The Brains Behind the War

The influx of thousands of American military personnel returning from Iraq with brain injuries, amputations, blindness, and other neurological conditions presents an unusual and uncomfortable opportunity for the neurotechnology industry, as we report in our article on page 1 of this issue. Neurotech firms active in the neural prosthesis and neurorehabilitation markets may well see increased business resulting from these new potential users. Also, research institutions and start-up firms may see new sources of funding from government agencies set up in response to the new types of injuries this war has produced. Initiatives such as DARPA’s Advanced Prosthetics Program, the VA’s Restorative and Rehabilitation Center, and the U.S. Army’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies established at MIT are all examples of how federal research dollars have taken a decided turn toward military and security programs in recent years.

To the extent that these initiatives represent concern for the well being of veterans, they are commendable. Moreover, as has been the case with other military technologies in the past, there is a great opportunity for spinoff of defense technology for civilian applications.

However, we must avoid the danger that the potential profit that the defense economy stands to deliver to our industry will suck us into passive acceptance of the civilian mismanagement that has misused and maltreated the precious resource represented by our military personnel. The fact that we do business with the government does not relieve us of our sacred responsibility in a democracy to hold our elected officials accountable for the policies they have pursued. Moreover, the fact we cherish and admire our returning servicepeople does not mean that we cannot question the wisdom of the war in Iraq or the moral fiber of the Washington elite who started it.

The Bush administration wants us to believe that it was honest mistakes in intelligence and not willful deception that led to the many false statements used to justify this war. We’d like to believe that too, since the alternative is so unpalatable. Unfortunately, the only evidence they have offered is that many members of the opposition party voted for the war too, ignoring the very vocal and well considered opposition that came from our closest allies, not least, Canada. That country’s history of courage and friendship extends well beyond the beaches of Dieppe and Juno and the Iranian hostage crisis. If the administration was truly just inept in its decision-making, an apology should be in order to the allies who endured our abuse for not joining the war.

The injured soldiers returning from Iraq deserve our support and all the medical technology we can possibly provide. The question that remains is whether we, in the end, are deserving of their service.

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher



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