Man overboard

March 12, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

Depending where you get your news, and if you read no further than the headline, this is what just happened:

' Army's surgeon general to retire
' Army Surgeon General Submits Request to Retire
' General Steps Down in Walter Reed Furor
' ARMY SURGEON GENERAL KILEY RETIRES AMID WALTER REED MEDICAL CENTER FUROR
'
Army surgeon general ousted amid Walter Reed scandal
' Army surgeon general forced to retire
Read on

We begin with MSNBC's benign "Army's surgeon general to retire" (ho hum) and move down to CNN and HuffPo's more breathless (but more accurate) variations on "Army surgeon general's butt gets the boot."

Would it surprise you to know that the term of service of the Army surgeon general in question (Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley) falls within the Bush administration's reign? And that his medical specialty was OB/GYN medicine? Heckuva job, Kiley.

One version of this story says that, according to an anonymous official (and have you noticed all the complex language around anonymous officials, i.e., "on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record"), it was the acting Secretary of the Army who asked Kiley to retire. The anonymous official further reported that Robert Gates was not involved in the decision. Righto.

Faux News has a lede that actually uses the words "broadening scandal" in relation to "poor health care for veterans returning from Iraq." This article ends on a hopeful note: "The Pentagon last week said it has been making progress in addressing the problems uncovered at Walter Reed, including adding caseworkers to help smooth out some of the medical and (sic) roadblocks soldiers face." Hello? Barn door open. Horse gone.

the Washington Post opens with Kiley's "request to retire after weeks of criticism over his handling of the Walter Reed scandal and other health care problems facing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." WaPo says some of Kiley's colleagues have described him as "a dogged and aggressive leader, while others have said he has been overly career-minded and focused on personal success."

The New York Times says Kiley wanted to stay. Last week, he told the Senate Armed Services Commission, "I still think I've got the right skill sets and the right experience to fix these problems."

Stop. Right. There. This is Exhibit 3,486 (or so) of the Bush Administration modus operandi. Maybe Kiley is right. Maybe he does have some skills hitherto unseen. But here is my question. Why haven't we seen them? Why do we continue to accept that time after time, people in positions of power in Bushland bleat after they are exposed for egregious mismanagement and errors that they'd be really terrifically competent folks if they only had a chance?

They've all had a chance. Lots of chances, in fact. And wouldn't you think a "terrifically competent folk" with even a shred of personal or professional integrity would demonstrate that by word and deed, every day, before the feces hit the fan blades? If nothing else, there's the work ethic thing.

May I suggest that the White House human resources department could use some help? Never, in all my years (and remember, please, that I fell off the turnip truck a long, long time ago) do I remember such a roster of apparent incompetents, incorrigibles and butt-kissing ladder-climbers on their way to '" nowhere, actually. Because one by one, they're being found out, exposed and expelled. And I have little doubt we've only just begun.

Kiley's parting shot is this: "I could not be prouder of the incredible Americans in the Army Medical Command who care for the warriors who have volunteered and sacrificed so much to defend our country and our way of life. I was blessed to have walked among them." That may be true. Would that the wounded warriors had been blessed, too.

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Comments

perhansa (not verified) | March 12, 2007 - 4:27pm

Happy Monday to all of you too! What a trio of downers your posts were today--great work and biting writing. We all need a hellavu dose of the reality we've been denied (or have denied) for the past fews years by the government of secrecy, deception and incompetence (the House & Senate included). This is the best way to hit the Shrub and the GOP with a steel-toed boot in keester. Let's not forget people are starting to call for AGonzales head over the Justice Dept. "scandal" that's coming to light. The Patriot Act has been abused by the FBI--shocking! Time mag did a number on the Veep this week too. Even Iron Dick's glow is fading in the waning light of neo "cons" blind ideology, crookedness, incompetence, and inability to plan or execute. The house of Bush is crumbling from more leaks and weaknesses than a New Orleans' levy. Keep up the hurricane!

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Swallow (not verified) | March 13, 2007 - 12:37pm

Dear Barbara

Read your post last night and was so upset that I could not reply, However after something of a nights sleep I shall try.

