Sunday, December 20, 2009

farmdoc's blog post number 609

When my daughters were much younger, from time to time they’d ask a question like ‘Dad, would you prefer to die by being hit by a train or a truck?’ A tough one, that. No easy answer. But relevant this week as I read Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillmanthe latest book by Jon Krakauer who also wrote Into Thin Air and Into the Wild. Pat Tillman (pictured) was an NFL gridiron star who was so outraged by 9/11 that he gave up a US$3.6M a year football contract, joined the US army and became a special forces ranger, was feted by Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld for so doing, and was sent to Afghanistan. Soon after arrival he was shot and killed. The fatal bullets were fired by a member of his own platoon. For some months thereafter there was an official cover-up which was eventually exposed –by Tillman’s indefatigable mother, and also by Krakauer. Though I found Krakauer’s book both riveting and disgusting, to me its most shocking revelation is on page 343: Regarding fatal and non-fatal U.S. war casualties, 21% in WWII were caused by (ironically named) friendly fire, 39% in Vietnam, 52% in the First Gulf War, and so far 41% in Iraq and 13% in Afghanistan. And these numbers are conservative due to underreporting. Surely in this age of technology something can – and must – be done to prevent combat fratricide. ‘Friendly fire’ indeed. Sounds to me like the old ‘train or truck’ conundrum.

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