Friday, June 29, 2007
With Giuliani's poll numbers declining and his front-runner status threatened by former Sen. Fred Thompson, he can't be blamed for wanting to change the subject, and his preferred topic is always 9/11, which allows him to remind everyone of his finest hour and to pose as the nation's potential savior in 2008. Speaking at Pat Robertson's Regent University June 26 -- where he also continued his servile pandering to the religious right -- Giuliani accused the former president of failing to confront the threat from Islamist terrorism, dating all the way back to the first bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993.Link.
"Islamic terrorists killed more than 500 Americans before Sept. 11," he intoned. "Many people think the first attack on America was on Sept. 11, 2001. It was not. It was in 1993 ... The United States government, then President Clinton, did not respond. Bin Laden declared war on us, [but] we didn't hear it." He went on to accuse all of the Democratic presidential candidates of being "in denial" about terrorism and wanting to "put the country in reverse to the 1990s." Democrats, he warned, "can't face this threat. They couldn't in the 1990s."
Now that belligerently partisan speech struck some reporters as a big contrast with remarks Giuliani made last September, when he piously urged everyone to refrain from blaming either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks. But as close observers of the former mayor can attest, what he really meant was that nobody else should place blame for 9/11 on Clinton. He reserved that privilege for himself, since he is, according to his own description, the man who knows more about the threat of terrorism than anyone else.
But let's forget Giuliani's hypocrisy and arrogance for a moment and simply dissect this specimen of demagogy lie by lie. It's a useful exercise, because we are sure to hear much more of the same from him before this campaign is over.
What does Giuliani mean when he says that President Clinton "did not respond" to the first bombing of the World Trade Center? At the time, there was no evidence linking Osama bin Laden, then still a fairly obscure Saudi millionaire, and al-Qaida scarcely existed. Former CIA director James Woolsey has said that the earliest inkling of any connection between bin Laden and the 1993 bombing came two years later. Until the FBI investigation resulted in the indictments of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and his network, nobody knew for certain whether a terrorist group or a foreign state was responsible for the '93 attack.
So Clinton didn't "respond" by launching missiles or sending special forces because there was no proven target for that kind of military action. As a leading authority on terrorism, Giuliani ought to be aware of those very basic historical realities. But by saying that the Democrats couldn't face the threat of terrorism in the 1990s, he is suggesting that Clinton did nothing as president to confront Islamist violence. Not only is that implication false, but it turns a decade's history backward. Whenever Clinton behaved resolutely abroad, it was the Republicans who sought to weaken him -- and the United States -- with partisan assaults on his foreign and security policies.
When Clinton tried to sustain the U.S. mission in Somalia, for instance, Senate Republicans (including John McCain) cut off funding and demanded retreat. When Clinton struck al-Qaida installations in Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998, those same Republicans and their media allies complained that his actions were merely a "wag the dog" distraction from impeachment -- and later whined that he hadn't done enough to get bin Laden. Later still, they stopped worrying about bin Laden when the Bush administration decided to essentially give up on apprehending or killing the al-Qaida leader. That includes Giuliani, incidentally, who has never demanded that his friend Bush live up to the promise to get the terrorist chief "dead or alive."
The list of Clinton's actions against terrorism and specifically against al-Qaida is long; the list of his efforts to prepare domestically against a terrorist attack is even longer. He and his aides tried to warn the incoming Bush administration about al-Qaida's plans to attack the United States, but they were brushed aside, as were the study group led by former Sens. Gary Hart and Warren Rudman; Bush's own counterterrorism director, Richard Clarke; and CIA chief George Tenet.
As for Giuliani, what did he do after the '93 bombing? In their reporting for "Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11," journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins went to great lengths to find out. The answer, they discovered, was that he did nothing. And he said nothing. After he was elected mayor later that year, he still did and said nothing about terrorism, a pattern of inaction and inattention that continued for years, even as the trials of the bombing perpetrators went on in his city -- and even as federal investigators uncovered terrorist plots to blow up the Hudson River tunnels and other major New York City targets.
