Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving: Non-combat-related deaths in Iraq, MRAPs & turkeys

(Photos are of a typical day in Gaza -- probably NOT Thanksgiving Day)

Right now I'm all scurrying around, trying to find a Thanksgiving dinner to go to so that I won't have to cook one myself. "Do you think that your father is going to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year?" I asked my daughter-in-law.


But then my daughter Ashley and her friends Ricky and Aleena said that they had been counting on ME to cook Thanksgiving dinner because they too had nowhere else to go either. "Can your father fit in three more people?" I asked my daughter-in-law.


But just to make sure, I also ran off to Safeway and bought a frozen turkey too -- on special for $5.99. "Do you have any idea what kind of a turkey you could possibly get for $5.99?" asked my son. "Those turkeys are raised under the most extreme conditions." How extreme? Hey, they're cheap.

But then I read Barbara Kingsolver's description of factory-raised turkeys in her new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

"Of the 400 million turkeys Americans consume each year, more than 99 percent of them are a single breed: The Broad-Breasted White, a quick-fattening monster bred specifically for the industrial-scale setting. These are the big lugs so famously dumb, they can drown by looking up at the rain. (Friends of mine swear they have seen this happen.) If a Broad-Breasted White should escape slaughter, it likely wouldn't live to be a year old: they get so heavy, their legs collapse. In mature form they're incapable of flying, foraging, or mating...."

But I've also got other things to worry about besides dumb turkeys right now. Currently I am worried about dumb MRAPs, the up-armored vehicles that have replaced Humvees in Iraq. Those turkeys appear to be too stupid to fly, forage or mate either.

"Aren't you being a little too hard on MRAPs," you might say. Nah.

Recently I talked with a vet who had just come back from Iraq. "I love MRAPs because of all their body armor," said the vet, "but their cornering abilities suck eggs." Then he went on to tell me about how many servicemen have died from "non-combat-related" injuries when one of those MRAPs turns over -- and a light went on in my head.

"I get press releases all the time about 'non-combat-related' deaths in Iraq," I said, "but I thought they were just referring to knife-fights in bars or something."

"No, those stories are more than likely related to MRAP accidents." Oh. I have at least ten of that type of press release in my inbox right now. So. On Thanksgiving day, part of me will be totally thankful for MRAPs because they protect our troops. But another part of me will be totally pissed off that at least ten soldiers that I know of are apparently dead because of MRAPs -- and that the families of those soldiers have to spend their Thanksgiving holiday in mourning.

But I still wasn't completely convinced that MRAPs were the cause of so many non-combat-related deaths, so I googled "MRAP death accident" and got an article by Wired Magazine. "...a recent report from the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned cautions that the although MRAP is a life saver, it may introduce some new hazards of its own. The report 'indicates concerns about the bulky, top-heavy vehicle rolling over in combat zones,' according to Army Times. 'Of the 38 MRAP accidents between Nov. 7 and June 8, only four did not involve a roll-over. Many of the incidents ended with troops suffering injuries, and an April 23 roll-over led to the drowning death of two soldiers.'"

But let's get back to talking about food. Here's my recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing: Cook up some brown rice, put it in a large bowl, add walnut pieces, cut-up apples, sage and melted butter and then stir. Then stuff the turkey -- smart or dumb -- with this mixture and cook it. And then try to convince your children that, no, it's not some sort of weirdo Mom recipe left over from the 1960s when I was a hippie living at Crooked Prairie, a back-to-the-land commune up near Garberville. Nope, this stuffing recipe is haute cuisine!.


Multi-National Corps - Iraq, Public Affairs Office, Camp VictoryFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: RELEASE No. 20081121-01, Nov. 21, 2008: MND-C Soldier dies of non-combat related cause. CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - A Multi National Division -- Center Soldier died of non-combat related causes Nov. 20. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.