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February 28, 2007

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Of course they should lose their jobs. But they won't, will they. No accountability? The powers that be truly care about the troops (not).

They are proven failures- Time to give them the "Medal of Freedom"

The same old song: why pay for a broken tool?
There're few combinations worse than pea-counters in league with ideologues that use humans like pieces in a board game.
The editorial cartoons depicting soldiers that want to go back to Iraq to escape from the hell of Walter Reed begin to look realistic.

"The bottom line is, people knew about it but the culture of the Army didn't allow it to be addressed." What's that about? I had always heard that the culture of the army involved taking care of your people, never leaving them behind. I wouldn't have thought it meant leaving them in squalor when they had sacrificed their limbs or their brains or their sanity for their country.

Read Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, "Florence Nightingale", Part II:

The first sign of a great change came with the appearance of some of those necessary objects with which the hospitals had been unprovided for months. The sick men began to enjoy the use of towels and soap, knives and forks, combs and tooth-brushes. Dr. Hall might snort when he heard of it, asking, with a growl, what a soldier wanted with a tooth-brush; but the good work went on. Eventually the whole business of purveying to the hospitals was, in effect, carried out by Miss Nightingale. She alone, it seemed, whatever the contingency, knew where to lay her hands on what was wanted; she alone could dispense her stores with readiness; above all she alone possessed the art of circumventing the pernicious influences of official etiquette. This was her greatest enemy, and sometimes even she was baffled by it. On one occasion 27,000 shirts sent out at her instance by the Home Government, arrived, were landed, and were only waiting to be unpacked. But the official “Purveyor” intervened; “he could not unpack them,” he said, “without a Board.” Miss Nightingale pleaded in vain; the sick and wounded lay half-naked shivering for want of clothing; and three weeks elapsed before the Board released the shirts. A little later, however, on a similar occasion, Miss Nightingale felt that she could assert her own authority. She ordered a Government consignment to be forcibly opened, while the miserable “Purveyor” stood by, wringing his hands in departmental agony.
After that, move on to The Last of the Light Brigade.

Oh yes, Hilzoy, and so far from the people who could have fixed things and didn't losing their jobs, apparently the soldiers who talked to reporters are being penalized instead. That's the military tradition: don't fix the problem, fix the soldiers who grumbled about the problem to outsiders. The solution to the photographs revealing what was going on in Abu Ghraib was not to arrest and court-martial everyone responsible for torturing prisoners: it was to ban cameras.

The GOP's core competency is vacuuming up money for Republicans. When tens of billions have "gone missing" in the last four years, not spending money on the troops should surprise no one.

One of the structural problems that's led to the Walter Reed outpatient nightmare is the conflict between providing care for wounded vets and seeking to keep them in the force to keep numbers up (because we're fighting a war with a volunteer force and unsustainable troop levels).

Dana Priest stressed in an NPR interview after the second day of the story that there was tremendous incentive for the Army to deny disability ratings, both to keep costs down and to keep soldiers on the active-duty side of the ledger. Because mental injury is both less visible to the public and press and harder to "prove" against hostile ratings, soldiers with brain injury and those with severe mental damage are bearing the brunt of this set of incentives.

These are also the patients most in need of advocates and accompaniment through the system -- and the least likely to get that help. It's easy to imagine many of the returning vets suffering PTSD wishing they'd had a leg blown off instead.

However it happened, if people in positions of authority knew about these conditions and did not do everything in their power to change them, then they should lose their jobs.

I agree 100%. They shouldn’t be running a 7/11 much less our premiere (?!?) military hospital.


What's that about?

I have no idea unless “the culture of the Army” has changed 180 degrees over the last 20 years.


One issue with the reporters and editors:

Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.

A sergeant major is not an officer, and a top enlisted officer is nothing but babble. That seems like a minor mistake, but to anyone familiar with the military it jumps out and highlights the fact that most reporters and their editors are completely unfamiliar with the military. That tends to make us view whatever it is they are writing about with a degree of skepticism. It’s not that we (always) suspect an agenda – it’s that the author and those vaunted layers of editors have absolutely no background or familiarity to be covering the military. I don’t mean this to detract from this particular story – I believe this in all its frustrating detail. I just thought I’d take the occasion to point this out in general.

You know, I know that sergeants aren't officers, but saying that description is nothing but babble is an overstatement. I'm not all that familiar with the military, and so I'm not coming up with the right Army word for what the navy would call a petty officer -- an enlisted man with a supervisory rank like a sergeant. But calling a sergeant an 'enlisted officer', even though it's wrong, reasonably conveys the nature of their role to a lay audience -- not a commissioned officer, but someone who's in charge of some stuff.

Now, this isn't meant to excuse errors like that, but I think the mistrust they engender can be overstated.

Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.

As you say, inaccurate, but possibly the reporter couldn't get his mind around the fact as actual officer wasn't running a crucial operation.

Again – I don’t dispute this particular story in any way.

It was just such a basic mistake (uncaught by any editor) that I thought it might be a useful example of why some people tend to view MSM stories about the military with a degree of skepticism. When you can’t get such a simple fact correct, and there is no one in the editorial chain that knows any better, then it opens the door for that skepticism.

A Sergeant Major is a senior NCO (non-commissioned officer) – “enlisted non-commissioned officer” would actually be redundant, which is why I said that “enlisted officer” is just babble. I’m guessing that they keyed in on “Major” and assumed it had to mean an officer. Given that the story is primarily about the Army, it sticks out. You would think that a story about the Army would be reviewed by someone with a passing familiarity of the Army. This basic mistake makes it apparent that it was not – so what else might they have gotten incorrect?