Eventually, as Barrett and Collins reveal in their stunning book, Giuliani made a series of foolish, self-serving mayoral decisions that exacerbated the damage and deaths caused by the terrorists on 9/11. More recently, his stupidity and vanity almost led to the appointment of an unqualified felon named Bernard Kerik as America's secretary of homeland security.
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he said. His side of the debate, the chief justice said, was “more faithful to the heritage of Brown,” the landmark 1954 decision that declared school segregation unconstitutional. “When it comes to using race to assign children to schools, history will be heard,” he said.Link.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
HarperCollins also provoked a firestorm when it gave Mr. Gingrich a $4.5 million book contract as Congress was preparing to redraw the media ownership rules.
Mr. Ginsberg pointed out that Mr. Murdoch later fired the Gingrich book’s editor for making what he regarded as an “uneconomical and unseemly” deal. He said that in general Mr. Murdoch did not involve himself in decisions about book contracts, and added, “If these books aren’t viable, they aren’t published.”
Mr. Lott’s book sold 12,000 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of all domestic retail and Internet sales. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, received $24,506 from HarperCollins for his modest-selling book “Passion for Truth,” according to financial disclosure forms. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, got $141,666 for her book “American Heroines,” which has sold better. All sit on either the Commerce or Judiciary Committees that most closely oversee the media business.
HarperCollins has also given book deals to Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, and a $1 million advance to Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, both of whose books are due out next year.
From a FAIR email:
On the June 22 broadcast of CBS Evening News, reporter Jeff Greenfield's critique of Michael Moore's documentary Sicko relied on a single premise: that the U.S. public and its political leaders do not embrace Moore's preferred solution (a single-payer system, where medical care is provided by private doctors and hospitals but paid for by the government). But that argument is at odds with the available evidence.
While noting that Moore's film "features affecting stories of personal suffering at the hands of indifferent corporations," Greenfield argued that even though presidential candidates "have all talked a lot about changing the health care system...no one, Democrat or Republican, has come close to advocating the kind of government-run national health system Michael Moore proposes." This is incorrect; Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio), a presidential contender, supports the very same approach, as do dozens of congressmembers who have co-sponsored H.R. 676, a bill that would provide single-payer coverage in the United States. Ironically, Kucinich appeared on the screen next to Moore as Greenfield made this false claim.
Greenfield elaborated on this storyline, claiming that the U.S. does not have universal health coverage because "Americans are just different." He went on to quote Paul Ginsburg of the Center for Studying Health System Change: "We're much less willing to have government make decisions for people than is the case in Canada and Europe. It's a cultural difference."
That assessment is contradicted by recent polling. In a recent CNN poll (5/4-5/6/07), 64 percent of respondents supported the idea that "government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes." And a recent CBS/New York Times poll (2/23-27/07) found 64 percent support for the idea that the federal government should "guarantee health insurance for all," and 60 percent supported paying higher taxes to provide such coverage. Additionally, 50 percent believed "fundamental changes" to the healthcare system were necessary, and another 40 percent thought the country needed to "completely rebuild" the system.
If Greenfield meant to say that political elites are slow to act on public opinion, he's surely correct (and this would apply to many other political issues as well). The same is true of elite media outlets, which have dismissed and maligned single-payer healthcare for years. Imagine what the polls would like if there were a serious discussion of the issue, instead of dismissals from the likes of Jeff Greenfield.
Monday, June 25, 2007
1. The vice president's "understanding" with the boss. Just after Cheney took office, former Vice President Dan Quayle warned him about the ceremonial nature of the job. Cheney smirked and told Quayle: "I have a different understanding with the president." Quayle says Cheney saw himself as what Quayle calls a "surrogate chief of staff." Bush's actual chief of staff, Josh Bolten, says Cheney's deal with Bush guarantees him a seat at "every table and every meeting" and the right to make his voice heard in "whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in."Link.
2. How it works. The Post says Cheney "holds his purchase on an unrivaled portfolio across the executive branch." Bush deals at the level of "broad objectives, broadly declared." Cheney, on the other hand, "inhabits an operational world in which means are matched with ends and some of the most important choices are made. When particulars rise to presidential notice, Cheney often steers the preparation of options and sits with Bush, in side-by-side wing chairs, as he is briefed."
