Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Exploiting Wounded Soldiers at Walter Reed

A two-part series in the Washington Post, written by Dana Priest and Anne Hull, claimed that some Iraq War veterans are getting substandard care at Walter Reed Medical Center. The articles described overcrowded facilities infested with rodents, cockroaches and mold, lost paperwork and patients who are discharged too early. "There are cockroaches," said one soldier suffering from a psychological disorder. "The elevator doesn't work. The garage door doesn't work. Sometimes there's no heat, no water. . . . I told my platoon sergeant I want to leave. I told the town hall meeting. I talked to the doctors and medical staff. They just said you kind of got to get used to the outside world. . . . My platoon sergeant said, 'Suck it up!' "

Of course, Dana Priest really should be in jail for her traitorous Pulitzer Prize-winning story about top secret prisons in eastern Europe. As Jonah Goldberg points out she has a left-wing bias and he won't believe the story unless Geraldo Rivera reports on it. I think her agenda is clear because she always writes negative stories about the Bush Administration and never writes anything bad about the Clinton Administration. If this story is true, Clinton was probably responsible for setting in motion the deterioration of conditions there, which couldn't have happened overnight.

Although the articles do make Walter Reed sound bad, they give a distorted, one-sided picture. They don't tell us about the thousands of tough, courageous veterans who survived their care there. The story makes some veterans look like whiners and complainers, when most veterans are happy to make sacrifices for their country. Veterans know that their service to their country doesn't end when they come home, and they are perfectly willing to save the government a little money, just as they were proud to serve without body armor or armored vehicles that would have been much too expensive to provide. Most veterans don't want to be coddled and they don't think they need the kind of care that only rich people can afford just for doing their duty. To imply otherwise is the journalistic equivalent of spitting on our brave soldiers.

Even if a small minority of soldiers are suffering, they would much prefer to suffer in silence rather than hurt the war effort, which is what many conservatives believe is the real agenda behind this story. Michelle Malkin pointed out that the article has a "condescending tone." Fuzzybear Lioness at Fuzzilicious Thinking wrote, "This was a pathetic piece of propaganda about how all the wounded are to be pitied and how they'll never be able to function in society, and how nobody really cares. The anti-war whisper throughout is almost a shout." Andi, who works as a volunteer at Walter Reed, writes of the reporters, "I am suspicious of their motives, and with good reason. The administrators in charge of Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospitals certainly appear inept as a result of this story, but the subtle nuggets of red meat handed to opponents of Operation Iraqi Freedom make an important story murky to those who are rightly skeptical of the mainstream media." Military blogger Black Five thinks Priest "toured military hospitals until she found the crappiest ones and also the most jerked-around wounded troops." He says every soldier knows that they should "embrace the suck," that is, "their job is to understand that the suck is supreme and their job is to suck it up and drive on."

Some conservatives have also pointed out that if this story is not a lie designed to erode the morale of our soldiers who haven't been wounded yet, then it is actually an argument for why universal health care would be bad for the country. "As a vet I am familiar with both the military and VA hospital experiences," said a commenter at Black Five. "Any critique of either must never lose sight of the fact that each is a centralized bureaucratic leviathan run by the Federal government. Whenever a leftie points out the problems in such a system, remind them that is the nature of the beast, and it's the same beast they ask for when they demand universal health care." Veterans health care is run by the government and anything run by the government is inefficient. So perhaps it would be better if our veterans had to buy private insurance instead of getting their health care free. Those soldiers, who, like some Americans, cannot afford health insurance, can receive care at hospital emergency rooms and free clinics. Though they may have to spend some time sitting around in waiting rooms, soldiers are accustomed to sitting around and doing nothing so it won't be too much of a burden for them. But the vast majority of soldiers would receive better care than they do now. And insurance companies and HMOs would encourage them to leave the hospital much sooner so that they could return to active duty in Iraq where they are needed, or if they are unable to go back, to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps (metaphorically, of course, in case of amputees) and try to cope with civilian life.

Predictably, Democrats are rushing to exploit the soldiers at Walter Reed for partisan gain by trying to correct the problems there before we are even sure they exist. Senators Barack Obama and Claire McCaskill are sponsoring legislation to improve the conditions at Walter Reed, and John Kerry has also signed on. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has called for an investigation. But it is doubtful that things are as bad at Walter Reed as this article claims no matter how much grandstanding the Democrats do. Republicans are taking a more measured wait-and-see approach. After all, President Bush has visited Walter Reed a number of times in the past five years and he didn't notice anything at all wrong with conditions there.

