Monday, March 05, 2007

D.C. Droppings -- VI

Walter Reeding

The Pulitzer Prizes will be awarded in about six weeks, and it will be a robbery worthy of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball officials, if Anne Hull and Dana Priest of the Washington Post don’t win one.

They are the reporters who simply heard stuff about outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and went there for a few months, looked around and listened.

This scandal is more important than Watergate, in my opinion, precisely because there is no strictly political agenda at work.

It is a story that rings true everywhere there are veterans – of Iraq or of Vietnam. The letters and e-mails to the two reporters provide the basis of today’s follow-up.

We are not talking politics here, we are talking about incompetence and about greed. The incompetence of this administration is beyond question. As for greed, it turns out that the root of the Walter Reed problem is not enough experienced staff. The experienced staff left when their jobs were outsourced to a private company, one run by a guy who previously worked for Halliburton.

This is one of the dirtiest of secrets unknown beyond the Beltway: This administration is privatizing as much of the government as possible to make it look like there are hundreds of thousands of fewer federal employees than actual and to reward their campaign contributors.

Oh, Francis Harvey, the Army secretary fired last Friday? His entire previous career was as a defense contractor.


During an interview on Washington’s WJLA-7 news this evening, an interview with a Walter Reed outpatient, in uniform and bemedaled, was abruptly ended by an officer racing over to him telling him he is not allowed to speak with the press. The soldier said, “Yes, sir” and was marched away, with the camera rolling. (Although cameras haven’t actually rolled in about 30 years.)


One the vilest of canards from the Vietnam era is that veterans were so ignored and disrespected that “hippies” spit on them.

This is one of those narratives that somehow is supposed to engender sympathy for veterans and suggest treason by those who disagree with any war the Republicans choose to start.

But there is no evidence, not a single police report, not a single name of a soldier spat upon. I was a reporter back then at a central news desk seeing every newsworthy story that occurred every day. Had a soldier been spit upon in an airport, train station or anywhere else in public, you can bet one or all of four things would have happened: 1) the soldier would have tried to kill the “hippie” 2) bystanders would have tried to, or at least would have reacted 3) a police report would have been filed and 4) there would have been an immediate news report of it.

I challenge anyone here to provide documentary evidence that it ever happened, and I will make a donation to his or her favorite charity for proof.


I read newspapers carefully for gems that either show off a writer’s talent or expose it. In a single story today, the Washington Post’s Josh White went from the Everest of sarcastic understatement to the Death Valley of mixed metaphoria.

“… Kiley began his Army career as an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, a
clinical area that doesn’t often produce top Army brass.”

Followed by:

“ … (He) thinks Kiley and Weightman were weighed down by the ballooning casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan.”


In a President’s Day speech a few weeks ago, the Pretender likened himself to George Washington:

"And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone. He once wrote, "My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom.”

Totally misreading Washington, who is more remembered for his warning about entangling alliances, Bush didn’t mention that the first president was waxing courteously upon receipt from the French ambassador the new tricolor of the revolutionary government.

Another speech from history that clings like Saran Wrap to Bush:
"This Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."

If I said it was delivered in 1933 and in German, would that make it too easy to guess the speaker?

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