3. The secrecy. The vice president's Dracula-and-sunlight-like aversion to transparency is well known, but the Post adds two nice details: The "daily work" of the Office of the Vice President is stored in "man-size Mosler safes," typically used by other government agencies only for classified material. And in Cheney's office, just about everything is classified, or treated that way: The vice president apparently invented a new classification for pseudo secrets to be used even for not-so-secret documents like press talking points: "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI."
4. The power. Even as the twin towers fell on 9/11, Cheney and his then legal aide, David Addington, began planning an expansion of presidential powers. The Post explains: "Down in the bunker, according to a colleague with firsthand knowledge, Cheney and Addington began contemplating the founding question of the legal revolution to come: What extraordinary powers will the president need for his response?"
5. Cheney's team. On matters of presidential power, it consisted of John Yoo, Tim Flanigan and Addington. "Gonzales, a former Texas judge, had the seniority and the relationship with Bush," the Post says. "But Addington -- a man of imposing demeanor, intellect and experience -- dominated the group. Gonzales 'was not a law-of-war expert and didn't have very developed views,' Yoo recalled, echoing blunter observations by the Texan's White House colleagues."
6. The order. In the Post's telling, Cheney and his team pretty much single-handedly came up with the plan to send detainees to military tribunals rather than civilian courts; they shortcircuited a panel that was supposed to be considering the issue, rejected the complaints of Attorney General John Ashcroft, and kept their plan secret from Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. After ordering that the plan be kept out of any staff review, Cheney got Bush to sign it by hand-walking it to him at lunch in the private dining room near the Oval Office.
7. Torture. The Post says Cheney's office "played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials." How they did it: "Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden 'torture' and permitted use of 'cruel, inhuman or degrading' methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government."
8. More torture. Former Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee wasn't the author of the infamous August 2002 memo that smashed through the limits to what the United States could or couldn't do to people in its custody. Although the White House has attributed the work to Yoo, Yoo tells the Post that the other members of the Cheney team contributed. Addington, Cheney's legal advisor, was behind what the Post calls the memo's "most radical claim": If the president authorizes an interrogation method, it can't be illegal because ... the president has authorized it. A second memo, also prepared by Team Cheney, approved of a long list of interrogation techniques the CIA wanted to use -- including, the Post says, "waterboarding."
9. And still more torture. The signing statement in which Bush all but eviscerated John McCain's Detainee Treatment Act by saying its language would be construed "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief"? It came from Cheney's office.
10. Guantánamo. Last week's talk of a high-level meeting and an impending decision to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba? The Post says Cheney is actually in favor of expanding the facility. He's almost alone in that view, the Post says, but he has succeeded so far in keeping Gitmo open.
The U.S. commander of a new offensive north of Baghdad, reclaiming insurgent territory day by day, said Sunday his Iraqi partners may be too weak to hold onto the gains.Link.
The Iraqi military does not even have enough ammunition, said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek: "They're not quite up to the job yet."
His counterpart south of Baghdad seemed to agree, saying U.S. troops are too few to garrison the districts newly rid of insurgents. "It can't be coalition (U.S.) forces. We have what we have. There's got to be more Iraqi security forces," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Michael Moore, 2003 Oscars:Link.
We -- We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.
Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or the fictitious of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush.
Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you.
And any time you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up.
Andrew Sullivan, soon after:
NO: I didn't watch the Oscars. I loathe those people for the most part, but I'm glad to hear that some of them actually booed Michael Moore. For relief, I watched "Billy Madison."
Andrew Sullivan, just recently:
The president's basic rationale for the war in Iraq was debunked within a few weeks of the invasion.
Read it and weep....
The War InsideLink.
