Monday, March 05, 2007

Some more thoughts on Walter Reed

I've been pretty quiet lately - busy at work, and now on the road again. I've been thinking a lot about this Walter Reed issue, and it still sticks in my craw. But not for the reasons that most Americans are getting riled about it.

You see, it seems to me that this story didn't get legs because of concern for the soldiers by the media. There is no doubt in my mind that members of the media have received reports of this type of treatment for years...and so have politicians. It is the nature of government bureaucracy and of war for horrific cracks to develop in the system. We have no perfect bureaucracies and no perfect wars. We do have bureaucracies that have benefitted the greater good and unfortunately we have needed wars to deal with real evils such as terrorism, Hilter's nazi regime and communism.

The fallout from the Walter Reed scandal is not going to create a perfect VA medical system. There will always be human failings. However, it has claimed a Secretary of the Army and a two-star general has been relieved of his command.

A follow-up story in the Washington Post says this: "Several forces converged to create this intense reaction. A new Democratic majority in Congress is willing to criticize the administration. Senior retired officers pounded the Pentagon with sharp questions about what was going on. Up to 40 percent of the troops fighting in Iraq are National Guard members and reservists -- 'our neighbors,' said Ron Glasser, a physician and author of a book about the wounded. 'It all adds up and reaches a kind of tipping point,' he said. On top of all that, America had believed the government's assurances that the wounded were being taken care of. 'The country is embarrassed' to know otherwise, Glasser said."

Yes, you, the American public, are being told that up until now men like Senators Kennedy and Durbin and Kerry or Congressmen like Murtha and Pelosi had no national voice; that it took a cold-call to Dana Priest for anyone at all to realize that there was a problem.

Now, the military and administration are being painted as entirely uncaring of its vets. This is the perfect political tool for a nation that adores its troops.

What is forgotten in all of this is that soldiers sent to Iraq overwhelmingly re-up, that the vast majority do not have post-traumatic stress syndrome, and that Tri-care provides great coverage. And in this description, I'm not talking simply of the hundreds of thousands of unknown troops who have gone through Iraq. I'm relating the story of one soldier that I know very well - my son, who was wounded in Iraq, re-upped in the week he was coming back, and whose wife is likely alive today because of expensive medicines provided by Tri-care after the birth of my grandson. I, for one, am very grateful not just for the the Armed Forces' efforts to fight terrorism but for them returning my son home alive. An attitude such at this, however, does not garner much media attention.

If the media were terribly interested in the welfare of the soldiers you would hear more about the progress that is being made and less about fired generals. However, there are Pulitzer Prizes to be won and scalps to be had. Stories of success simply get in the way.

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