The Shame of Walter Reed


Two centuries ago, this medical army officer confirmed that Yellow Fever was transmitted by mosquitos. His discovery created a whole new line of defenses against disease and pushed medical research in entirely new and productive directions. His findings also allowed the Panama Canal to be built. (Disease was attacking construction troops so badly, that all work had stopped) The good Doctor Reed would be turning in his grave at the moment. The medical center named for him is the site of something offal. As in rotten.

It is bad enough to warehouse our wounded boys and girls in roach-filled, rodent-infested, filthy buildings – even though the general in charge of the facility Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, chief of the Army Medical Command, knew of the horrific conditions months ago. Last Thursday, the general claimed that Washington Post’s coverage of these problems “presented an unfair characterization of the living conditions and health care services for soldiers being treated at the hospital’s facilities”.

Right, General. Save it for a congressional committee.

What is worse is that the soldiers who dared talk to two intrepid Washington Post reporters are now being punished.

The soldiers are not only barred from any contact with reporters, they have been ordered to play mickey mouse soldier games each morning, getting up at 6am and having an inspection at 7. Even better, the building which caused the uproar is being emptied and all patients being moved on base so Joe 6-pack and the media won’t have a chance to talk to them. Hiding the evidence, are we, General? I am sure our national security totally relies on wounded soldiers being force awake for inspection that early each morning.

How can we be surprised at this latest turn of events? After all, the entire administration has been brilliant at hiding damaging reports (the infamous Friday news dump), turning public facts into state secrets and even changing how war and its deadly results have been reported (the embed program, banning photos of US corpses and coffins, and now, banning legless vets from photos ops as too disturbing for American eyes).

The better question might be “How could we expect anything different from our military leaders?” After all, for the past five years, Don Rumsfeld did his utmost to cull independent, honest and ethical top officers from the Pentagon, replacing them with what he thought was an obedient group of sycophants. Luckily, we know that at least 5 of them intend to stand up to the idea of an Iranian invasion.

But as for the others, Lt. General Kiley in particular, it seems as though Mr. Rumsfeld was extremely successful. Kiley’s response to this fiasco is identical to the administration he serves. If there is bad news, hide it, get rid of the press, and don’t let any more news be made on the issue.

These soldiers have lost legs, arms, hearing, eyesight, and more. All too many of them suffer from head injuries and mental illnesses such as PTSD. To treat these boys and girls like children, to increase their suffering through bullying tactics, and to directly order them NOT to talk to the press, a direct violation of their constitutional rights – this is not the reaction of a professional military officer, but of something rather repulsive.

If you can believe it, the story is actually worse than it sounds. Take a look here:

US military medical reviewers are treating our soldiers on the cheap. They force truly disabled soldiers to settle for miniscule settlements – and NO MEDICAL COVERAGE. PTSD in particular seems to have been erased from the lexicon and the DSM-IV of Walter Reed and other facilities.

Support our troops? How about treating them right in the first place, then analyzing their conditions accurately, and not with the bottom line in mind? And lastly, how about follow up care for those who really need it? Because it ain’t happening. Suicides are up among IraqNami vets and there are rumors that the Bush Administration is doing its utmost to keep that news out of the press. Only anecdotal reports filter through, but even those are extremely disturbing.

If we were a civilized nation (something I am seriously beginning to doubt) we would be treating our fallen soldiers with respect, TLC and adequate medicine, psych care and rehab. Anything less is an insult to them all. Support the troops? You bet, but it turns out that our administration and their appointed leaders don’t seem to get that point.

Here are a few steps we might consider:

a) Get our troops out of IraqNam. Now. Not October 2008. Not 10 years from now. NOW.

b) Demote, then fire Lt. General Kiley. His past knowledge is enough to wonder whether this man is capable to fullfilling his military oath. Sergeant ought to do it. He can replace the only man (a lowly sergeant) being punished for dereliction of duty at Walter Reed.

c) Drop the gag order. If we can’t find out the truth of this mess, how can we demand that it be fixed?

d) FIX THE DAMN SYSTEM. Treat the wounded, provide follow up care and dammit, rate their disabilities honestly for a change.

(Robert Kezelis is a lawyer, sculptor and writing curmudgeon based south of Chicago.)


  1. LindaM

    I saw the documentary last night about Bob Woodruff – To Iraq and Back. Thank God this order to not talk to the press wasn’t in effect when it was being made. It infuriated me and saddened me that so many of our wounded are not getting the treatment they need and deserve. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, a Bush boot-licker, said he disagreed with a doctor at one of the Veteran’s Hospitals, who said that the vets are not getting all the care they need for traumatic brain injuries. As if the Secy. has first-hand experience.