Troops Are Returning From the Battlefield With Psychological Wounds, But the Mental-Health System That Serves Them Makes Healing Difficult
By Dana Priest and Anne Hull
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 17, 2007; A01
Army Spec. Jeans Cruz helped capture Saddam Hussein. When he came home to the Bronx, important people called him a war hero and promised to help him start a new life. The mayor of New York, officials of his parents' home town in Puerto Rico, the borough president and other local dignitaries honored him with plaques and silk parade sashes. They handed him their business cards and urged him to phone.
But a "black shadow" had followed Cruz home from Iraq, he confided to an Army counselor. He was hounded by recurring images of how war really was for him: not the triumphant scene of Hussein in handcuffs, but visions of dead Iraqi children.
In public, the former Army scout stood tall for the cameras and marched in the parades. In private, he slashed his forearms to provoke the pain and adrenaline of combat. He heard voices and smelled stale blood. Soon the offers of help evaporated and he found himself estranged and alone, struggling with financial collapse and a darkening depression.
At a low point, he went to the local Department of Veterans Affairs medical center for help. One VA psychologist diagnosed Cruz with post-traumatic stress disorder. His condition was labeled "severe and chronic." In a letter supporting his request for PTSD-related disability pay, the psychologist wrote that Cruz was "in need of major help" and that he had provided "more than enough evidence" to back up his PTSD claim. His combat experiences, the letter said, "have been well documented."
None of that seemed to matter when his case reached VA disability evaluators. They turned him down flat, ruling that he deserved no compensation because his psychological problems existed before he joined the Army. They also said that Cruz had not proved he was ever in combat. "The available evidence is insufficient to confirm that you actually engaged in combat," his rejection letter stated.
Yet abundant evidence of his year in combat with the 4th Infantry Division covers his family's living-room wall. The Army Commendation Medal With Valor for "meritorious actions . . . during strategic combat operations" to capture Hussein hangs not far from the combat spurs awarded for his work with the 10th Cavalry "Eye Deep" scouts, attached to an elite unit that caught the Iraqi leader on Dec. 13, 2003, at Ad Dawr.
Veterans Affairs will spend $2.8 billion this year on mental health. But the best it could offer Cruz was group therapy at the Bronx VA medical center. Not a single session is held on the weekends or late enough at night for him to attend. At age 25, Cruz is barely keeping his life together. He supports his disabled parents and 4-year-old son and cannot afford to take time off from his job repairing boilers. The rough, dirty work, with its heat and loud noises, gives him panic attacks and flesh burns but puts $96 in his pocket each day.
Once celebrated by his government, Cruz feels defeated by its bureaucracy. He no longer has the stamina to appeal the VA decision, or to make the Army correct the sloppy errors in his medical records or amend his personnel file so it actually lists his combat awards.
"I'm pushing the mental limits as it is," Cruz said, standing outside the bullet-pocked steel door of the New York City housing project on Webster Avenue where he grew up and still lives with his family. "My experience so far is, you ask for something and they deny, deny, deny. After a while you just give up."
An Old and Growing Problem
Jeans Cruz and his contemporaries in the military were never supposed to suffer in the shadows the way veterans of the last long, controversial war did. One of the bitter legacies of Vietnam was the inadequate treatment of troops when they came back. Tens of thousands endured psychological disorders in silence, and too many ended up homeless, alcoholic, drug-addicted, imprisoned or dead before the government acknowledged their conditions and in 1980 officially recognized PTSD as a medical diagnosis.
Yet nearly three decades later, the government still has not mastered the basics: how best to detect the disorder, the most effective ways to treat it, and the fairest means of compensating young men and women who served their country and returned unable to lead normal lives.
Cruz's case illustrates these broader problems at a time when the number of suffering veterans is the largest and fastest-growing in decades, and when many of them are back at home with no monitoring or care. Between 1999 and 2004, VA disability pay for PTSD among veterans jumped 150 percent, to $4.2 billion.
By this spring, the number of vets from Afghanistan and Iraq who had sought help for post-traumatic stress would fill four Army divisions, some 45,000 in all.
