This doesn't happen to me very often anymore -- not since "mainstream journalism" become a pablum-burbling idiot incapable of semi-consciousness, much less outrage -- but this weekend I read a story that made me so angry I had to toss my newspaper down in disgust and rail at poor Janet, who made the mistake of being near me at the time. If you haven't read it, it's the Walter Reed story ("Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility") by WaPo reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull. If you haven't read it already, click the link, do your homework, get pissed off and come back.
Now comes this, found via Alternet: "Pentagon: Wounded Troops Can't Talk To The Media." The coverage includes this passage from Dana Milbanks of the WaPo (what is it about The Washington Post and reporters named Dana?) covering the Army's attempt to whitewash (both literally and figuratively) the still developing story:
After the media tour of Building 18, the Army's surgeon general gave a news conference. "I do not consider Building 18 to be substandard," he said of a facility Priest and Hull found full of "mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses" and other delights. "We needed to do a better job on some of those rooms, and those of you that got in today saw that we frankly have fixed all of those problems. They weren't serious, and there weren't a lot of them."
Kiley might have had a stronger case if men wearing Tyvek hazmat suits and gas masks hadn't walked through the lobby while the camera crews waited for the tour to start, or if he hadn't acknowledged, moments later, that the entire building would have to be closed for a complete renovation.
And then there's this from this morning's Navy Times:
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.
“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.
Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.
Enough. Enough with the blaming of a few platoon sergeants. Enough with the intimidation. Enough with REMFs (Rear-Echelon Mother Fuckers) and their ass-covering bullshit. I want firings. I want hearings. I want criminal goddamn charges. I want every careerist officer and command sergeant major, every GS bureaucrat, every partisan political appointee with even a whiff of Walter Reed smell about him called to the docket in front of God and Everybody and held personally, legally accountable.
Bad stuff happens in war, and REMFs are REMFs are REMFs. They have always been a stain upon our national and military honor and they Will Always Be With Us. But for the senior military leadership of this country to play public relations with the situation at Walter Reed after being humiliated by their failures in print? For the White House to allow this to happen without bringing down the immediate thunder of righteous indignation? Shame!
This isn't about the goddamned war. It's about a basic social contract that says we'll care for the people we send off to fight on our behalf. And what are we doing? The federal government has been cutting benefits for military retirees for years -- benefits that those men and women earned with 20 years or more of service, benefits that were promised in writing. Here we are, in a "war" that's been going on longer than our involvement in World War II, and the President's own budget cuts funds for veterans services. And now -- when faced with clear evidence of bureaucratic neglect of our own wounded Iraq war soldiers -- these rat bastards cover their own asses and punish the victims? And suggest that the media is the problem?
Screw 'em. Arrest them. Throw them in jail. I'm serious.
Let's put this in a personal context. I am sick to death of the President and his minions and mouthpieces and political operatives and smug, self-referential supporters lecturing the rest of us about supporting the troops. Well here's your goddamn chance. It's not about putting yellow ribbons on your SUV. It's about taking care of these veterans RIGHT NOW. Send in case managers and clean up these cases immediately. Yesterday. Quit stalling on discharge decisions to artificially boost retention quotas, or whatever it is they're doing. Get these people care, get them counseling, get them discharged and -- oh, while you're at it -- THANK THEM on their way out the door for their service to their country. It's simple. That's it. That's all.
We've been played as pawns, our leadership has zero credibility and I've decided it's past time we all got really, publicly pissed off about it.