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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 48.0° F  Overcast
The Paper
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Love and war

Observers of the current political street fighting referred to as the primary season have been opining that the dynamic this election year is different from 2006, when the issue of the Iraq war was the engine that powered the political process. That has changed, the pundits say, with the (sad) state of the economy now the issue prominent in most voters' minds. Given what is happening to many people's jobs and earning power, that is not a great surprise.

The commentators speculate that the decrease in conflict in the Iraq theater - supposedly a result of the troop "surge," but probably no less equally attributable to new alliances forged by the American military with their erstwhile Sunni tormentors - has changed attitudes toward the war among those going to the polls. They could very well be right; the perception of winning can always sway some of the critics more concerned with the prospect of "losing" rather than with what was inherently right or wrong in the first place.

But regardless of pundits' analysis or the shifting priorities of the voting public, there are immutable facts that do not disappear with the alteration of the agenda: There are still more than 30,000 American service personnel who have been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan; more are coming; and they will be with us for a long time.

In our cover story this week, "The Wounds of War," features editor Kenneth Burns tells the stories of three wounded vets from the Madison area and how their experiences have changed their lives. They are perhaps braver in facing the future with damaged bodies, to say nothing of psyches, than they were in their initial decision to go to war. And, for the most part, they are still supportive of the ongoing military effort.

In addition to their physical wounds, they suffer the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. A previous story in Isthmus, "War Without End," December 2006, discussed the prospects of PTSD among returning soldiers and the challenges it presented to both the military medical establishment and the returnees themselves. The issue will abide with them for the rest of their lives.

On the matter of making love, not war, we make the first call this week for valentines, the grist for our annual Book of Love. An ad on the inside back cover of this issue gives you all the details. The easy way to participate is to go to and click on "Submit your Book of Love valentines (and pics, too!)." Yes, we're taking your love portraits again to use as illustration for the BOL. All things are revealed in the ad.

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