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Saturday, March 03, 2007
Why We Fight

I've been kind of taking a break from the news over the past couple of weeks, between traveling and just being burnt out, I've decided not to obsess. Taking a quick look around to catch up revealed the usual suspects:

We're still at war, the weather is killing people down south, buses are plunging, the stock market is volatile, fat chicks still can't get a break, and in a story that initially seemed shocking, one of our country's best-known hypocrite segregationists apparently owned the family of one of our nation's best-known civil rights leaders.

The fact that none of these things really makes much of a blip on my radar is pretty sad, and I'll take full responsibility for allowing myself to devolve into this state.

But over the past couple of weeks, reports have been circulating about some of the conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which, if not the biggest care facility for injured veterans, is at the very least, the best known. This is a place, we are told, where our brave men and women receive the finest treatment available as thanks for their service and sacrifice. Since we went to war four years ago, the hospital, much like the Veterans Administration as a whole, has been somewhat overwhelmed. That's just natural, but it's ok, because our warrior president, who loves to stand in front of our brave troops while he makes speeches, has said time and time again that we will do whatever is necessary to provide for our heroes.

As long is doesn't mean increased taxes or tangible sacrifice. Duh.

But it turns out that our good intentions, well-wishes, and magnetic, yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbons haven't been sufficient on their own to help ease the rehabilitation of injured soldiers and marines.

Because the system is swamped while also being underfunded, investigations have uncovered widespread problems in regard to the quality of care troops receive, systemic issues with unsanitary conditions and a host of other things that quite obviously should not be happening, particularly while President Troop Hugger is still The Decider. If these men and women cannot be rehabilitated, and integrated back into American society as a whole (whenever possible), then it is truly a national shame on all of us.

As the stories began to hit the media at large this week, interviews with amputees, the brain-injured, and other wounded hit the television like a runaway freight train.

Well, not with the ferocity of the Anna Nicole Smith story, but still, pretty loud.

Over the past couple of days, fortunately, the military and the administration have made great strides to address the real problem, and I expect you won't be hearing too much more about these awful incidents.

Oh? Has a pledge been made to fund at whatever level necessary these vital veteran's programs?

(This is where being jaded really pays off.)

No, in accordance with the president's ethos of never actually doing anything that would require effort or sacrifice, a simpler solution has been devised:

Order the troops to stop speaking to reporters.

See how easy that was? Problem solved! Oh sure, some troops will likely still contact the media surreptitiously, via email, or through Watergate-style undercover leaking, perhaps choosing to use the nom de guerre "Deep Tracheotomy." But those people are probably chronic whiners.

A review: American joins the service for any number of reasons, could be patriotism, employment, travel, or because it has been repeated over and over that the people who are trying to kill us (Saudi Arabians, mainly) hate our freedoms.

I'll be honest, I've never really bought into that. I mean, a lot of people in the world reflexively hate America in much the same way that basketball fans hate Duke. Everyone hates #1. We have, by far, the largest and most expensive military on the planet, but there's more.

American culture is pervasive. I think a lot of the resentment really stems from the fact that when it comes to entertainment, this country produces it on a scale and quality that no other nation can compete with. It may not all be great or significant, but even the worst of it is better than what some countries have. And it certainly isn't as if we have some sort of monopoly on creativity, I'm strictly talking about scale. American popular culture is popular culture for most of the world. I recall the French attempting to institute limits on how much foreign entertainment would be allowed into their country, which is their right. Of course, in the internet age, any attempts to limit freedom of information will fail, and in the larger scheme of things, that is absolutely wonderful. It's a marketplace of ideas, and censorship will always lose.

Except here at home.

US troops were sent to Iraq, and told that they must defeat those who would take away our freedoms, which would include, ostensibly, freedom of speech. It is important for Iraqis to be able to express displeasure about their leaders. That's what democracy is all about, and that's what keeps it viable. Otherwise, citizens who complain could find themselves, for example, thrown out of their homes, or fired from their jobs. They might even have medical care denied to them, despite the horrible injuries they have sustained on the battlefield in defense of freedom.

As the national debate heats up about health care, perhaps we can manage to agree that while on the road to affordable, quality health care for all Americans, we can perhaps first provide it to those injured in the defense of our freedoms. And maybe if there's time, freeloading, asshole kids.

posted at 11:58 AM

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