Wednesday, 6 August 2008

What happens to Tommy Atkins

We hear "One dead and three wounded" British soldiers. Even old soldiers will have little idea of what 'wounded' constitutes in modern warfare where high explosives get close to soft tissue.
An American medical officer talks of a book that sets out to illustrate what happens but is deemed so graphic that military surgeons are resisting it being available to civilians.
"The average Joe Surgeon, civilian or military, has never seen this stuff," Lounsbury said. "Yeah, they've seen guys shot in the chest. But the kind of ferocious blast, burn and penetrating trauma that's part of the modern IED wound is like nothing they've seen, even in a New York emergency room. It's a shocking, heart-stopping, eye-opening kind of thing. And they need to see this on the plane before they get there, because there's a learning curve to this."
The pictures of wounded children include some of a 5-year-old shot in a vehicle trying to run through a checkpoint. Other pictures show wounds riddled with dirt, genitals severed by a roadside bomb, a rib — presumably that of a suicide bomber — driven deep into a soldier's body, and the tail of an unexploded rocket protruding from a soldier's hip.
There are moments that reflect the desperation in the invaded country: an Afghan in the jaw-locked rictus of tetanus after home-treating a foot blown off by a landmine. And moments that reflect the modern American army: a soldier with unexplained pelvic pain that turns out to be a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
No need to go beyond what I have extracted to here. Just read the precis and then read Kipling's verse about how civilians value a man called Atkins. T.

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