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Alexander Wolfe said...

That last line is simply devastating.

Deb said...

Xanthippas, truly. The whole situation is depressing, I can't believe that some people would rather try to spin or place blame, than to just fix the problem. We excuse and condone the strangest things and then ask those who have paid the price, to suck it up.


Anonymous said...

If John Kerry and his associates want to improve care at military medical facilities, they could give them more money. My guess is, they would like to pile on more regulations, hold oversight hearings to determine why President Bush is to blame, and appropriate no money. After all, we could just bring our troops home and redirect money from the war in Iraq to pay for it.

Nick Kasoff
The Thug Report

HopeSpringsATurtle said...

Thanks for the linky-love Mr Swift. My best to you as always.

Unknown said...

The medical system worked in times when we had no war, but even then it hasn't been easy to transverse. Vietnam Vets experienced many of the same problems with the system as outpatients from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

I don't care who fixes or streamlines the system, it has to be cleaned up. The number of injured won't be going down any time soon since there isn't an end in sight for either combat area.

The yahoos running around the halls of congress will of course exploit this..its the nature of THAT beast.

When all the posturing is over there needs to be an official that has the stones and will take the reins and straighten out an antiquated system that needs to be stream-lined so that severely injured soldiers don't have to put up with any more stress that hinders a tough recuperation process.

Anonymous said...

It's times like these that it's hard to believe anyone could truly support the Republican right. The last line really drives home the point.

Anonymous said...

John Kerry shot himself to get a purple heart.

FbL said...

Regarding comments like Probabilityzero's: The problems that a VIP could see in a visit (the ones related to infrastructure maintenance/repairs, etc.) are not in the main hospital, which is where the politicos visit; the hospital itself is rightly considered world class. The problems are in the outpatient system. And yes, the infrastructure/bureaucratic problems are real and inexcusable. But as I wrote in one of posts about the WaPo series, the second story in the series was spun something awful and painted a very incomplete picture.

And I hope that in my multiple posts on this subject it comes through that I am not attempting to downplay the issue or shoot the mesesnger.

Chuck Butcher said...

I'd sure like to comment in a humorous context or maybe even satirically, the problem is that's tough to pull off with tears in your eyes.

Anonymous said...

My guess is, they would like to pile on more regulations, hold oversight hearings to determine why President Bush is to blame, and appropriate no money.

Nick "The Thug" Kasoff is totally right! Why don't the Dems just appropriate more money to Walter Reed? Then we can accuse them of just "throwing money at the problem!" And everyone knows that oversight hearings are only necessary when Clinton's penis is at issue.

BadTux said...

I must congratulate Jon on an article that sounds like the articles posted on almost every other right wing blog on the planet, including the great Michelle Malkin's article about the hospital situation. He is truly a good conservative.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

James Higham said...

This is not the only major shortcoming of Walter Reed, Jon:

Caleb Bradshaw said...

You might also want to take a look at the FreeRepublic thread talking about how shameful it is of Dana Priest to publish this story and how she deserves to die.

Anonymous said...

If John Kerry and his associates want to improve care at military medical facilities, they could give them more money.
If George Bush and his associates wanted to maintain (let alone improve!) the outpatient facilities, they would have planned for the huge surge at Walter Reed. They would NOT have proposed CUTTING the VA budget.

Anyone who cares about the returning wounded troops should be CHEERING that Dana Priest published an article that will probably get the situation improved.

All this denial and messenger-shooting is barely a step above spitting on the wounded returning troops.

Todd Olsen said...

None of this suprises me.

Bush has tried to fight this war "one the cheap" since the beginning.

"We are engaged in the most important war of the past go shopping while I lower taxes and increase federal discretionary spending". Only in la-lad land can that be considered serious.

BB-Idaho said...

This morning the commanding officer of Walter Reed was relieved of duty...

The Tour Marm said...

I'm a Conservative who has visited Walter Reed. After a couple of visits, I understood why they were planning to eventually close it down. It also served as a reminder why I'm against a comprehensive federal health plan.

The staff is working as hard as they can with what they have and producing stunning results. Our troops are in the caring hands of the very best. Unfortunately, when hospitals are at the mercy of federal and military bureaucracy as well as a victim of budget cuts, it makes even a simple need to have a room painted, difficult.
Even private sector donations wouldn't help in this mire.

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