They occupy every rank, uniform and corner of the country. People such as Army Lt. Sylvia Blackwood, who was admitted to a locked-down psychiatric ward in Washington after trying to hide her distress for a year and a half [story, A13]; and Army Pfc. Joshua Calloway, who spent eight months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and left barely changed from when he arrived from Iraq in handcuffs; and retired Marine Lance Cpl. Jim Roberts, who struggles to keep his sanity in suburban New York with the help of once-a-week therapy and a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs; and the scores of Marines in California who were denied treatment for PTSD because the head psychiatrist on their base thought the diagnosis was overused.
They represent the first wave in what experts say is a coming deluge.
As many as one-quarter of all soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq are psychologically wounded, according to a recent American Psychological Association report. Twenty percent of the soldiers in Iraq screened positive for anxiety, depression and acute stress, an Army study found.
But numbers are only part of the problem. The Institute of Medicine reported last month that Veterans Affairs' methods for deciding compensation for PTSD and other emotional disorders had little basis in science and that the evaluation process varied greatly. And as they try to work their way through a confounding disability process, already-troubled vets enter a VA system that chronically loses records and sags with a backlog of 400,000 claims of all kinds.
The disability process has come to symbolize the bureaucratic confusion over PTSD. To qualify for compensation, troops and veterans are required to prove that they witnessed at least one traumatic event, such as the death of a fellow soldier or an attack from a roadside bomb, or IED. That standard has been used to deny thousands of claims. But many experts now say that debilitating stress can result from accumulated trauma as well as from one significant event.
In an interview, even VA's chief of mental health questioned whether the single-event standard is a valid way to measure PTSD. "One of the things I puzzle about is, what if someone hasn't been exposed to an IED but lives in dread of exposure to one for a month?" said Ira R. Katz, a psychiatrist. "According to the formal definition, they don't qualify."
The military is also battling a crisis in mental-health care. Licensed psychologists are leaving at a far faster rate than they are being replaced. Their ranks have dwindled from 450 to 350 in recent years. Many said they left because they could not handle the stress of facing such pained soldiers. Inexperienced counselors muddle through, using therapies better suited for alcoholics or marriage counseling.
A new report by the Defense Department's Mental Health Task Force says the problems are even deeper. Providers of mental-health care are "not sufficiently accessible" to service members and are inadequately trained, it says, and evidence-based treatments are not used. The task force recommends an overhaul of the military's mental-health system, according to a draft of the report.
Another report, commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in the wake of the Walter Reed outpatient scandal, found similar problems: "There is not a coordinated effort to provide the training required to identify and treat these non-visible injuries, nor adequate research in order to develop the required training and refine the treatment plans."
But the Army is unlikely to do more significant research anytime soon. "We are at war, and to do good research takes writing up grants, it takes placebo control trials, it takes control groups," said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the Army's top psychiatrist. "I don't think that that's our primary mission."
In attempting to deal with increasing mental-health needs, the military regularly launches Web sites and promotes self-help guides for soldiers. Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the Army's acting surgeon general, believes that doubling the number of mental-health professionals and boosting the pay of psychiatrists would help.
But there is another obstacle that those steps could not overcome. "One of my great concerns is the stigma" of mental illness, Pollock said. "That, to me, is an even bigger challenge. I think that in the Army, and in the nation, we have a long way to go." The task force found that stigma in the military remains "pervasive" and is a "significant barrier to care."
Surveys underline the problem. Only 40 percent of the troops who screened positive for serious emotional problems sought help, a recent Army survey found. Nearly 60 percent of soldiers said they would not seek help for mental-health problems because they felt their unit leaders would treat them differently; 55 percent thought they would be seen as weak, and the same percentage believed that soldiers in their units would have less confidence in them.
Lt. Gen. John Vines, who led the 18th Airborne Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan, said countless officers keep quiet out of fear of being mislabeled. "All of us who were in command of soldiers killed or wounded in combat have emotional scars from it," said Vines, who recently retired. "No one I know has sought out care from mental-health specialists, and part of that is a lack of confidence that the system would recognize it as 'normal' in a time of war. This is a systemic problem."
Officers and senior enlisted troops, Vines added, were concerned that they would have trouble getting security clearances if they sought psychological help. They did not trust, he said, that "a faceless, nameless agency or process, that doesn't know them personally, won't penalize them for a perceived lack of mental or emotional toughness."