Not a big deal in this case, but we see it in other stories and photograph captions where it does have more bearing (identifying an old Soviet artillery shell as the remains of an American missile that just destroyed some poor Pakistani’s home for example). So this is a somewhat silly example but others have more significant ramifications.

Anyway – I don’t want to drag this OT, it just seemed like a good example to point out.

A Sergeant Major is a senior NCO (non-commissioned officer) – “enlisted non-commissioned officer” would actually be redundant, which is why I said that “enlisted officer” is just babble. I’m guessing that they keyed in on “Major” and assumed it had to mean an officer. Given that the story is primarily about the Army, it sticks out. You would think that a story about the Army would be reviewed by someone with a passing familiarity of the Army. This basic mistake makes it apparent that it was not – so what else might they have gotten incorrect?

What I'm saying is that I think you're misreading the error. I'm pretty much the sort of militarily ignorant person who writes these stories, and I'm solid on the fact that a Sergeant Major is a kind of sergeant, not a kind of major, and on the fact that that a sergeant is enlisted and a major is an officer. But the proper word for what a sergeant is, a non-commissioned officer, isn't on the tip of my tongue. Screwing up by saying 'enlisted officer' instead of 'non-comissioned officer' is an error, and it's certainly the kind of error that someone with a strong military background wouldn't make, but it reads to me like a vocabulary error ("What's the right phrase? It's got 'officer' in it, but sergeants are enlisted men. 'Enlisted officer'? Must be it") rather than a deep misunderstanding of the difference between a Sergeant Major and a major.

You can still fairly gripe that that kind of careless error is more common in military affairs than in other areas more familiar to the press corps -- I just think you're misreading the depth of the error.

OCSteve: You would think that a story about the Army would be reviewed by someone with a passing familiarity of the Army.

Well, no. Newspapers don't work like that - the pace is just too quick, you can't afford the time to find experts to review articles. But a decent copyeditor should have picked that up and corrected it. Otherwise, what LizardBreath said: it's a vocabulary mistake.

Wading into the vocabulary morass misses the point of the story. The generals and Pentagon who brought you a "few bad apples" enlisted men at Abu Ghraib tried to pass off the Walter Reed mess as the work of a sergeant major and a few enlisted men.

I think the senior officer corps of the United States has a serious problem with careerism and responsibility. The entire chain of command should be forcibly retired immediately.

Reporters' screwups aren't limited to military matters. Reporters and editors make mistakes all the time, in all sorts of areas. It's a wide world and deadlines are short.

Confusion over enlisted officer/non-commissioned officer isn't evidence of the MSM's blindspot on things military. It's more evidence that the press sometimes gets things wrong, in general.

Hey, Major Gen. Weightman, the head of Walter Reed, just got fired. So heads have rolled.

But the guy he was fired by, who's also taking over the job on an interim basis, is the very same Lt. Gen. Kiley mentioned in the excerpt above.

No, they should not lose their jobs.

They should be *prosecuted*.

earl

They should be *prosecuted*.

If it’s any comfort I can assure you that this guy’s career is over and that as a CG he is paying a high price. Career wise, relieved of command is about as bad as it gets.

The officer relieved of command will get a high retirement pension and will go on to a cushy and even more remunerative job in the private sector.

He may have lost his "career" but it won't cost him financially.

You might want to read the coverage of this issue at a good military blog I read. They are officers and retired officers mostly posting there and they are *livid*.

http://www.intel-dump.com/

I had assumed that the problems the original article described existed because no one who knew about them was in a position to do anything.
I do a lot of direct action organizing, and one of the things we have to repeatedly drill into people in trainings is that the failure to do things right is not just because the people in power didn't realize what was going on. It's kind of scary from a "aren't they human?" perspective, but most people in power know damn good and well what's going on. Maybe they don't care, maybe they think that admitting the problem will lead to bigger problems (re-enlistment problems or whatever), whatever, but they know. And, frankly, it doesn't matter why they're not fixing the problem. That's between them and their conscience. We don't need to give a damn about their conscience, we just need to demand that they act responsibly.

Wow - when Hilzoy calls for heads look out.

breaking: Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey just resigned over this.

Wow - when Hilzoy calls for heads look out.

breaking: Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey just resigned over this.

Good.

For once, heads are rolling.

It's just bizarre to me sometimes which events will lead to accountability and which ones won't. I'm happy to see there are consequences here, though.

most people in power know damn good and well what's going on. Maybe they don't care, maybe they think that admitting the problem will lead to bigger problems (re-enlistment problems or whatever), whatever, but they know.

In my experience what sometimes happens is that those in charge have no idea what to do and hope that the people lower down in the organization can somehow make things work OK. Either that or they are unwilling to try to do what is necessary, especially if that involves going to someone and asking for a big budget increase or something else unusual.

The ability to face problems squarely is less common than we might think.

here's what I sent to my beloved Rep Duncan Hunter:

Re conditions at Walter Reed:

This is how you "support the troops", isn't it? Fail to give them armor, and then when they are injured fighting the war started by Bush's lying to Congress, you fail to give adequate medical attention.

Or didn't you know? Are you so busy "supporting the troops" that you take no heed of warnings sent to top officials? Is it worse, in the Pesident's own words "if you did know or if you didn't"?

For all your talk of the Democrats "aiding the enemy", Dianne Fienstein is doing more this past week than you've done in the past months.

For shame, sir, for shame.

By the way, how is it that starting a war by lying to Congress is not an impeachable offense?

I don't expect any real answer. I'm sure you're far too busy "supporting the troops".

Kiley hasn't retired yet...

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