America’s MIA President

By ANN McFEATTERS

A day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is an eye-opener — about our soldiers, our government generally and the Bush administration.

I visited the renowned hospital complex after The Washington Post ran a series of articles exposing serious problems at the center, where as many as one-fourth of our injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are treated. The halls are swarming with the wounded and their families. Residential facilities for recuperating soldiers and their spouses have a long waiting list.

The Post reported that soldiers are housed in deteriorated conditions of mold, mice infestations, disrepair and inadequate facilities for amputees. Depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome are often overlooked. Nightmarish paperwork stymies even the most aggressive.

What I saw was not a lack of caring or quality medical care. But I found a soldier without his legs sent in four different directions for four forms over the course of a day. His exhausted wife, near tears, was pushing him in a wheelchair through ice.

I talked with a woman whose husband has been in and out of Walter Reed for nearly two years after losing his face in war. He sat calmly waiting for yet another surgery attempting to craft features such as a nose and a lip. His wife had nothing but praise for his plastic surgeons. But she said Walter Reed’s bureaucratic morass is unbelievable.

I saw the family of a soldier whose helicopter crashed in Afghanistan. He has badly broken legs, a cracked pelvis, a broken jaw, a collapsed lung and a punctured eardrum. Six of his teammates hovered near him, caring for his family, who had flown across the country, including his wheelchair-bound father.

His fellow soldiers said he described the pain as “intolerable” after his first surgery, but that he was more concerned about the fate of his friends. Eight did not survive. Eager to help, one of his comrades went looking for a video-game console to give him something to do. “At least his hands are OK,” he said.

There are many volunteers at Walter Reed. From Operation First Response to the Wounded Warrior Project, hundreds of people care. I saw one man wheeling a cart of new CD players and DVD players around the hospital. Volunteers say most soldiers and spouses are resilient, brave, cheerful, patriotic and optimistic.

In recent days, the commander at Walter Reed, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, and the Army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, have been all over TV, saying the problems at the facility are being fixed and that they are “extremely proud” of the work their staffs are doing.

But the point is that crumbling infrastructure, inhumane bureaucracy and inadequate treatment for mental disorders have been known about for years and have been permitted to continue.

The month before The Post’s series ran, a conference on “quality of life” problems faced by soldiers, their families and civilian staff at Walter Reed found a long list of “issues.” They included: inadequate convalescent-leave paperwork, resulting in soldiers not getting benefits to travel as scheduled; lack of direction for emergency family care; unequal benefits based on the locale where a soldier is injured and not on the extent of injuries; and no overall plan to help wounded warriors through their convalescence.

Other problems involved the lack of childcare, uniforms, military housing, parking, laundry facilities, recreational activities and cleanliness.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., defender of President Bush’s strategy in Iraq, nonetheless has called former defense chief Donald Rumsfeld “one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.” When Rumsfeld visited Walter Reed, did he never seek to find out what was really going on there? On Bush’s trips there to shake hands with a few soldiers, wasn’t he ever curious? When Rumsfeld and Bush were planning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, did they never think to determine how the wounded would be helped?

Did they not know that today’s injured soldiers are dealing with far more horrific injuries than in the past because battlefield medicine keeps more of them alive?

Walter Reed is supposed to be shut down in 2011. But facilities to handle its patients have not been built, renovated or expanded. Funds may not be scarce for cool new weapons on the design board — even “Star Wars” missile-defense technology — but they are exceedingly scarce for real soldiers.

If the Army is broken, as many believe, Rumsfeld and Bush broke it. And fixing it is proving more difficult than fixing the courageous soldiers the administration sent to war and who returned home broken.

(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)hotmail.com. For more stories visit scrippsnews.com.)

25 Responses to "America’s MIA President"

  1. Lysistrata  February 23, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    low ranking people I wanted to say.

  2. The South Point  February 23, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    This is truly horrendous beyond words. People getting all messed up just so Bush and Cheney and the rest of the neocons can do their evilness routine.

  3. gene  February 24, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    When will this country and its congress wake up and impeach that son of a bitch fuck head (george w bush) and his idiot cohart cheney. He is nothing but a criminal. Cheney has made several comments about Iran over the last several days, no surprise what will happen soon. People these men are evil uncarring bastards, so nothing should shock us as we read article after article of the hell this monster has caused and continues to do so. This country is now only a shadow of its former self. I truely believe that only God can help us now. God bless you all for seeing the truth. Pleas excuse my language, I am just angry and need to vent. All those innocent lives murdered on BOTH sides.

