The doctors are dying


The hostilities in Iraq are being caused by the disease of religious and ethnic hate and the United States has decided to be the doctor. But the doctors are dying. This is a time for a dose of the bitter medicine of hard cold logic.

The principles of emergency medical rescue and of medical triage, as applied in the battlefield must be used by Congress.

Rescue, where heroes get medals

Since Caesar’s time medals for valor have been awarded to soldiers who risked their lives to save their comrades. Under battlefield conditions the gut wrenching decision soldiers sometimes face is whether they should try to save a wounded soldier when there is a high likelihood they too will be wounded and also need rescuing.

Triage, where unsung heroes toil

Triage literally means to separate out, but in the 1930’s began to be used by the military to describe the way wounded soldiers were dealt with when there were more injured troops than personnel to treat them. The term then moved to general emergency medicine.

Critically wounded soldiers were given comfort and little else, even denied morphine if it was in short supply. The less severely wounded who could wait for medical attention would be shunted aside with the minimal attention, sometimes just enough needed to stop a wound from bleeding.

Corpsmen and medics would devote their greatest effort to those likely to have their lives saved by medical intervention. Soldier’s limbs that could be preserved if time wasn’t a factor were sometimes amputated because other soldiers whose lives hung in the balance needed intensive medical attention.

The soldiers who still make triage decision are heroes in their own right.

In 1971, when I ran a mental health center, I started one of the first outreach programs for Vietnam veterans with PTSD. I met a combat corpsman who sat with a member of his unit who’d been hit in the head by an unexploded rocket propelled grenade (RPG). It had lodged in his skull in such a way that he retained some consciousness despite being pumped with morphine. The chances of it being removed without exploding were remote, and the victim knew this.

This brave corpsman volunteered to talk to his fellow soldier while ordinance experts rigged wires to extract the RPG from a safe distance. He was the last person this man talked to.

Medical triage is still practiced on the battlefield. But it is very different now. Because of body armor and rapid evacuation where state of the art medical facilities can be reached within the so-called golden hour, virtually all American soldiers who can survive their wounds, do survive them.

Iraq itself is now mortally wounded like the soldier hit with the RPG. We are faced with recognizing that it’s prudent to declare the patient beyond hope. It has become likely that Iraq will have to blow apart before it can put itself together.


The Republicans and President Bush say that twenty-one thousand additional “doctors” will do the job, that the United States and Iraqi army and police can staff the blood soaked emergency room Iraq has become.

Wishful thinking

This is now a war about saving Iraq from Iraqis, and to a far lesser extent, killing a few al-Qaeda fighters who are being created faster then they can be eliminated.

The former is a just cause, but it is futile. The later is a skirmish in the war on terror.

It’s wishful thing, and worse, it is instilling false hope, to suggest that 21,500 new troops, new doctors, can save this patient.

(Hal Brown is a clinical social worker and former mental health center director who is mostly retired from his private psychotherapy practice. He writes on the psychopathology of public figures and other topics that pique his interest. He can be found online at


  1. Rick

    Lots of good talk … but no action. Wars are started on false pretenses supported by trumped-up media stories … again and again. The perpetrators of these frauds are never brought to justice. Even the most egregious villains such as Hitler get away with it literally until the end of the war … and he would have walked away scot-free if the Nazis had won. Why is this? Because the elite, most ruthless members of society run things. If anyone stands in their way (e.g., John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Paul Wellstone), they are eliminated.

  2. Elizabeth Mondschein

    Is there a cure for insanity? Is there a cure for greed? Is there a cure for falsifying the truth? EM

  3. Minuteman

    Bruce Catton, the historian put it this way:

    “In any war, the men who die for patriotism die also for the enrichment of cold-eyed schemers who risk nothing, and every battle is made uglier by the greed of men who never fight.”

    by the way, I chose my name, not for the people who think they are protecting our southern border, but for the heros who stood at the bridge at Concord, against the day when we might have to revive the proclamation that starts “When in the course of human events………..”

  4. JimZ

    Kent, now, you’re “hurting our troops” by saying all that! You’re supposed to just keep your mouth shut and say “heil”!~

    I think there’s nothing our troops want to hear more than us talking about ways to get them home and non-escalation. It’s the least we can do.

