For those who have been screaming “support the trooops” as a pejorative against those who were against the war in Iraq, the response has always been to ask how well we support our men and women in uniform once they have returned home — particularly those who don’t come home in one piece. The unequivocal answer is “not so well.”
Although we have lost over 3,100 soldiers during this war, there are ten times that many who have been wounded. That says a lot about how much better our military medical units are at saving lives, but once those soldiers get home, there is still a lot more work to do, both physically and psychologically.
Which is why reading this weekend’s Washington Post piece by Dana Priest and Anne Hull was so disturbing. It’s about how the system — our system, the “support the troops” system — is failing those troops so miserably. It is a story of soldiers stuck in red tape hell, shoved off to facilities where neglect has replaced care, where heroism is replaced by resentment. And once that has made you mad, there’s more to make you madder.
The good news is that the stories brought an outpouring of anger and concern, to which the military seems to be responding and trying to make things better, as Priest and Hull report in a followup.
The question now is, how did it get this bad in the first place? Will Jim Nicholson, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, be brought in front of Congress to explain how many similar circumstances exist, and why our injured soldiers are being treated this way, further exacerbating their wounds? Will anyone point out that many of these soldiers don’t qualify as veterans yet because they are still considered to be on active duty, and that Walter Reed is not a VA hospital, but technically part of the Department of Defense? That means these rotting and rotten conditions got that way under the regime of Donald Rumsfeld, infamous for his remark, “you go to war with the Army you have.” He should have added “and you ignore them when they return, housing them in a mold- and mouse-infested nightmare.”
Furthermore, where are the politicians who love attacking the news media so much — when will they step forward and thank these journalists for uncovering this ugly story and forcing changes to be made?
Ironically, we just finished Salute To Hospitalized Veterans Week. It’s obvious that a salute is not enough.
Video: Dana Priest discussed the story with Chris Matthews on “Hardball” tonight, complete with images of the facility in question.