  4. Ray  February 24, 2007 at 6:10 am

    I read this article and these comments and then I see Bush making his big speal about how he was gonna make sure our troops in Iraq would have the best equipment and best of everything. He was putting on his best bleeding heart act as if he really had sincere feelings for those soldiers. He was just lying as usual. What an asshole. He couldn’t care less about those who he puts in harms way. He is like a snake in a wagon wheel rut. About as low as he can get

  5. JimZ  February 24, 2007 at 7:32 am

    Ray, he doesn’t give a dang about anyone making less than $10,000,000 per year. The rest, are but mere slaves and suckers to him. He sleeps good at night, too.

  6. Arion  February 24, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Yet another case of what goes on behind the scenes. Hawks of both parties love to have a war so they can cheer the folks in uniform and have those oh-so-necessary photo shoots. But when it comes to the necessary details like insuring veterans get the care they so justly deserve, those same glad-handing politicians are nowhere to be found!

  7. JimZ  February 24, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Why is the most impeachable President in history NOT getting impeached?

    The Democrats claim it would just take too much time and effort. They just want to weaken him until the end of his term. Can you imagine the damage this administration could do when becoming a weakened caged animal for almost 2 years?

    From what I remember, it only took a week to impeach Clinton, and the whole Richard Nixon debacle only lasted a couple of months from start to finish.

  8. JimZ  February 24, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Need to add, since the Dems have only a single vote majority in the Senate, it would be difficult to go through with. Those a-holes in the Senate like Mitch McConnell would do ANYTHING to protect their robot leader. Then Lieberman would switch parties (or not; doesn’t matter) and torpedo the vote.

    The HOUSE would be a piece of cake.

  9. Ray  February 24, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    This whole thing is a perfect example of why JFK, Martin Luther, RFK, John Lenon were gunned down, but this nazi leader we have now hasn’t even had any attempt made against him. Strange that the most hated man in the wold walks around with no worry, when the most respected do-gooders got wasted by some mind controlled patsy that never tried to get away. It is very plain to see who has been killing the good guys, is it not? One in a 100 would likely take a shot at GW but one in ten million would have never wished harm on those fallen. Obviously the turd at the top has no worry about tomarrow. Its the ones like him who deal the death sentence.

  10. Jenifer D.  February 24, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Ladies and Gentlemen, fear is a powerful weapon and the Reich effectively utilizes it. The real reason for the wiretaps and spying on Americans is likely to be for ferreting out assassination plots against the head of the beast, not looking for terror plots. Sound far-fetched? Maybe, but, I have my suspicions. The state of current affairs in America in the 21st century almost mirrors that in Nazi Germany in WWII; Hitler had the Reichstag fire and the ‘Enabling Act’, Bush has 9-11 and the ‘Patriot Act’. Do the math folks, it’s getting mighty interesting out there.

  11. Ray  February 24, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    No its not far fetched, it is exactly what is happening. The patriot act, the military commissions act, are all about establishing centralized control. The neocon mentality is centered on one common theme and that is dictatorship. Featuring “The Decider”. Who, in his all mighty position takes it upon himself to vindictively remove your right to privacy, free speech,habeous corpus, speedy trial, even a phone call after violating illegal search and siezure laws. He can, at his whim, order soldiers to occupy our homes and conduct police business under martial law. KBR building or remodling existing structures into human detention centers all over the country. He will soon be forcing mandatory nation ID micro chip RF implant for everyone, thats if you want to drive a car or buy any goods or get on a plane. In other words, we’ll be forced to take the mark or be unable to function in the society. The beast you know is the new babylon, amerika. Yep Jennifer D, yer suspicions are dead on the money. Don’t be surprised if the couple months brings an event that will be the excuse to bomb Iran. Bu$$co is desparate under pressure to withdraw and he’s running out of time to make his life goal of starting WW111. Three battle groups in the gulf is not for a bluff. We don’t need to bluff anyone, all the world knows that a madman is on the loose with the biggest gun in the world. He fully intends to use that nuclear toy on Tehran. Cheney mentions it almost dailey now, that all options are on the table now. If youall got some things to do, I’d suggest ya getter done soon. The really ugly thing is that americans are walking right into the lions mouth asleep in bananaland, like under some spell that removes all intelligent thought, replaced with sawdust or fantasy dreams of “our government would’nt do that”. Hey, wanna buy a bridge? Our great leaders participated in orchastrating 911 simply to instill fear so americans would do exactly what the germans did when Hitler burned the Riechstad, Give up thier freedoms and privacy in the name of war on terror. When all the sheeples who scoff and call others conspiracy whakos realize they were had, it will be way too late. You will either be with them, or you’ll be the enemy. And now they can torture you and if you die, tough shit you terrorist!

