Only in Bizarro World could our soldiers in Iraq be considered peacemakers

It's official: We are now living in Bizarro World. For people who never watch Seinfeld reruns, Bizarro is Superman's opposite, a chalky, snagglytoothed but equally muscle-bound guy. Everything in Bizarro World is the opposite.

But in our Bizarro World, there's no Superman, and peacemaker means warrior.

I know this, because I read it on a billboard at Prince Road and Interstate 10. It's got a big American flag, but in addition to "Support Our Troops," which I assume is a slogan caging donations for bras for female military personnel (it's not obvious what the hell else it could mean), it quotes the seventh beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

And holy moly, are we making some peace over there, or what? According to the Iraq Body Count Database (www.iraqbodycount.net/database), since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, there have been more than 70,000 reported civilian deaths and an average of three injuries per death, amounting to more than 210,000 maimed. These injuries range from serious burns to head injuries to lost limbs.

The IBCDb acknowledges these numbers may not be entirely accurate. While the U.S. government is fairly good at counting deaths of military personnel--the number as of May 23 is 3,431--according to Gen. Tommy Franks of the U.S. Central Command, when it comes to Iraqi civilian deaths, "We don't do body counts." In other words, the U.S. government has no idea how many Iraqi civilians have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion began.

But if a study published in the October 2006 issue of British medical journal The Lancet is correct, the real number is much higher: upwards of 650,000 noncombatant deaths since 2003. This number includes Iraqi civilian deaths caused directly by the violence of warfare, including those resulting from the loss of infrastructure, disease, injury, malnutrition and increases in local violence. This number is the proportional equivalent of 7.8 million killed if the United States, with its current population, were attacked.

This could only be peace in the Bizarro World.

But let's forget about Iraqi civilians for a second. After all, they are brown, eat weird food and follow religions we don't understand. Let's talk about Americans--3,431 is admittedly a big number, but it's only .53 percent of 650,000. So compared to the Iraqis, we've gotten off comparatively lightly.

That is, until you take injuries into account, both physical and mental. These don't seem to register with most people the way death does. Maybe we're all optimists and assume these people will get better, but I think the truth is, nobody likes to dwell on agony. Some 150,000 veterans of this campaign for peace in Iraq are currently receiving disability benefits, which is a sterile way of saying they're living in anguish and pain. Many of these mostly young people have lost limbs or suffered head trauma or otherwise life-destroying injuries.

But there's a whole category of injuries no one's talking much about: genital injuries. The reason these kids fighting in Iraq are getting their heads and limbs blown off is that their trunks are protected by body armor, and Iraqi combatants have learned to shoot around it. Dr. Col. Vito Imbascini, a urologist and surgeon with the California Army National Guard, told the Inter Press Service that during his deployment in Germany, not a day went by that he didn't have to amputate the genitals of one or two unfortunate "peacemakers." He was there for four months; that's a minimum of 120 nut-ectomies. When he left, someone else took over.

Heads and limbs aren't the only thing sticking out of body armor.

The insurgents, enemy combatants--whatever you want to call them--have figured out that there's no point in wasting perfectly good ammunition bouncing bullets off body armor, so if you really want to scare the shit out of a young man, shoot at his nuts. These shooters are becoming deadly accurate, and if you search the Web for body armor, the number of sites peddling ballistic groin plates is going way up. They're not standard-issue military equipment, so if Mama wants grandkids, guess what Junior over in Iraq is getting for Christmas this year? The first ballistic groin plate I looked up cost $280. I guess the other kids will be getting socks this year.

It's all for the good of peace. That's how we say it in Bizarro World.

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