    We should have done Afghanistan RIGHT. We have now screwed that country over at least 3 times now. The government doesn’t run that country. The drug lords and Taliban basically run everything outside Kabul, so what are our troops going there for? More targets for practice? Oh, I remember, to guard that oil pipeline to the Caspian Sea from that despotic country of Turkmenistan. The one we attacked them to build. Our motivations?

    A) Freedom

    B) Justice

    C) Cheaper, more plentiful drugs

    D) Help those poor people out and rebuild & prosper after all those years of Soviet domination & civil war

    E) Build oil pipeline across Afghanistan for U.S. corporation (Unocal), build by Bechtel and Halliburton

    If you answered A and/or B, you still support the Bu$h administration…

  5. Michael

    I hope people that love war and killing are happy. And I hope that there GOD is happy with them, because I know the GOD I love would not be very happy. But what do I know?? I’m a bleeding heart.

  6. Kent Shaw

    Good article, Hal. Sending 21,500 more troops is an exercise in futility, nothing more than an attempt to save face for the president. 215,000 troops might be more effective but we don’t have them. Bush announced yesterday in an appearance before the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute that he was extend tours of 3000 troops in Afghanistan by four months. The army is spread very thin. It is all madness. Just madness. Usless waste of taxpayer dollars and soldiers’ lives. It is so depressing and it just does not have to happen. Senseless. Horrid. Damn it all.

  7. Ahhh … God … I was trying to think of something to say and just got stuck on some lines penned by John Prine …

    “your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore

    it’s already filled up from your dirty stinking war

    you know Jesus don’t like killing, doesn’t matter the reason it’s for

    and your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore”

    Peace is the answer – but there’s no profit in peace – so the military-industrial complex that Ike warned us about demands that we sacrifice humanity for profit – something politians and relegious leaders have been doing since man first discovered that it’s better to be a have than a have-not.


  8. paolo

    Hi Kent,

    I like your quiz. Here’s another one.

    Nations go to war to:

    A) Fight for Truth and Justice

    B) Bring Freedom to others

    C) Enrich special interests who profit from war.

    D) Widen the powers of the ruling class against their own citizens.

    E) A and B

    F) C and D

  9. Kent Shaw

    paolo, that was JimZ’s quiz but I wholeheartedly endorse it. Yours also. I guess our rulers figure we are stupid, and because we do nothing to stop them, I guess they are correct. While I do not advocate violence of any kind, nor will I participate in violence of any kind, one might think that a few well placed assassinations of CEO’s of certain “Defense” contractors and highly placed politicians might begin to send a message. However this would be agains the law and, again, I do not and cannot support such actions. In fact I advocate against such actions, no matter how effective they might seem at first glance. Violence only begets more violence, and our goal is ALWAYS LESS violence.


  10. Mark Gutting-Kilzer

    The cock sure, arrogant surgeon started an operation for which he was poorly qualified. He plunged deep into the chest seeking a particular malady, but failing to discover it, he changed his diagnosis on the fly and pushed on. As he proceeded deeper into the patient’s bowels with no apparent inkling of where the ailment lay, he stubbornly rejected offers of assistance. With organs splayed over the operating table, and patient’s vital signs plummeting, the surgeon beligerently tells all others to get out of the way. He repeatedly increased the charge on the cardiac resuscitator and has blasted jolt ofter jolt of energy through dying patient’s body yet he insists its not over, but the vitals have shown flatline for quite some time now.

    When will the others finally drag this buffoon of a surgeon away and drape the sheet over this corpse

  11. Hal

    Great article and as always on the mark and money.

    Tjhis whole business is so frustrating as I see others feel as well.

    Our “caring President” whom we’ve been told “agonizes” over every soldier that pays the ultimate price for his illegal invasion of a soverign country. What BS


    Troops, people, everyone is “expendable” to these types. They have a goal, IMO in this case, OIL, MONEY, POWER, and NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING else matters to them

    Our “NEW” Congress seems to be stuck in Park waiting for the next way to get a perk.

    IMO the actions of George W. Bush (because he is responsible) and the people around him actually involved in the doing of all this illegal, lawbreaking etc etc are nothing more than common criminals.

    Yet, our duly elected Congress, REPUBLICANS AND dEMOCRATS ALIKE WHINE AT EACH OTHER AND do nothing