Wednesday, April 25, 2007

WHO Doesn't Support The Troops? Bush Ignores The Wounded!

With Bush, Cheney, and McCain once again equating Democratic opposition to the war with lack of support for the troops, Salon's Mark Benjamin has produced yet another bombshell report on the Administration's callous neglect of those wounded in the war!
When the Walter Reed scandal exploded in the media in February, bringing wide attention to inadequate care for veterans at the Army's flagship hospital, Defense Department officials expressed shock and claimed ignorance. Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., the assistant defense secretary who oversees military medicine, declared at a press conference on Feb. 21: "This news caught me -- as it did many other people -- completely by surprise."

But Salon has learned that the Defense Department had been conducting monthly focus group discussions with soldiers treated at Walter Reed since before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had even begun, and that it continued to do so as wounded veterans of those conflicts arrived at the facility. The interviews with outpatients were set up to monitor Army healthcare and provide military officials with direct information about it.

"They were trying to find out the good and the bad and the ugly," said a former Defense Department official familiar with the DoD focus groups. "That is the good-news story. The bad-news story is they did not do anything about it."
Simply put: they knew! And they didn't care!

So, let's review...

NPR already reported that the Pentagon is giving disability benefits to fewer veterans, since the war began!
When service members are forced to leave the military by war injuries or illness, they face a complex system for getting health and disability benefits. Sometimes, health care gets cut off when new veterans find they need it most. Some retired soldiers and their families say they are worried that the Pentagon won't spend enough money to give the injured the care they deserve.
And NPR reported on research done by retired Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parker:
Parker started digging through Pentagon data, and the numbers he found shocked him. He learned that the Pentagon is giving fewer veterans disability benefits today than it was before the Iraq war — despite the fact that thousands of soldiers are leaving the military with serious injuries.

"It went from 102,000 and change in 2001... and now it's down to 89,500," says Parker. "It's counterintuitive. Why are the number of disability retirees shrinking during wartime?"
And the New York Times reported in January that up to eighty percent of the marines killed in Iraq could still be alive, if they'd been given adequate body armor!

A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.
A month later, the Washington Post reported that the troops being sent to Iraq as part of Bush's escalation are not even being given adequate protections!
The Army is working to fill a shortfall in Iraq of thousands of advanced Humvee armor kits designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs -- including a rising threat from particularly lethal weapons linked to Iran and known as "explosively formed penetrators" (EFP) -- that are now inflicting 70 percent of the American casualties in the country, according to U.S. military and civilian officials.

The additional protection is needed for thousands of U.S. reinforcement troops flowing into Baghdad, where these devastating weapons -- used primarily by Shiite fighters -- are particularly prevalent, the officials said.

U.S. Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan lack more than 4,000 of the latest Humvee armor kit, known as FRAG Kit 5, according to U.S. officials. The Army has ramped up production of the armor, giving priority to troops in Baghdad, but the upgrade is not scheduled to be completed until this summer, Army officials said. That is well into the timeline for major operations launched last week to quell violence by Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, which the U.S. military now views as the top security threat in Iraq.
And, of course, the troops themselves considered themselves overextended, thanks to Stop-Loss policies, and that was even before the latest round of tour extensions!

And, of course, it was Benjamin who already broke the stories that wounded troops are being sent back into battle; and that a VA official who investigated conditions at Walter Reed in 2004, and apparently did nothing is being promoted!

So, let's be clear: the Bush-Cheney administration is overworking the troops, failing to give them adequate protective armor, neglecting them when they return from the war wounded, giving fewer disability benefits, and promoting the very people who knew about these scandals and did nothing about them! And Bush and Cheney run around blathering that Democratic attempts to bring the troops home from his failed war means a lack of support? Bush and Cheney could not be doing more to abuse our troops, and less to support them, if that was their deliberate intention! And no amount of lies, warmongering, and fearmongering can hide the fundamental facts! Bush and Cheney are the enemies of America's military personnel!

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