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The Medical and Societal Consequences of the Iraq War: Strategies to Promote True Security

On Saturday, May 19, 2007 GBPSR conducted a timely and well-received conference at Boston's historic Old South Church entitled The Medical and Societal Consequences of the War in Iraq: Strategies to Promote True Security. It was modeled after Los Angeles and Iowa PSR's highly successful events and was co-sponsored by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the Cambridge Peace Commission, Massachusetts Peace Action, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

It was designed to educate attendees about the true costs of the war in Iraq to the health of our nation.

Distinguished speakers captivated the audience of health professionals, concerned citizens, academics, members of the religious community, activists, veterans, and others with their passion about the moral imperatives for ending the Iraq War, and informed them with their considerable expertise about the wide range of health costs that will go on for decades.


Speakers included PSR and IPPNW physician-activists and other experts in economics, medical ethics, veteran's services, public health and epidemiology, as well as an Iraq war veteran and his activist wife, and a local minister. Presentations included the following: (We hope to also provide the video versions of the presentations. Stay tuned!)

John O. Pastore, MD - Ethics, War, and the Health Care Professional (PPT - 988 KB)
Dr. Pastore is Associate Professor of Medicine at Tufts University and Director of Echocardiology at Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center. He was among the first group of physicians invited by the Iraqi Medical Association to assess the effects of sanctions against Iraq. He is a past president of PSR.

In his presentation, Dr. John Pastore spoke about PSR's work to educate members of Congress about the human costs of the war, and referred to the New England Journal of Medicine photo essay on US casualties in Iraq sent by PSR to every member of Congress on March 17, 2006: "photos should be remembered when appropriations bills to support this generation's veterans come to your desk. These young men and women will be struggling with the aftermath of this devastation for decades after the world has moved on to other concerns. It will be up to you to remember to honor their sacrifices with rehabilitation, job training, and financial support."

David Rush, MD - Civilian Casualties: Making Sense of the Controversy (PPT - 331 KB)
Dr. Rush, Professor of Nutrition, Community Health, & Pediatrics (emeritus) at Tufts University, is one of three epidemiologists to sit on the US Department of Energy's Scientific Advisory Group to joint US-Russian studies on radiation exposure at nuclear weapons production sites in Russia.

Dr. David Rush, an epidemiologist and pediatrician, discussed the alternative methods for estimating death rates, especially in areas of conflict. He then discussed how these principles are relevant for counts of civilian casualties attributable to the Iraq War. Thus, the estimates made by Dr. Les Roberts and his colleagues, published last fall in The Lancet, appear to be the best estimates available and are founded on sound science. Roberts et al. estimated that about 655,000 civilian deaths were caused by the war up to the summer of 2006, more than ten times the highest previous estimates.

Gene Bolles, MD - Hidden and Horrific Costs of War
Dr. Bolles, a Vietnam veteran, served as Chief of Neurosurgery at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, treating injured soldiers from war zones around the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq. He was an advisor on the film, The Ground Truth (see below).

Dr. Gene Bolles spoke about his experiences treating injured soldiers in Germany and interacting with Iraqi civilians. He illustrated his talk with numerous photographs taken on Iraqi streets in the aftermath of suicide and roadside bombings to show civilian causalities, and photographs taken at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany of surgeons treating severely injured soldiers. He emphasized the tragic toll the war has taken on so many lives.

James Munroe, Ed.D - Working with Veterans and Their Families: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Other Key Issues, and Clinical Dilemmas (PPT - 102 KB)
Dr. Munroe is an expert from the Veteran Administration's Boston Healthcare System's National PTSD Center.

Dr. James Munroe revealed the tremendous psychological trauma this war is inflicting on the soldiers of the Iraq War as well as their children and presented information on how the Veteran's Administration is attempting to address this enormous health problem.

Andy and Anne Sapp - Veterans for Peace/Military Families Speak Out (not available on-line)
Andy Sapp, a reservist and Iraq veteran, spoke about the effects of deployment on service members and their families. Anne Sapp is on the Board of Military Families Speak Out and advocates for recognition that family members need medical support as well.

Andy Sapp spoke eloquently about the tremendous challenges he has faced dealing with his PTSD. His wife, Anne, who is very active with Military Families Speak Out, spoke movingly about how PTSD affects the entire family, causing much long-term suffering.

Victor Sidel, MD - Preemptive War, Nukes, and Proliferation: A Prescription for Disaster (PPT - 2.29 MB)
A past president of the American Public Health Association, PSR, and IPPNW, Dr. Sidel is co-editor of War and Public Health, Terrorism and Public Health, Social Injustice and Public Health, and The Global Gun Epidemic: From Saturday Night Specials to AK-47s. He is Distinguished University Professor of Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Public Health, Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Dr. Sidel discussed the looming nuclear arms race in the Middle East as Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and other nations begin to think that they need nuclear weapons to prevent threats of conventional or nuclear attacks on them. He addressed the connection to the war in Iraq.

Linda Bilmes - The Medical and Disability Costs of the Iraq War (PPT - 94.5 KB)
Professor Bilmes teaches public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 2006, she co-authored "The Economic Costs of the Iraq War: An Appraisal Three Years after the Beginning of the Conflict."

Professor Linda Bilmes discussed her groundbreaking research on the true economic costs of this war, which is closer to $2 trillion when the sum of the current and future budgetary costs along with the economic impact of lives lost, jobs interrupted, and oil prices driven higher by political uncertainty in the Middle East are factored in. For more on this, please see (434 KB) and

Rev. John F. Hudson - War, Peace, and God (PDF - 100 KB)
Rev. Hudson is Sr. Pastor at West Concord Union Church. He is also a newspaper columnist and active in the Troop Deployment Support Group comprised of friends and families of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rev. Hudson brought the conference to a close with am inspiring call to moral action, and in referring to the war said, "This is a war unlike any other, one cloaked in secrecy and shame, even. Of 'mission accomplished' while thousands still die. Of paper tiger victories and quagmire just beneath the surface. Of lies. Lies. Where images of flag-draped coffins are censored. Where prisoners are tortured. Where soldiers are put in untenable situations when any choice they make is heart-breaking....and America, most of America, does not even blush..."

Movie - The Ground Truth

During the discussion and question and answer period, the film The Ground Truth ( was shown to attendees interested in viewing this Academy Award nominee "Hailed as 'powerful' and 'quietly unflinching' . . . the subjects are patriotic young Americans - ordinary men and women who heeded the call for service in Iraq - as they experience recruitment and training, combat, homecoming, and the struggle to reintegrate with families and communities."

The well-respected Western Massachusetts progressive organization the Traprock Peace Center filmed and photographed the conference.

Momentum to end this war is building. We encourage you to use this material to move it forward. Share it with your family, friends, work colleagues, everyone. Use it to write to your congressional representations and the president and in letters to the editor. Use it as inspiration for signs you bring to protests. Please let us know by e-mail how you use this material in your work to help stop the Iraq War -

We'd like to thank the following organizations and people for donations that helped make this program possible:

And to our program co-sponsors who helped publicize the event:

Additional Resources

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Page Updated October 9, 2013