Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Here is a news brief from Radio Free Europe.
Azerbaijanis Say Soldiers Had 'Colds,' Not Poisoned June 02, 2009 BAKU -- The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry says 164 soldiers hospitalized last week simply "caught colds" and were not victims of poisoning, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
The ministry said on May 30 that bacteriological tests proved the soldiers suffered from a "stomach ailment."
Officials said that 158 of the soldiers who required hospitalization last week were released after checkups.
Azer Maqsudov, the head of the toxicological department at the Clinical Hospital, told RFE/RL that nausea, headaches, stomach pain, and high temperature -- symptoms that the soldiers experienced -- sounded more like symptoms of food poisoning, not colds.
A couple of thoughts came to mind as I read this brief. First, my bet would be that what sickened the soldiers was food poisoning. Military service in Azerbaijan is required, so I spoke with many men who had served in the army there. Very few had anything positive to say about how they were treated. (Actually, I can't think of anyone who had anything positive to say - aside from repeating patriotic slogans.)
I also remembered how many young men who had their lives derailed by the military service requirement. I knew several who had promising educational options waiting for them, but the requirement for army service was unavoidable. The men I spoke to described the experience in the army as profoundly boring, with no meaningful training.
Yes, I know it's dreaming. But how much better we all could live if we didn't have to devote so many human and material resources to the cause of organized violence.