First, this is not news to any vet that has been in any VAF since Vietnam, just ask them. The only answer you will get is what took them so F’ing Hell long to figure this crap out. It’s not just Walter Reed it’s ALL of them. Now I’m not a gambling man but I’ll make a bet that some of the roaches in the VA’s are on a military pension as they have certainly been there long enough.

Second, What the hell is Bob Dole going to figure out by June that every Vet who has been in one
and military Doctors who work in a VAH don’t already know? Again just ask one of us We All Know.

I say this because any Doctor who is not in the military’s back pocket can do a 15 min walk through of any Dam hospital in the country ,be it military or civilian and tell you if the standards are Above, Standard or Below par. Hell the janitors could tell you that. This is not rocket science.

Sorry for the Rant but this has been a bug in my ass for 36 years as I spent 14 months in a VA and the conditions then were no different then they are now. Again I beg the question, What took them so F’ing
Bloody Long? Any civilian hospital found to have these conditions, the procedures would first be to evacuate the patients then fumigate the building and then burn it to the ground. Nuff Said.

As always
Swallow

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barbara | March 13, 2007 - 2:21pm

Perhansa, would you please email me at barbara@clotheslineblog.com? I need to talk to you offline. Thanks.

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Barbara replies (not verified) | March 13, 2007 - 4:38pm

Swallow, you have been through this hell yourself, so you are better qualified than any of us to speak to the matter of veteran abuse. And really, that's what it comes down to, doesn't it? As I said somewhere earlier in all of this, "Ship 'em out, shoot 'em up, bring 'em home and warehouse 'em, out of sight, out of mind." I also get that this isn't new. But this administration has elevated neglect to an art form (military veterans, Katrina, et al), lies about it, shrugs its collective shoulders (until it's caught in the headlights) and then tries to explain it all away. Over and over again. Twenty-two more months of this? Oh, lordy, how can that possibly be?!

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susan | March 13, 2007 - 5:01pm

Twenty-two more months of Bushocracy for all of us, but a lifetime of pain and disability for our veterans. That is, those who have a life left at all.
And BTW, someone referred to how we spat on veterans of the Vietnam war when they returned, and that's kind of taken hold as urban myth, but what I want to know is, did anyone ever really see or experience that? Swallow?
I recall reading at the time about a returning vet being taunted at a high school basketball game by a few peacenik types, but nothing much more than that. I was an in-the-street ardent anti-war person and I never ever felt that sort of hostility towards a single veteran, or knew anyone who did. I mean, there was a draft for cripes sakes, what were they supposed to do? I know, apply to be a CO, go to Canada -- my husband was a draft counselor so I know the options -- but none of it was an easy choice.
Anyway, it got me to thinking that the notion that we Lefties, marching to the drum beat of Hanoi Jane, didn't support the Vietnam veterans when they returned is just bunk, another construct floated out by the Cheney/Rove/Rummy machine and being spit out as truth by Fox news, et al. I'm sure there were ugly instances of nastiness, but over all, as Swallow points out, it was the VA and the gubmint that failed to support our veterans, then as now.

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Swallow (not verified) | March 13, 2007 - 7:32pm

To both Barbara and Susan:

First in answer to Susan, I myself did not have the spitting experience or the thrown bags of dog crap, as I was evacuated from a hospital ship straight to a VAH in Kansas as was my entire unit. We all got nailed by so called friendly fire (believe me when I tell you there was nothing Friendly about being shelled for twenty hours by New Zealand Artillery) but such is life. However, it is not urban myth that it happened. I know of too many troops that it happened to, and it happened a lot. Sadly the one’s who where throwing the crap were on the right track they just went about it in the wrong way, as most of the troops were drafted, and didn’t really have a choice. I on the other hand to my eternal shame ENLISTED. Also I was a Canadian and had no damn business being where I was.