    Welcome to Amerika Land of the Slaves.

    See how the elites are getting more and the sheeples are getting the shaft? Even our soldiers, who WE MUST SUPPORT are getting the shaft. I’ll support em, bring them the hell home and go fight your own friggin battles, GEORGE!

  12. LindaM  February 25, 2007 at 1:20 am

    I am of two minds about this. And they aren’t contradictory. First, I am outraged that those disabled vets, doing the will of the government who sent them in harm’s way, are not getting appropriate care and made to suffer even more from the bureaocracy. Our government owes them so much more.

    But, they also volunteered and most of them still support the “mission”, at least if they are willing to comment. So, I don’t feel sorry for their condition, only that it isn’t being properly treated.

    Another poster wondered why there have been no assassination attempts on Bush/Cheney. Have you been to D.C.? There are black helicopters flying over the WH, black snipers with guns on rooftops on the WH and surrounding buildings. You think they are there to protect the pres. from terrorists? I think not. Methinks it’s to protect him from the citizens of this country and others around the world who hate what has happened to the U.S. on his watch and see no end other than impeachment or assassination.

  13. G Man  February 25, 2007 at 3:48 am

    Supporting our troops means more that placing obtuse slogans on your SUV. It means either donating money or your time. Bush could give a damn about out troops just as you fools who ride around with your stupid slogans on your cars and neither donate time or money could care less. How many of you have taken any real action to support out troops. You are all a bunch of phony bastards. Our brave young troops deserve much more than trite slogans put on your cars. It doesn’t make you patriotic just jerks who don’t know the meaning of patriotism. The hell with you all. How many of you have been willing to die for your Country. I bet none of you with these insipid stickers on your cars. How many of you ducked the Vietnam War? I bet the majority. Real patriots don’t rely on posting slogans on their cars, they take action. Volunteer for service or get rid of your ridiculous stickers and join in ending this war now.

  14. Ray  February 25, 2007 at 5:37 am

    When JFK was hit, his security team had been sent on some other assignment. The similar thing happened at more than just one or two events. It’s not coincedence that these breakdowns in security seem to happen when in reality, it would be the most improbable result simply because the focus of protecting the pres, or the pentagon, or DC is priority. Not something that just happens to malfunction. That is fantasy. So when you see no body guards hanging close to a leader, he is likely a target. But I also find it amazing that all ATF People just happened to be out of thier office when the Murray Building was bombed. And Bomb Squads were near by. Like FEMA arriving at the WTC the day before the attacks to train for airplanes hitting buildings. How the air force was sent in all directions for training drills ( so they say ) and were so inept to leave ungarded airspace over Washington DC and the Pentagon? Give me a break. If NORAD was under Cheney’s command, you can only imagine what mr evil was up to. The evidence, the truth, the scam, is so visible. All needed is to open thyne eyes and see. Understand that good principals, honor to country, honest leaders, are not being applied by this administration R’s and D’s alike. The biggest secrets the world has been denied are soon to be told. This will happen soon because the world is reaching critical mass very quickly in many ways, so events will gain pace ever increasing. It is coming to a break point where something must give, kinda like revelations fortells. Beasts, famine, fire, stuff like whats going on in Palastine, Lebonon, and Iraq. Oh, almost forgot Afganastan. The big show is coming soon. Wake up peoples. See. awaken that logic chip and use it. A duck will walk like a duck, so it has to be a duck. A Politician will walk like a man so he must be a man? Then why do they not look like a Rat. If it looks like a Rat but walks like a Man, is it then Lieberman? I think it so.

  15. JimZ  February 25, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Ray:

    …”but this nazi leader we have now hasn’t even had any attempt made against him”.

    Actually, quite a few various fruits & vegetables were hurled onto his limousine during his 2001 inaugural parade. That’s the closest that I know of! (footage of this event was shown in the movie Fahrenheit 911)

  16. anthny  February 26, 2007 at 1:25 am

    The decider is just a poppet being run by the NEW WORLD ORDER.

