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Iraq’s Deadly Germs

As anyone who’s ever read Guns, Germs, and Steel will tell you, bacteria and viruses have long been a part of combat — some times, the nastiest part. During the waning days of World War I, the flu sent 70,000 American troops to the hospital; one-third never recovered. In the Civil War, twice as many troops died from disease as from gunshots.
FF_132_enemy3_f.jpgToday’s problems aren’t nearly so severe, in comparison. Since th invasion of Iraq, “more than 700 US soldiers have been infected or colonized with [the bacteria] Acinetobacter baumannii,” Steve Silberman reports in the current Wired magazine. “The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology has recorded seven deaths caused by the bacteria in US hospitals along the evacuation chain.“
But it’s the way that the American military officials have dealt with the bug’s release that’s particularly disturbing. “For a long time, the DoD claimed that the bacteria… was a naturally occurring organism in the Iraqi soil that infected soldiers when they were wounded by IEDs,” Silberman tels Defense Tech. “As you’ll see, this is not the case, and the DoD has known the true source of the infections — the combat support hospitals in Iraq themselves — for over a year and a half.“
One marine’s mom was told her son died of “injuries as a result of enemy action.” Turned out, it was Acinetobacter, instead.
Now, this isn’t the first time the military has mislead families about how their kin were killed. Pat Tillman is probably the most famous example of this in recent years. First, the Tillmans were told he died from enemy fire; then, from friendly; now, murder isn’t being ruled out. But there are many, many others. The question is: Why lie?
(Big ups: XJ)

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcie Hascall Clark January 23, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Why Lie?
The DOD’s typical knee jerk reaction to mistakes, cover them up. In the case of acinetobacter, maybe what we don’t know won’t hurt us, except that it’s deadly this time.
My husband got it after being blown up and they kept information from us even when I learned enough to start asking about it. They never released his medical records or lab reports to his civilian doctors who handled it very badly. He was overdosed on antibiotics that it wasn’t even senstive too.
They have been very negligent all the way around.
They failed to diagnose the leishmaniasis my had while in their care also.
That’s good one we need to talk about to.
It’s as ugly as it sounds.


Big Daddy January 23, 2007 at 7:34 pm

They lie because that’s what they do.
They don’t understand the concept of telling the truth. Never did and never will…..
I talk from personal experience.


Solomon January 23, 2007 at 11:44 pm

Why Lie?
All a matter of leadership. I have never seen the officer corps so screwed up as it is now. The lack of courage on all parts (not speaking of the troops here, but of the civilian and military leadership) is breathtaking.
To lose a loved one in a far off land is one thing but to lie to them is something else entirely. Whoever is pushing this type action needs to roast in hell.
Perhaps just as important…HAS THIS ISSUE BEEN RESOLVED!?!? Or is it just in the notification stage?


Mycroft January 24, 2007 at 1:03 am

Always consider other motivations besides malice. Information unrelated to immediate, operational concerns doesn’t spread well inside a bureaucracy.
I suspect that the people asked were repeating what they’d heard to be truth, and not looking further. RUMINT is the primary means of getting information inside the DoD system, after all.


Noah Shachtman January 24, 2007 at 10:53 am

Point taken.


Solomon January 24, 2007 at 2:45 pm

People dying not from combat related injuries but because of infectious bacteria in a military hospital is not a case of malice? Then to knowingly hide that fact from family members is not malice? We’re not talking about “are we gonna be extended” or “I heard 2/5 got hit real hard last night”, we’re talking lives so put that RUMINT nonsense in your back pocket!
You can’t continue to excuse this type behavior.


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