Now what was I doing there as a Canadian you might ask, well I was three things (first) I was young, (second) I was Patriotic and (third) I was Stupid. Now the company that I worked for at the time had three US Draft dodgers working for them and it made me sick to my stomach that they would leave their country in it’s hour of need. I myself am the youngest in a long line of military men and had always been taught to support ones country, or at least support one that was fighting communism (coming from a German background this is easy to understand). One Thursday afternoon at the tender age of 17, I stopped the machine I was working, went home, packed a bag without telling anyone, and drove to Grand Forks North Dakota. At that time, it was easy to cross the border! I enlisted in the US Army, and the delusion lasted all of 2 weeks after hitting the ground in South East Asia. However, I would have remained a career soldier had I not been wounded, even though I knew what we were doing was wrong. That is what terrifies me to this very day, but there are so many young boys that feel that way about this war. Sadly they too are fools and need to come home, and perhaps turn their guns on the real enemy.

Funny thing is before I joined up I was a Hippie, you know buckskins, beads, sandals and rose colored shades the whole nine yards. Still have the shades I just don’t look through them any more. Now I see the world as it really is. Sad somehow.

BTW Susan you so called lefties were Correct (was going to say right but that would have been to weird) you just should have kept going, but we all put on suits and joined the establishment. That was a mistake.

As always

Swallow

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Swallow (not verified) | March 13, 2007 - 8:39pm

Canada
Why I fled George Bush's war
What happened to make a patriotic, gung-ho soldier desert the U.S. army, and turn against the war in Iraq. EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT
JOSHUA KEY | Feb 7, 2007 | 11:40 am EST

Joshua Key, 28, was a poor, uneducated Oklahoma country boy who saw the U.S. army and its promised benefits -- from free health care to career training -- as the ticket to a better life. In 2002, not yet 24 but already married and the father of two , Key enlisted. He says his recruiting officer promised he'd never be deployed abroad, but a year later he was in Iraq. Only 24 hours after arriving, as Key recounts in The Deserter's Tale (Anansi), he experienced his first doubts about what he and his fellow soldiers were doing there:
Continued Below