Overdiagnosed or Overlooked?
For the past 2 1/2 years, the counseling center at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was a difficult place for Marines seeking help for post-traumatic stress. Navy Cmdr. Louis Valbracht, head of mental health at the center's outpatient hospital, often refused to accept counselors' views that some Marines who were drinking heavily or using drugs had PTSD, according to three counselors and another staff member who worked with him.
"Valbracht didn't believe in it. He'd say there's no such thing as PTSD," said David Roman, who was a substance abuse counselor at Twentynine Palms until he quit six months ago.
"We were all appalled," said Mary Jo Thornton, another counselor who left last year.
A third counselor estimated that perhaps half of the 3,000 Marines he has counseled in the past five years showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress. "They would change the diagnosis right in front of you, put a line through it," said the counselor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still works there.
"I want to see my Marines being taken care of," said Roman, who is now a substance-abuse counselor at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C.
In an interview, Valbracht denied he ever told counselors that PTSD does not exist. But he did say "it is overused" as a diagnosis these days, just as "everyone on the East Coast now has a bipolar disorder." He said this "devalues the severity of someone who actually has PTSD," adding: "Nowadays it's like you have a hangnail. Someone comes in and says 'I have PTSD,' " and counselors want to give them that diagnosis without specific symptoms.
Valbracht, an aerospace medicine specialist, reviewed and signed off on cases at the counseling center. He said some counselors diagnosed Marines with PTSD before determining whether the symptoms persisted for 30 days, the military recommendation. Valbracht often talked to the counselors about his father, a Marine on Iwo Jima who overcame the stress of that battle and wrote an article called "They Even Laughed on Iwo." Counselors found it outdated and offensive. Valbracht said it showed the resilience of the mind.
Valbracht retired recently because, he said, he "was burned out" after working seven days a week as the only psychiatrist available to about 10,000 Marines in his 180-mile territory. "We could have used two or three more psychiatrists," he said, to ease the caseload and ensure that people were not being overlooked.
Former Lance Cpl. Jim Roberts's underlying mental condition was overlooked by the Marine Corps and successive health-care professionals for more than 30 years, as his temper and alcohol use plunged him into deeper trouble. Only in May 2005 did VA begin treating the Vietnam vet for PTSD. Three out of 10 of his compatriots from Vietnam have received diagnoses of PTSD. Half of those have been arrested at least once. Veterans groups say thousands have killed themselves.
To control his emotions now, Roberts attends group therapy once a week and swallows a handful of pills from his VA doctors: Zoloft, Neurontin, Lisinopril, Seroquel, Ambien, hydroxyzine, "enough medicine to kill a mule," he said.
Roberts desperately wants to persuade Iraq veterans not to take the route he traveled. "The Iraq guys, it's going to take them five to 10 years to become one of us," he said, seated at his kitchen table in Yonkers with his vet friends Nicky, Lenny, Frenchie, Ray and John nodding in agreement. "It's all about the forgotten vets, then and now. The guys from Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to get these guys in here with us."
"In here" can mean different things. It can mean a 1960s-style vet center such as the one where Roberts hangs out, with faded photographs of Huey helicopters and paintings of soldiers skulking through shoulder-high elephant grass. It can mean group therapy at a VA outpatient clinic during work hours, or more comprehensive treatment at a residential clinic. In a crisis, it can mean the locked-down psych ward at the local VA hospital.
"Out there," with no care at all, is a lonesome hell.
Losing a Bureaucratic Battle
Not long after Jeans Cruz returned from Iraq to Fort Hood, Tex., in 2004, his counselor, a low-ranking specialist, suggested that someone should "explore symptoms of PTSD." But there is no indication in Cruz's medical files, which he gave to The Washington Post, that anyone ever responded to that early suggestion.