    Yep the shit will hit the fan very soon.

    And theres’ more of us then there are of them.

    The bastards are a little afraid to make there move because of all the gun owners.

    Getting back on track the stories remind me of the movie Born on the 4th of July.

  17. JimZ  February 23, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Interesting that in Illinois (where I lived last year) the Democratic challenger for Henry Hyde’s old seat in NW suburban Chicago, Tammy Duckworth, ran for office mostly because of problems she saw in veteran’s medical care, and lost.

    She was a veteran of the Iraq war who lost her legs when the helicopter she was in was shot down.

    Due to questionable medical care she saw in the VA medical system and bad/indifferent treatment she got from a U.S. Congressional committee she testified in front of (she was testifying in support of more funding for veterans that lose limbs, prostheses), she decided to run for office herself to get the job done. I heard her explain that numerous times on the radio and TV. When she testified to Congress, one or more Republicans on the committee told her what she was “going to say”, a weaker stand than she had. She refused to go along with it. So during her testimony, the Committee treated her with disrespect and questioned her motives, etc. She found out that even though they “ACTED” like they were going to add more funding for veterans’ prostheses/treatment they actually CUT funding in secret later.

    A right-winger I worked with up there (that listens to Rush Limbaugh EVERY day while at work (yep, unproductive)) was told by Rush that SHE WAS A DANG LIB’RAL OF THE HIGHEST ORDER AND HAD TO BE DEFEATED. All the Limbots were in line. You should have seen all the horrible negative ads about her on TV in the Chicago area during the election cycle. One after another. Just awful, dire, depressing, grotesque ads (with unflattering photos). She lost the election. (now I realize there was some question as to where she lived in Hoffman Estates, etc., but I’m staying on message)

    After the election (she lost) I was out to lunch with the Limbots from work. They were mortified for weeks after the election; their a$$es were handed to them; good thing rest of us didn’t rub it in; kept it cool. At this particular lunch, Supreme Limbot brought up he was SO GLAD that THAT TAMMY DUCKWORTH DIDN’T WIN. I calmly asked him “what was so wrong with Tammy Duckworth, anyway?”. He just got quiet, changed the subject, and never brought it up again. HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW!

    My point is, THE LIMBOTS will do anything for their master, even if veterans are being denied medical care. They claim to be so “patriotic” and “support the troops” but don’t think for themselves when it comes to action.

    I can’t wait to hear the spin from the White House on this one. They’ll question the PATRIOTISM of all their critics again, and deny any culpability or reality. No accountability.

    I am NOT a Democrat, nor a registered Illinois voter, so I have no links to Duckworth (pre-empting the Limbot attack). I’m just telling what I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears.

  18. Snargle  February 23, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Just another example of Rummy’s “war on the cheap.” With the advances in medical technology, many soldiers who would have previously died on the “battlefield” are now saved, only to be sent home for reconstructive surgeries and other treatments. If only they had the decency to die like they were supposed to, the government wouldn’t have found themselves in an embarassing situation such as this. If BUSHCO could only figure out a way to privatize their treatment and generate profits for their cronies, this wouldn’t be frontpage news.

    Let’s put an end to this travesty now. The final answer isn’t better facilities for the crippled, maimed, and brain damaged, but to get the troops out of the middle of yet another middle eastern civil war.

  19. Warren Jackson  February 24, 2007 at 4:48 am

    Same Old, Same Old, only perhaps a bit worse. I am an 85 Yr. Old WWII Vet. who lost hearing in both ears due to infection from the vacinations, perhaps a defect or mercury in one or more of them, but the results cost me both ear drums and the middle ear bones, enough bone in the right side one that they had to use skin from my right arm to grow in the area to protect my brain. A ruling of 40% for the loss on each ear was then combined bringing 80% down to 50%. So go figure. The VA is still just as bad. Have to drive or ride a bus 25 Miles to have a dumb ass Supposed to be Dr. tell me, since that day very little infection showed up in the worst ear, that I didn’t need any ear meds. Keep cotten in it so the wind and infection causing air born virus don’t get in. Ha. I would have to stop breathing to keep air born infection out due to MAN having a EUSATION tube connection to the area of the middle ear from the back of the Nasal cavity and sure enough within about a week I had it. A later visit did get me the ear Meds. needed to care for it but I had to fuss to get the later visit and the trouble to go for it. Like I said Same Old, Same Old. I could cry for these at DC now.