I was scared out of my wits that first day in Ramadi. Our own air force had just finished bombing these people, but as soon as we got out of our vehicles we began patrolling their streets, on foot. With nearly 100 lb. of weaponry, equipment and clothing on my back, I was about as mobile as a cow. It was just my platoon, 20 guys, walking single file through streets full of Iraqis. I could not stop thinking that anywhere, at any time, some half-starved sniper on a roof could have taken me out in no time flat. Iraqi kids surrounded me in swarms, hands out, asking for water and food. I kept hearing the last words [my wife] Brandi said to me before I flew out: "Don't you let those terrorists near you, Josh. Even if they are kids. Get them before they get you."
I was awakened at 3 a.m. that first night and told to get my ass up quickly because in one hour we were going to raid a house full of terrorists. Capt. Conde and some sergeants showed me and my squad mates a satellite photo of a house and a drawing of the layout of the inside. Our assignment was to blow off the door, burst into the house, raid it fast and raid it good -- looking for contraband, caches of weapons, signs of terrorists or terrorist activity, then rounding up the men and getting out damn fast. The longer we stayed in any one location, the longer somebody would have to put us in the sights of a rocket-propelled grenade or lob mortars at us.
I had no idea what to expect. Would I charge through the door, only to be blown to bits by a grenade? Would somebody with an AK-47 knock my Oklahoman ass right back out that door? Would some six-year-old terrorist with two days of gun training be waiting to put me in his crosshairs? The minutes ticked on, and I wanted the hour to speed forward so we could get on with it. One or two guys did push-ups to pump themselves up. I borrowed Mason's portable CD player and bombed out my eardrums to the beat of Ozzy Osbourne. It got me going. High and ready for action. I checked my watch, wished it would accelerate, and stuck some dip -- Copenhagen, bourbon flavor -- behind my lip. You can't manage a cigarette when you've got an M-249 automatic weapon on your arm. So dip was best. Makes your mouth black as sin, and rots the roots right out of your gums, but dip was my nicotine hit of choice going into that raid.
I committed our instructions to memory. I knew the angles of the house, what door I would help blow down, how many floors were in the house, and who would do what when we busted inside. I would be third in the door, which means I was the second most likely to get shot if anybody had a mind to take us down, and I'd head to the left. Always, for every raid, I would be third in, heading left. I gripped my M-249. Yes, it could belt out 2,000 rounds a minute but only in theory. You couldn't really hold your finger down that long. When you were blazing away like that, the bullets turned the barrel as hot as Hades. And if you held your finger down too long, it would warp the barrel.
It took thirty seconds for Jones and me to put the charge of C-4 plastic explosive on the door. Then we dashed around to the side of the house so we wouldn't blow ourselves up. You'd be fried meat if you were anywhere near the explosion. I set off the blast, and then the six of us charged in. Jones went first -- that skinny, red-haired Ohio boy was always hot to trot. With Jones leading the way we burst into the house, armed to the hilt. Kevlar helmets, flak jackets, machine guns, combat boots, the whole nine yards.
I'd never been inside an Iraqi's house before. We charged through a kitchen. I had been told by squad leader Padilla to check everything, so I even opened the fridge. Perhaps, I thought, I would find guns or grenades hidden inside. No such luck. In the fridge, all I saw was a bit of food. In the freezer I found big slabs of meat, uncovered. No wrapping. No plastic. Frozen, just like that. We ran into a living room with long couches, one along each wall. In this room with the couches we found two children, a teenager, and a woman. We also found two young men in the house. One looked like a teenager and the other was perhaps in his early 20s -- brothers.
We hollered and cussed. I spat dip on the floor and screamed along with the other soldiers at the top of my lungs. I knew they didn't understand, but I hollered anyway.
"Get down," I shouted. "Get the f--k down. Shut the f--k up."
They didn't know what "get down" meant, so we knocked the two brothers to the floor, face down. We put our knees on their backs, pulled their hands behind them, and faster than you can bat an eye we zipcuffed them. Zipcuffs are plastic handcuffs that lock on tight. They must have bit something fierce into those young men's skin. There was no key, nothing -- the only way to get them off was to slice them with cutters.
We pushed the brothers outside, where 12 other soldiers from our platoon were waiting. The Iraqi brothers were taken away to an American detention facility for interrogation. I don't know what it was called, and I don't know where it was. All I know is that we sent away every man -- pretty well every male over five feet tall -- that we found in our house raids, and I never saw one of them return to the neighbourhoods we patrolled regularly.
Inside, we kept on ransacking the house. The more obvious it became that we would find no weapons or contraband, the more we kicked the stuffing out of the house. We knocked over dressers, sliced into mattresses with knives, kicked our way through doors, raiding the three bedrooms on the second floor, then raced up to the third floor. We turned over everything we could and broke furniture at random, searching for contraband, weapons, proof of terrorist activity, or signs of weapons of mass destruction. We found nothing but a CD. Soldiers initially said it showed proof of terrorist activity, but it turned out to have nothing on it but a bunch of speeches by Saddam Hussein.
Once we had everybody outside the house and had done our initial job of ransacking, another squad took over inside. They kept raising hell in there, breaking and turning over more furniture, looking for weapons that we might have missed. Outside, under a carport, I was assigned to watch the women and children. We weren't arresting them, but we weren't allowing them to go anywhere either. The family members couldn't go back inside, and they couldn't wander off into the neighbourhood. They had to stay right there while we tore the hell out of their house.
