“I am twenty-four and I lost my leg and I don’t know why”

Or so said Second Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell on her return to the States after a routine trip in a Humvee from the Green Zone in Baghdad to the morass of Mosul outside Iraq’s sanitised Western occupied zone led to an attack on her armoured vehicle, which because of the disorganisation of the American armed forces, had no doors.

Melissa writes:

You hear in the news, ‘Seven Wounded’. You never hear their names or what unit they are in. I was in Mosul when our Humvee was hit. Unfortunately, it had no doors. I’m 24″¦I lost my left leg and I don’t know why.

This, a week or two, after there was a near mutiny by American service people because of the incompetence of their commanders in not providing adequate supplies or protection for them. Picking up on Ken’s drawing our attention to Peter Hartcher’s babble about ‘Jacksonian’ military machismo among Scots-Irish trailer trash, one has to wonder if the American electorate will also reflect on the human cost of the Iraq war to American service people.

On Lateline the other night, one of my personal favourite ABC foreign correspondents, Leigh Sales, visited Junction City, Kansas, a city with a major military base where the public park contains 45 crosses marking the deaths in Iraq of soldiers based in the town. Sales notes in her story that the impact of the Iraq War, and discussion about its pros and cons, is massively heightened in this bastion of militarism in one of the mid-West’s most Republican states.

There have been reports for a while – not just of dissent from the uniformed ranks of the Pentagon hierarchy against the neo-con civilians who are their masters – but also of increasing disillusionment among rank and file soldiers, national guardsmen and women and their families – normally a very conservative voting bloc.

Will this continue to be the case in 2004?

In 1944, the Republicans in Congress sought to make it difficult for US servicemen deployed overseas to vote in the Presidential election – because they were expected to heavily support their commander in chief, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 2004, will the opposite dynamic apply?

For the record, 2nd Lt. Melissa Stockwell is from the 1st Cavalry Division based in Fort Hood in George W. Bush’s state of Texas. To cheer her up after the amputation of her leg, the US Military Public Affairs Section sent Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne to visit her in Walter Reed Medical Centre and thank her for her sacrifice. If you follow the link, it’s worth clicking on the photo to enlarge it and to study carefully Melissa’s face as Ozzie and Sharon do their patriotic duty by her.

Meanwhile, President George W. Bush refuses to attend the funerals of any of the US servicepeople killed in Iraq, and photographers are sacked for photographing their flag-draped coffins.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
This entry was posted in Politics - international, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
C.L.
2022 years ago

Did Bill Clinton attend the funerals of the men killed in Somalia and other places?

This is just nonsensical trickery. First, invent a presidential duty, then castigate Bush for failing to live up to it. The President has said several times that for he and his security detail, plus 1000 reporters and cameras, to attend the funerals of soldiers killed in action would make a mockery of proceedings. Not only that, but if he did attend them, you’d be writing posts on how he was callously milking photo-ops out of others’ suffering.

With respect to the flag-draped coffins being photographed, the respect that should be afforded the dead as they lay together that way is twofold: 1) they are part of the military collective, indistinguishable because of the flag. That’s the level at which a photographer might decide to take a picture: all those bodies, all America’s dead; so many, so sad etc.

The second element of respect afforded these people, however, transcends the collective and has to do with the fact that underneath their uniformity they are individuals with names and families and rights to dignity.

I don’t know about you but if some stranger came into my parish Church and took a ‘human interest’ photograph of my deceased brother’s coffin, I’d shove his Nikon down his throat.

Melissa may never understand her loss and that is, indeed, very sad. She’s a heroine and one hopes that that relatively trivial laurel may be of some small comfort to her in the months and years ahead.

Speaking personally, it’s a shame that a woman was placed in such direct danger.

Darp Hau
2022 years ago

Where should she have been CL?

In the kitchen?

Doesn’t she count as being a part of your so-called military collective?

brian mckinlay
brian mckinlay
2022 years ago

What a contrast. I understand that the salaries for US military persons are about half those paid to Brits and Australians…and the lack of facilities for those in US hospitals post-Iraq is something of a scandal. Poor Melissa,what a contrast to the creaming-off of profits for people Like V.P-Cheney and his Halliburton friends,taking home millions in war profits,not to mention the Head Neo-Con himself ,Richard Pearle himself who has made millions from war-related business groups,whilst Chairman of the Pentagon Board,
not to mention his no doubt profitable links with his friend Ariel Sharon..to whom he also been a “consultant” ,making real dividends there..kosher dividends no doubt !

C,L.
2022 years ago

That’s them Joos for yer – they control everything.

akman
akman
2022 years ago

Has it ever occurred to you that the best way to inspire antisemitism is to constantly and shrilly accuse people of hating Jews?

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Unfortunately, it seems, there are a lot more Melissa’s than the US govt wants us to know about. We know that they don’t do body counts of Iraqis killed. Less well known is that they fudge their own count of injuries.

I heard a report on News Radio recently that said the US give their tally of injured in Iraq as 7,500. Half of that number were patched up on the spot and returned to service, so the serious injuries were quite low, it was claimed. Some mean doubters did a count of medivac incidents, that is medical evacuations of military personnel from Iraq, usually to Germany or the US. That count was over 20,000.

It seems that the military only classify injuries as casualties if they happen in certain narrowly defined circumstances. I can’t remember exactly, but I think it had to be through direct engagement with the enemy. It’s possible that injuries or even deaths caused by suicide bombers or attacks by sundry “bandits” while driving to or from any destination may not count.

Then there is another story that we seldom hear about relating to ‘depleted uranium’ used in shells. This stuff, used in four wars now (Iraq x 2, Bosnia and Afghanistan), can’t be used safely and the US military personnel are apparently not significantly trained in precautions. any-one wanting to get their head into this issue could do worse than start with a google search of Doug Rokke.

Rokke worked on cleaning up affected sites after GW1. They had to gather up all the bits and pieces and take them back to the one site in the US where things could be decontaminated. It was hopeless, and soon his team members started to become sick and die.

The subsequent story is too long to go into here, but let’s say it is about as bad as you might imagine and includes many sad stories of affected army personnel having trouble proving that their condition was caused by the war and hence being entitled to proper care as vets.

The same thing is bound to happen after GW11.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

CL, I don’t know whether or not Bill Clinton attended military funerals. I understand that Clinton personally phoned their relatives and wrote himself to convey condolences. I think the point with Bush arose because Karl Rove made some comments indicating Bush’s non-attendance was part of a “strategy”. Now that in itself, in my book, is a worry.

The issues with the coffins arose because until Bush’s administration it had been customary to allow television filming of the flag-draped coffins being returned via plane with military honours being accorded. The photograph incident only arose because Rumsfeld first organised that all bodies be returned to one location and then banned any press coverage, thus creating a market for such pictures. Please note that the practice of honouring the war dead through public ceremonies on their return to the States is a very different thing from the private display of a coffin in a parish church.

C.L.
2022 years ago

Mark,

The woman concerned was not “honouring” the dead. She sneakily took pictures without authorisation for personal profit.

Glad you’re blogging now BTW.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Thanks, CL!

As sometimes seems to happen with our interchanges, we’re not in disagreement – just at cross purposes. I didn’t say and wouldn’t suggest she was “honouring the dead”. Most charitably, she was trying to draw attention to the issue but more probably on the evidence she was looking for a buck by selling the pics. My point was that the fact that she would be motivated to do this was a consequence of the prior fact that the public practice of honouring the war dead had ceased. Make sense?

C.L.
2022 years ago

Fair enough.