Del Meyer, MD
A postmortem exam, also known as an autopsy, was extremely important in understanding the human body and how it works. It was the only way in many instances to find the cause of death or treatment failure. This became less important in the 20th century as we were able see the insides of the human body with x-rays, ultrasounds (US – using high frequency sound above the range of human hearing, computerized tomography scans (CT – using x-rays to see detail of bones, solid organs and dense tissues), magnetic and radio wave imaging (MRI to visualize organs, ligaments and other soft tissues with no x-ray exposure, Positron Emission Tomography (PetScan – using a radioactive drug tracer to show areas of the body that have unusually high levels of chemical activity, which typically relates to a disease or disorder such as cancer), laparoscopes, and other fiberoptic endoscopes inserted into our bodies to visualize our interiors and flex around corners and obtain biopsies.
The post-mortem exam gives us information on disease processes and how to improve the medical treatment in the next patient with similar poorly understood findings. Although the postmortem is done less frequently, it is still very important in forensic medicine to explain the cause of sudden or unexplained deaths and in crimes. Forensic medicine is still largely dependent on findings found ante mortem to assist in the post mortem dissection of organs and tissues. The pathologist then renders his “gross anatomic diagnosis” based on his visual and morbid examination. It is only weeks later, after the organs and tissues are fixed that the tissues can be sliced and microscopic slides made. The slides are then read through a microscope after which the “micro anatomic diagnosis” can be rendered. The pathologist then combines these findings and the entire final report, once given to the clinician, can be useful.
Almost all human endeavor, both private and public, depends significantly on the “retrospective-scope” whether on land, at sea, in the air, or in space. Sports have a coach to evaluate plays and project corrections during the action; much like a physician evaluating a patient during an active disease process and altering the subsequent treatment program. Sports also rely significantly on peering inside their plays during post-game sessions with the players as they view the game on film so they can make corrections in their next game; the revised game or treatment plan.
This is not a review of the microscopic details of the IRAQ war. That must be left to the generals and historians. It is simply a gross overview of how the war could have been better played and could possibly have modernized the entire Arab society, bringing them into the 21st century. General Schwarzkopf observed that at the end of Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait from Iraq, he was able to look down on Bagdad and lamented that his orders were to stop at the IRAQ border. He implied that he could have continued and taken Sadam Hussein and finished the Persian Gulf War rather quickly. Sadam Hussein had miscalculated the support from the 21-member Arab league. The Kuwait, or first Gulf War, eventually became the second Gulf War later called the Iraq War. It was then predicted that the Hanging of Sadam Hussein would liberate Iraq and produce a democratic state in less than a year. It was the height of naiveté to think that one could produce a democracy when neither they nor any of the other 20 member of the Arab League had any experience with democracy.
After WWII, MacArthur ruled Japan for 13 years. This allowed for Japan’s transformation into a freedom or more civil nation through a complete cycle of primary and secondary education. Thus by age 18, a whole generation of Japanese were exposed to the basic elements of a free and democratic society. They have remained a freedom society and maintained our friendship as allies for more than 60 years. They remained our allies as we used our Military Bases there for service through the Korean and the Vietnamese wars.
Had we done the same in Iraq as we did in Japan, we could have had the chance to civilize the Mideast. By having the commanding General establish a strong presence with impenetrable military bases in Iraq as we did in Japan, and given him the same power that we gave to General MacArthur who civilized Japan which then became a trustworthy ally, couldn’t we have done this in Iraq? If we had done the same under our Commanding General and stayed in Iraq as long as MacArthur did in Japan, then the Arabs in Iraq would have been educated in freedom instead of a hate environment from Kindergarten through High School. Then a whole generation of Arabs would have been bathed in Liberty, Civility, and Democracy. With a democracy flourishing in Iraq, that would have been the greatest incentive for the 20 nation Arab league to change their course after thousands of years of hostility. This new democracy could have changed a whole generation of Arabs and Muslims and have been the most efficacious way to change the course of the Mideast.
My colleagues from Israel say that the mid-east Muslims are taught by their parents and by their schools one essential concerning the Jews. What could be overheard in school yard talk? “Who are the Jews? They are our enemy. What do we do with our enemies? We Kill Them!”
Our leaders thought they could leave Iraq within six months after the war was “won.” Eighteen years of being taught “hatred” and to “kill” cannot be reversed in six month or even 6 years. Possibly not even in the 13 years we took in Japan of being taught the message of human freedom, love and friendship. But, then our leaders at the time did not have enough public support to establish peace.
Post mortem exams cannot restore life or change history. But did we learn from our post mortem of Iraq to avoid another death? With our lack of understanding Arab history we have failed to move society forward. Will the Arab wars, or ISIS we are observing continue for another millennium? Didn’t we miss our chance to change the history of the Mideast?[i]
Again we are faced with the age old reality—not understanding history—we are condemned to repeat it. And shed American blood unnecessarily? Unfortunately.
Del Meyer, MD