A girl in the family -- a teenager -- started staring at me. I tried to ignore her. Then she began speaking to me. Inside, when we had been screaming at her and the others, I'd assumed that nobody understood a word of English. But this young girl spoke to me in English, and her eyes bored holes right through me. She was skin and bones, not even 100 lb., not yet a full-grown woman, but something about her seemed powerful and disturbing. I feared that girl, and I wanted to get away from her as fast as I could, but it was my job to stay right there and make sure she didn't move. I had my weapon ready. She was wearing a blue nightgown and had a white scarf covering her hair. She had no veil, so I could see her face perfectly. Her eyes were coal black and full of hatred.
In English, she asked me, "Where are you taking my brothers?"
"I don't know, Miss," I said.
"Why are you taking them away?"
"I'm afraid I can't say."
"When are you bringing them back?"
"Couldn't tell you that either."
"Why are you doing this to us?"
I couldn't answer that.
I hoped she would not raise a fuss. I didn't want her to start screaming, which could attract the attention of my squad mates. One or two, I feared, would be more than happy to use a rifle butt to knock out her teeth.
I hadn't been in Iraq more than 24 hours and already I was having strange feelings. First, I was vulnerable, and I didn't like it. Even with all these soldiers and all this equipment, I knew that anywhere, at any time, any Iraqi with a gun, a wall to hide behind, and one decent eye could pick me off faster than a hawk nabs a mouse. Second, with hardly one foot into the war, I was also uneasy about what we were doing there. Something was amiss. We hadn't found anything in this girl's house, but we had busted it up pretty well in 30 minutes and had taken away her brothers. Inside, another squad was still ransacking the house. I didn't enjoy being stuck guarding this girl under the carport, in the cool April air before dawn in Ramadi. Her questions haunted me, and I didn't like not being able to answer them -- even to myself.
Busting into and ransacking homes remained one of my most common duties in Iraq. Before my time was up, I took part in about 200 raids. We never found weapons or indications of terrorism. I never found a thing that seemed to justify the terror we inflicted every time we blasted through the door of a civilian home, broke everything in sight, punched and zipcuffed the men, and sent them away. One raid was far worse.
It was a handsome two-storey house and quite isolated. As usual, I put the charge of C-4 explosives on the door and we blew it in. As we rushed into the house, women were staggering out of their rooms. Three teenage girls screamed when they saw us. Some of my squad mates grabbed them and held them at gunpoint, and the rest of us ran through the house. We found no men at all, just six more women in their 20s and 30s. The guys in my squad couldn't find a thing, not even any guns -- and it seemed that the more incapable they were of locating contraband, the more destructive they became. They smashed dressers, ripped mattresses, broke cabinets, and threw shelves to the floor.
Outside I found Pte. 1st Class Hayes with a woman under an empty carport. He pointed his M-16 at her head but she would not stop screaming.
"What are you doing this for?" she said.
Hayes told her to shut up.
"We have done nothing to you," she went on.
Hayes was starting to lose it. I told her that we were there on orders and that we couldn't speak to her, but on and on and on she bawled at Hayes and me.
"You Americans are disgusting! Who do you think you are, to do this to us?"
Hayes slammed her in the face with the stock of his M-16. She fell face down into the dirt, bleeding and silent. The woman lay still on the ground. I pushed Hayes away.
"What are you doing, man?" I said to him. "You have a wife and two kids! Don't be hitting her like that."
He looked at me with eyes full of hatred, as if he was ready to kill me for saying those words, but he did not touch the woman again. I found this incident with Hayes particularly disturbing because during other times I had seen him in action in Iraq, he had showed himself to be one of the most level-headed and calm soldiers in my company. I had the sense that if he could lose it and hit a woman the way he had, any of us could lose it too.
Then something happened that haunts my dreams to this day. All the women were led back inside the house and our entire platoon was ordered to stand guard outside it. Four U.S. military men entered the house with the women. They closed the doors. We couldn't see anything through the windows. I don't know who the military men were, or what unit they were from, but I can only conclude that they outranked us and were at least at the level of first lieutenant or above. That's because our own second lieutenant Joyce was there, and his presence did not deter them.
Normally, when we conducted a raid, we were in and out in 30 minutes or less. You never wanted to stay in one place for too long for fear of exposing yourself to mortar attacks. But our platoon was made to stand guard outside that house for about an hour. The women started shouting and screaming. The men stayed in there with them, behind closed doors. It went on and on and on.
Finally, the men came out and told us to get the hell out of there.
It struck me then that we, the American soldiers, were the terrorists. We were terrorizing Iraqis. Intimidating them. Beating them. Destroying their homes. Probably raping them. The ones we didn't kill had all the reasons in the world to become terrorists themselves. Given what we were doing to them, who could blame them for wanting to kill us, and all Americans? A sick realization lodged like a cancer in my gut. It grew and festered, and troubled me more with every passing day. We, the Americans, had become the terrorists in Iraq.
In December 2003, Key went home on a two-week leave. He never returned to Iraq. Instead, Key went into hiding. The following March, he and his family crossed the Canadian border at Niagara Falls

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