This is about Walter Reed Army Medical Center, home to a little-known but well-loved little museum of Army medicine. It contains artifacts of history, like the bullet that killed Lincoln, a pickled leg of an elephantiasis victim, and not, as rumored, John Dillinger’s holstered weapon au naturel. It is a federally funded little horror show.
So, it turns out, is the outpatient care there.
If you have the stomach to listen to the Prevaricator-in-Chief’s weekly radio address Saturday, you will hear him promise to clean up the criminally neglectful system of veterans health care. He will appoint a commission to find out what the conditions are at Walter Reed and other facilities where the Army warehouses people it doesn’t want the American public to see.
He could have found out two weeks ago for the price of couch change by buying and actually reading the Washington Post, and other media, including any of the numerous McClatchy newspapers or Salon.com.
The “I-don’t-read-newspapers”-in-Chief was pretty cavalier about the whole thing last week, according to his mouthpiece, Tony Snow. Asked what the Deserter-in-Chief’s reaction to the stories was, Snow said, “He told me to fix it.”
Since then, we have learned:
o Everyone from private to general who has been at Walter Reed since we invaded Iraq has known of the outrageous conditions and nothing was done.
o The wife of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld once was taken by a lady friend to Walter Reed for a meeting of veterans’ wives and girlfriends. She was not recognized. When she asked if the soldiers who are put on television whenever the Secretary visited the hospital were pre-selected for propaganda purposes, the answer was a unanimous “yes.” When the Army found out, Mrs. Rumsfeld’s friend was barred from the grounds.
o After the Post articles came out and the since-fired general complained that they were unfair, outpatients in the Walter Reed sausage factory were suddenly roused by non-coms, also wounded, for inspection at 0700 every morning. This does not generally happen once basic training is over.
o It was reported that the Army has quietly raised the criteria for what constitutes “total disability” so that it won’t have to give full lifetime benefits to two thirds of those who otherwise would qualify.
o Vietnam War “hero” John McCain, who killed innocent Asians from 10,000 feet in the air, said the Iraq War dead were “wasted” lives. Silence. When Democrat Barack Obama said the same thing, he quickly backtracked under vicious assault from the right wing chickenhawks.
Every year, the Republicans’ budget seems to find less money for the Department of Veterans Affairs than is required to fulfill the promise they made when they hoodwinked high school graduates into the infantry. The underfunding led to Iraq War veteran Pvt. Jonathan Schulze committing suicide after the VA put him on a waiting list for mental health care.
This all reminds me of the ditty sung by the Chad Mitchell Trio back in the early 60s: "You're paid to stop a bullet. It's a solder's job they say. And so you stop a bullet. And then they stop your pay."
The upshot of this scandal is that firing a general and an Army secretary is fine, but as a fish stinks from the head, so does this administration.