An unusually thoughtful article by a U.S. Army surgeon in Afghanistan appears in the June 22/29, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Joshua Alley, M.D. begins by referring to a March 12, 1945 Time magazine story entitled “Amazing Thighbone” which described advanced, and ahead of its time, intramedullary rod treatment of femur fractures in American soldiers returning from German prison camps. Dr. Alley remarks that the captivating thought is that the enemy would render not just reluctant care, but outstanding care.
He then recounts the best possible medical care he and his colleagues provided, in adverse circumstances, to save the life of a wounded Afghan “enemy combatant,” with most nonmedical onlookers uninterested in their efforts. Dr. Alley goes on to observe “one mark of a civilized people is our response to wounded enemies. Cultural refinements like art, music, architecture, and technology don’t make us civilized. Some of the most barbaric monsters in human history have been avid subscribers of such refinements. How we relate to our wounded enemies, though, is our moment of truth.”