  20. Sandy Price  February 23, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Mike Barnicle said yesterday on Hardball that this mess is a result of not having a complete plan from the White House when we entered this war in Iraq. No one thought there would be casualties or the number of disabled vets coming home. There were no plans made to increase the services for our own troops.

    The Congress also never gave any thought to what we were to do with our injured vets. Where the hell were McCain and Lieberman when our boys came home in pieces? They seem determined to expland the war all over the Middle East without any discussion of how we are to take care of our heroes.

    I’m worried that Bush and the neoconservatives like Lieberman and McCain will not stop until 3,000 more of our troops are to be buried. Our men are not equipped to win and apparently not fully equipped to even survive.

    Our Constitution gives the Congress authority to declare war and to stop it if necessary. Why don’t they?

  21. Warren Jackson  February 24, 2007 at 4:44 am

    Same Old, Same Old, only perhaps a bit worse. I am an 85 Yr. Old WWII Vet. who lost hearing in both ears due to infection from the vacinations, perhaps a defect or mercury in one or more of them, but the results cost me both ear drums and the middle ear bones, enough bone in the right side one that they had to use skin from my right arm to grow in the area to protect my brain. A ruling of 40% for the loss on each ear was then combined bringing 80% down to 50%. So go figure. The VA is still just as bad. Have to drive or ride a bus 25 Miles to have a dumb ass Supposed to be Dr. tell me, since that day very little infection showed up in the worst ear, that I didn’t need any ear meds. Keep cotten in it so the wind and infection causing air born virus don’t get in. Ha. I would have to stop breathing to keep air born infection out due to MAN having a EUSATION tube connection to the area of the middle ear from the back of the Nasal cavity and sure enough within about a week I had it. A later visit did get me the ear Meds. needed to care for it but I had to fuss to get the later visit and the trouble to go for it. Like I said Same Old, Same Old. I could cry for these at DC.

  22. Jenifer D.  February 24, 2007 at 4:19 am

    So now I know what happened when MAJ Duckworth ran for office! I’m a war vet myself, but, fortunate not to be a seriously disabled one. Now I know what I’m going to be up against when I retire this year and make my bid for public office. Unreal how some folks lack the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing; especially if it goes against what ‘the master’ says. In doing that, they’ve sacrificed their self-respect and moral conscience. Time for the patriots (the real ones, not the brainwashed ones) to take charge.

  23. Kathy  February 23, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Being the widow of a 100% disabled vietnam war vet who passed away in 1998 and had been subjected to the VA hospital morass of paperwork, long lines, lack of services, crumbling buildings etc., in West Haven, CT VA hospital while he was alive, am not at all surprised but what I’ve read here.

    My late husband had a severe heart condition due to improper radiation treatment given him by Army doctors in the 60’s and 70’s. He was routinely subjected to standing in long, long lines for hours with other disabled vets for check-ups at the VA hospital in order to verify that he was still, in fact disabled. The man had less than 30% use of his heart! Walking across a 10 ft. room was a life or death proposition. When he could no longer stand, I took his place in line. Moments later, his medical files (more than 6″ thick w/28+ years of history which we were made to walk from one end of the complex to the other to get, was ripped from my hands by a VA worker who screamed at me that I should not have the file (even though we were instructed to go get it on the other side of the complex) and that I could not stand in line for my husband.

    Before I could respond, she had walked away.

    Most of the personnel I have encountered who work for the VA are kind, considerate, hardworking and will do all that they can to help the veterans. The facilities, conditions and red tape paperwork is what’s wrong with the picture – along with the occassional worker who feels it is her/his right to bully those who served there country, are disabled because of it and unable to defend themselves.

  24. Steven  February 23, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    I am getting so tired of the “The great Ronny fixed it, evil Bill broke it again” crowd. So, will we continue to tolerate anything that “our guys” do, or frame this as a common sense issue that the most jaded of them will accept? I really am getting tired of it.

  25. Lysistrata  February 23, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    After the initial treatment at Walter Reed veterans should be able to get all the medical attention they need close to home. If we had a universal healthcare system that would be possible.

    The problems we see now are not new it seems to happen in every war we get involved in.

    Will anyone be held accountable? I don’t think so, maybe some little

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