Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online reminds us that today marks fifteen years into America's defensive war against Islamo-fascism -- that is, fifteen years ago today the first attempt to topple the World Trade Center failed spectacularly, but still cost seven lives and a thousand injuries. [h/t Captain Ed]
He said/I said --
my day with the NATIONAL POST
At the bottom of a page well into the main news section of yesterday's National Post was an article about how the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has occasionally (about half a dozen times since '03) served as an emergency stopover for wounded American military personnel who, on their way back from Germany, develop complications and need serious medical attention before they can make it to one of the U.S.-based veterans' hospitals. The transport plane touches down in Halifax, and the soldier gets attended to in a hurry, sometimes having an extended stay before going on to the States.
Then they interview one of the doctors, on a day when the soldier in question doesn't make it, and dies in the plane at the Halifax terminal. The young man was a burn victim, whose face Dr. John Ross describes as "amorphous, waxy," as if it were covered in drippings from a burning candle.
Thanks, fella. This is a doctor, mind you, who has had (one would think) plenty of opportunity to see the effects of diseases and disasters during his career -- is it not strange that he seems to be "creeped out" by what he sees?
However, he seems pretty convinced of at least one thing:
Ah yes -- closure. What could be better than that? A child, husband, brother, father, alive and by your side through thick and thin, sharing his needs and pain as well as his love while you work through the challenges together... well, hell, who needs that, when you could put him in the ground and get closure????!!!!
Dr. Ross figures the tragic death at least spared the maimed soldier's relatives another kind of ordeal.
Time and again these days, young troops in their prime are returning home alive, but with permanently mangled bodies or damaged minds, the physician noted.
"It made me think about all the families whose loved ones come back in an altered state," he said. "If he had survived ... the family would never get closure."
Needless to say, I wasn't happy with this grim little anecdote, so I wrote a letter to the editor of the Post. Interest in publishing it was expressed right away, but with some caveats. Here's the dialogue of the day:
To the Editors:It's nice to know that injured military personnel have an emergency rest stop available to them in Halifax when they're in need. But there's something disturbing in learning that their attending physician might be Dr. John Ross, who has decided that soldiers' families should be spared the "ordeal" of having their wounded children survive. My own son's four months in Iraq have so far been quite uneventful (thank you, General Petraeus), but should he come back injured I would hope he won't fall under the care of someone who thinks he'd be better off dead than handicapped. Does Dr. Ross think this of all mentally or physically disabled people, or just those who got that way because of war? Let's pray that when the next plane touches down, there's time enough for a second opinion.
Thanks for the letter. I will try to get it in tomorrow. And to be clear: I presume your son is part of a U.S. Military division. Can you tell me which one??
He is a captain in the Marine Corps, a helicopter pilot stationed at Al Asad air base in Anbar Province... [yada-yada-yada.....]HE:
I showed your letter to the reporter who wrote the story and another editor, and they think you’re being too harsh on the doctor, and your letter portrays him as heartless. Could you make your point differently, perhaps suggesting that families would prefer to have the injured soldiers back alive, no matter how damaged they are???
What I sent to you was the toned-down version of my thoughts about Dr. Ross. He is by no means the first person to speak as though the 90% survival rate for Iraq war wounded is one of the DOWNSIDES to the conflict, though one hears that kind of comment more often from politicians or journalists than doctors. It is particularly repugnant in a doctor, and gives one every reason to speculate on whether he thinks of the IED-disabled all that differently from people severely handicapped from birth. I have a few friends with Down's syndrome children who, I suspect, will think I was not harsh enough, as they have encountered this brand of tossed-off heartlessness way too many times themselves.
That having been said, I offer the toned-down version of the earlier toned-down version, below:
It's nice to know that injured military personnel have an emergency rest stop available to them in Halifax when they're in need. But their families are unlikely to be comforted by the idea that a wounded soldier's survival with permanent disabilities represents an "ordeal" they might prefer to be spared, as suggested by Dr. John Ross. My own son's four months in Iraq have so far been quite uneventful (thank you, General Petraeus), but should he come back injured I would hope he wouldn't fall under the care of someone who thinks that he'd be better off dead than handicapped, and that his family would rather know the "closure" of his death than rally him to fight for his life. This is no way for anyone, especially a doctor, to think of mentally or physically disabled people, regardless of how they came to be in that condition. Let's pray that when the next plane touches down, there's time enough for a second opinion.
Thanks for this version. It still seems harsh. How about these additional, minor changes.ME:
Instead of "... but should he come back injured I would hope he wouldn't fall under the care of someone who thinks that he'd be better off dead than handicapped ..."
How about:"... but should he come back with severe injuries, I would hope he wouldn't fall under the care of someone who thinks that he'd be better off dead than badly handicapped ..."
Strikes me as a distinction without a difference, but I'm willing to go with it if it seems appropriate.
I guess for me the word "handicapped" already implies severe injuries, since most military people have the ability to shake off what would leave the rest of us prostrate and whining. Nearly 60% of those classified as "wounded" in Iraq are back with their units within 72 hours -- and many who have lostlimbs wish they could be. It's weird, but it's a fact. Some of the proudest young people I've ever seen in uniform have appliances where pieces of themselves used to be, or have scalps full of white zig-zag scars. Hence my disgust with the good doctor's willingness to let them go -- on the whole they are the first to rage against the dying of the light.
I sent the final reply about 11:30 p.m., so it was either too late to go to print, or they just decided to can the whole thing in the face of my intransigence. Will see tomorrow a.m.
Two of the Few and the Proud I had in mind in my last exchange, with whom we broke bread at a conference a couple of years ago:
Lcpl Steven Schultz (left) and SSgt Mark Graunke (right)