Walter Reed Shows Administration Priorities
March 6, 2007
Testimony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center yesterday by wounded soldiers who lived in moldy, cockroach- and mouse-infested rooms, shed new light on the value the Bush Administration places on American soldiers. Even as a new wave of young Americans ships out for Iraq as part of the Administration's "surge," more revelations of disgusting and disgraceful conditions like those revealed by the Washington Post's Walter Reed investigation are coming to light. The Post editorialized today about receiving "hundreds of accounts of appalling conditions and management practices at both Army outpatient facilities and Department of Veterans Affairs facilities across the country," in the wake of its series.
Nowhere is the hypocrisy of the flag-waving chickenhawks in the White House more glaring than in the treatment of America's veterans.
So much for "support the troops" rhetoric. That this Administration holds the lives of its soldiers cheap could not be more plain--first, in sending them off to the misbegotten exercise in Iraq, then in the President's willingness to push onward despite the deepening disaster there, and finally in these new revelations about the care the veterans are receiving at home.
Fortunately, despite initial stonewalling by the Army, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been willing to take an aggressive approach to the problem, including firing Army Secretary Francis Harvey. There is plenty more to do. Nowhere is the hypocrisy of the flag-waving chickenhawks in the White House more glaring than in the treatment of America's veterans.
As In These Times reported in a piece entitled "Dishonorable Discharge," back in 2003 "Even more than his father, and Ronald Reagan before him, Bush is cutting budgets for myriad programs intended to protect or improve the lives of veterans and active-duty soldiers." Among the cuts the Administration was pushing back then were $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and a $150 family separation allowance, deemed by the White House to be "wasteful and unnecessary," In These Times reported. Democrats in Congress led the opposition to those cuts. But a Bush budget still included $3 billion in cuts to VA hospitals. "VA spending today averages $2,800 less per patient than nine years ago," In These Times pointed out.
And if the Administration treats its own soldiers with such disdain, the fate of the Iraqis they were sent to "save" is even more bitter. A powerful piece by Emily Harris on NPR this morning featured interviews with Iraqi refugees in Europe describing the complete collapse of their country. As oppressive and terrifying as life was under Saddam Hussein, it did not compare to the complete destruction of infrastructure and violent anarchy that now engulfs the country. Easy rhetoric about "regime change" and democracy-building has given way to the plain reality of civil war and social and economic collapse following the American intervention in Iraq.
The human victims of the war--whether they are disabled American veterans rotting in forgotten corridors at Walter Reed or Iraqis too terrified to leave their homes, stranded without electricity or running water--show what a package of bright, shining lies the Administration has been peddling.
The greatest irony of Emily Harris's excellent piece is the news that European countries, including Germany and, to the greatest degree, Britain, are now withdrawing asylum from Iraqis who sought refuge abroad from Saddam Hussein. Now that Hussein is gone, these countries have concluded, the imminent danger to these Iraqis is over. Back to Iraq they go. What awaits them there is a far cry from the new, improved Middle East the war's planners envisioned.