excerpts from the US Army’s promotional footage. «Because there is nothing on this green earth stronger than a US Army soldier» was the slogan that was projected over and over again. When the two maimed interviewees were asked whether they would go back to Iraq if they could, they both said they definitely would. Why? The young woman could not think of an answer. «To protect my children,» the young man said, meaning to raise the money to bring them up as most soldiers drafted into the US Army hail from the poorest parts of the country. In the same documentary, a retired New York policeman, whose son was killed in the attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001, spoke about the disappointment he felt when he discovered that the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attack. All those years, he had been soothed by the fact that his son’s name had been written on the bombs falling on Iraq but this little bit of comfort disappeared when he realized that the US government had lied. Even today, President George W. Bush insists that he never said Saddam had any connection to 9/11. Meanwhile the list of victims of the war in Iraq – Americans and Iraqis – grows longer. According to the latest report from the United Nations, around 35,000 Iraqis were killed in 2006 (an average of 94 per day); meanwhile, more than 3,000 US soldiers have lost their lives since the war began in 2003. This relentless slaughter is bringing the people of Iraq closer to degradation, not freedom. Too much blood had already been shed before most Americans realized that US soldiers are not actually indestructible. And now we are seeing 22-year-old war veterans, youngsters who are still attracted by the drums of war. The only comforting thing is that there are hundreds of thousands of other youngsters who are struggling for this war to stop, and for other wars to be averted.