    The Veterans Administration (which takes over after the vets leave the military hospitals) does not even have a category for brain-injury when it reports the types of treatment received by the vets. Also, over 400,000 vets have been treated since IraqNam started. Granted, some of those treatments are for non-combat-related problems, but they estimated that at least 200,000 of them (I hope I remember the numbers correctly) are for IraqNam injuries. That’s more than the number of troops that are currently in Iraq.

    I could go on and on, but I urge everyone to watch this, if they haven’t. I believe it is on ABC’s website. The first half hour is about Woodruff and his prolonged recovery. The last half hour is about others in suffering similar conditions. It’s heart-breaking.

    Aside: I am so SICK of those who have started comparing this little fustercluck in Iraq with WWII. SOS Rice, being the latest. Guess it’s a way to keep people comparing it to Viet Nam, which is much more accurate.

  2. Here is the latest Washington post article about the unconscionable neglect at Walter Reed: you can copy and paste this URL into your address bar:



    of just go to



    where the article is on top of the front page.


    I saw Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson (14th in the line of presidential succession) interview and concluded he has less sensitivity than an earthworm. You can see a viceo of his “dental care” comments here:


  3. california rick

    AWESOME article Robert!! Thank you for getting the details of this story out into the public domain.

  4. This report is dated and incorrect. Lt. General Kiliey knew of these conditions more than two YEARS ago, not a few months.

    Say, Kiley? Do you understand the concept of honor? Ever hear of resigning your commission? Try it.

  5. Lysistrata

    The shame of Walter Reed is the shame of the nation.

    This administration knows the nation will not hold them accountable. The nation believed their lies and excused their hiding the facts and went out and elected the scumbags again.

    We have the government we deserve.

    Maybe when we learn to call a liar a liar will we get better. Rice sits in front of the Senators and goes on lying and fogging up the facts and the Senators go on being oh so polite, can’t tell her she is a liar.They do not hold her accountable. This administration makes me want to puke.

  6. carol

    How much nastier does this have to get before the Bu$h lovers finally have had a bellyfull? How much more personal does it have to get? How much more shit do we have thrown in our faces?

    Why don’t they just come right out in the open and line up every maimed, crippled, wounded vet and every other “useless eater” and just shoot them? This is the most disgusting group of government I have ever seen in my whole 50 years of living.

    This selected administration makes me soooo glad I did not vote for Bush and his crony thugs. And makes me so ashamed to be and American.

  7. I’m not the least surprised over our Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs as I remember him when he headed up the Republican National Committee and played right into the hands of the churches and wanted on pro-lifers in the party. Many of us walked out on Jim Nicholson then and we are not the least surprised that he reacted to these charges. Don Imus is livid after watching Jim try and worm his way out of the treatment of our vets in Bldg. 18. He should lose his job before sundown. He is typical of the caliber of men Bush puts into power. I’ve had enough! Thanks Rob for an excellent commentary.

  8. Wayne K Dolik

    Last week I stood with a group of Vets in the pouring rain in Carlsbad to bring our Troops home from Iraq. I’m not surprised at this at Walter Reed in the least. Great rant Rob,and I just read that the 2 star guy that ran Reed has been relieved of his command. Thanks to Rummy the guy who ran everything on the cheap, we get this continuing saga of really bad news. It is time to bring the rest of our service People home and treat them with respect. If it can’t be that way, then the rest of us natives ought to get damn mad and demand Congress Impeach the whole darn Bush Administration.

  9. Blake

    When is the tipping point regarding the actions of these neo-con chickenhawks towards the treatment of our troops? We must demand Congress hold all the imcompetents accountable starting with General Kiley who apparently saw no evil for as long as three years even though people such as Major General Kenneth Farmer the previous commander of the hospital voiced his concerns. Unfortunately, General Weightman who had been in charge of the hospital for only six months was the designated man to fall on the sword. Who did our administration appoint to temporarily run the hospital? Why the same idiot who was ignoring the problem, General Kiley. Next get rid of the veterans health chief and then the person in charge of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson. Lastly, Donald Rumsfeld needs to be held accountable because he was the SECDEF from Jan 2001 to Nov 2006 and probably gave the marching orders to cover up the situation at Walter Reed. The conditions at Walter Reed are probably just the tip of the iceberg and indicative of people in the Bush administration who promise you something when in reality they do just the opposite. Classic disinformation meant to deceive. As for what these people are doing to our troops it makes me want to go out and sign on the dotted line for the noble cause in Iraq.