Sunday, March 04, 2007

Walter Reed - A Casualty of the Political War

The emerging scandal surrounding the deteriorating level of care for wounded vets at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is a serious one, and one which even now seems not to be garnering the level of press attention it deserves. The reason for this, I'm convinced, is the heightened hyperbole of the political debate, and the cries of "Wolf!" coming from the left, and the smug, blind arrogance on the right.

Specifically, the left has been making charges against the Army's logistical, financial, and materiel support (this time around) since 2002. Not enough pay, not enough armor, not enough medical support. Some of them have been important and valid criticisms. Many (especially more recently) have been flatly ridiculous. But because the universal conclusion of these bomb throwers was, "So that means we shouldn't fight terrorists at all - run away!" the complaints were ignored for what in many cases they really were - an attempt to be anti-war and anti-military without sounding anti-war or anti-troop. Most telling was that almost none of them couched their critiques in terms of how to better improve the fighting efficiency and efficacy of the Army - They were nothing more than calls for pre-emptive American surrender. As a result, no one who took seriously America's crucial role in battling tyranny, fascism, and Islamo-terrorism world wide took any of the complaints seriously - even when they deserved to be soberly addressed.

Usually, I don't mind "partisanship" or "politicization." I usually consider those synonyms for "standing firm on principle" and "robust debate and democracy." But this is a case where the line has been crossed, and the team sport mentality causes substantial harm to those we can least afford to hurt - the volunteer bulwarks of freedom.

The absurdity of many of the left's complaints allowed the right - who "knew" that their status as the only serious party when it came to national security was secure - to ignore ALL the complaints. The were entrenched in power - why should they bother with introspection? Why should they give any ammunition to their political enemies, who they (not incorrectly) feared would only use it to further undermine the American war effort?

And so it was that the conditions at Walter Reed continued to deteriorate, American heroes were left to fight through the red tape of the world's largest HMO on their own, and those who have sacrificed for our freedom were given lip service instead of real help.

I'm glad that heads have rolled at the highest level. I'm glad that the Bush administration has begun taking action to remedy the situation. I hope that the Republicans have gulped enough humble pie to take the time to sort the serious complaints from the chaff thrown up by pacifist appeasers of tyranny. And I hope that Democrats, now under the weight of leadership, will tamp down the shrill and the dishonest, so they can better serve the American military.

But I'm not going to hold my breath. Thanks be to the bloggers and the few reporters who wouldn't let this problem simply melt into the roar of partisanship.


Juvenal said...

Dooood. You're not seriously blaming the left and their complaints for the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed are you? The left's criticism of other aspects of the war may have been strident and irresponsible, but that in no way excuses the administration's disgraceful showing on this issue. The Bush administration consistently refuses to behave as if there is a war going on. So the Base Reduction Commission recommended closing Walter Reed (one of the excuses cited for not addressing some of the problem, the place was closing anyway, why put more money into it) -- big deal, the administration should have ignored the Commission's recommendations -- we're fighting a war in which we have a large number of army casualties; keep the main army hospital open for longer, and spend the money required to make it an absolutely top notch facility. The soldiers deserve it.
I question the contention that the Republicans are better for out military than the Democrats. They certainly talk a better game, but they've really run this war incredibly ineffectively and inefficiently.

Orrin Johnson said...

No - I'm blaming the whole body politic. Everything you said is right on. What I'm saying is that the left's years of the most ridiculously irresponsible criticisms have made their LEGITIMATE complaints easier to ignore. That's their part in the complicity. I in no way excuse the arrogance of the Republicans, who in the ACTUAL leadership role, allowed the total lack of serious opposition to blind them.

This is the perfect example of how rabid foam-at-the-mouth Bush hating made Bush LESS likely to be held accountable, not more, and magnified his faults, as opposed to offsetting them. A lack of responsible opposition harms the country, because it exacerbates the already inate tendencies of entrenched power to become unresponsive to actual problems.