When he met with counselors while he was on active duty, Cruz recalled, they would take notes about his troubled past, including that he had been treated for depression before he entered the Army. But they did not seem interested in his battlefield experiences. "I've shot kids. I've had to kill kids. Sometimes I look at my son and like, I've killed a kid his age," Cruz said. "At times we had to drop a shell into somebody's house. When you go clean up the mess, you had three, four, five, six different kids in there. You had to move their bodies."
When he tried to talk about the war, he said, his counselors "would just sit back and say, 'Uh-huh, uh-huh.' When I told them about the unit I was with and Saddam Hussein, they'd just say, 'Oh, yeah, right.' "
He occasionally saw a psychiatrist, who described him as depressed and anxious. He talked about burning himself with cigarettes and exhibited "anger from Iraq, nightmares, flashbacks," one counselor wrote in his file. "Watched friend die in Iraq. Cuts, bruises himself to relieve anger and frustration." They prescribed Zoloft and trazodone to control his depression and ease his nightmares. They gave him Ambien for sleep, which he declined for a while for fear of missing morning formation.
Counselors at Fort Hood grew concerned enough about Cruz to have him sign what is known as a Life Maintenance Agreement. It stated: "I, Jeans Cruz, agree not to harm myself or anyone else. I will first contact either a member of my direct Chain of Command . . . or immediately go to the emergency room." That was in October 2004. The next month he signed another one.
Two weeks later, Cruz reenlisted. He says the Army gave him a $10,000 bonus.
His problems worsened. Three months after he reenlisted, a counselor wrote in his medical file: "MAJOR depression." After that: "He sees himself in his dreams killing or strangling people. . . . He is worried about controlling his stress level. Stated that he is starting to drink earlier in the day." A division psychologist, noting Cruz's depression, said that he "did improve when taking medication but has degenerated since stopping medication due to long work hours."
Seven months after his reenlistment ceremony, the Army gave him an honorable discharge, asserting that he had a "personality disorder" that made him unfit for military service. This determination implied that all his psychological problems existed before his first enlistment. It also disqualified him from receiving combat-related disability pay.
There was little attempt to tie his condition to his experience in Iraq. Nor did the Army see an obvious contradiction in its handling of him: He was encouraged to reenlist even though his psychological problems had already been documented.
Cruz's records are riddled with obvious errors, including a psychological rating of "normal" on the same physical exam the Army used to discharge him for a psychological disorder. His record omits his combat spurs award and his Army Commendation Medal With Valor. These omissions contributed to the VA decision that he had not proved he had been in combat. To straighten out those errors, Cruz would have had to deal with a chaotic and contradictory paper trail and bureaucracy -- a daunting task for an expert lawyer, let alone a stressed-out young veteran.
In the Aug. 16, 2006, VA letter denying Cruz disability pay because he had not provided evidence of combat, evaluators directed him to the U.S. Armed Services Center for Research of Unit Records. But such a place no longer exists. It changed its name to the U.S. Army and Joint Services Records Research Center and moved from one Virginia suburb, Springfield, to another, Alexandria, three years ago. It has a 10-month waiting list for processing requests.
To speed things up, staff members often advise troops to write to the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland. But that agency has no records from the Iraq war, a spokeswoman said. That would send Cruz back to Fort Hood, whose soldiers have deployed to Iraq twice, leaving few staff members to hunt down records.
But Cruz has given up on the records. Life at the Daniel Webster Houses is tough enough.
After he left the Army and came home to the Bronx, he rode a bus and the subway 45 minutes after work to attend group sessions at the local VA facility. He always arrived late and left frustrated. Listening to the traumas of other veterans only made him feel worse, he said: "It made me more aggravated. I had to get up and leave." Experts say people such as Cruz need individual and occupational therapy.
Medications were easy to come by, but some made him sick. "They made me so slow I didn't want to do nothing with my son or manage my family," he said. After a few months, he stopped taking them, a dangerous step for someone so severely depressed. His drinking became heavier.
To calm himself now, he goes outside and hits a handball against the wall of the housing project. "My son's out of control. There are family problems," he said, shaking his head. "I start seeing these faces. It goes back to flashbacks, anxiety. Sometimes I've got to leave my house because I'm afraid I'm going to hit my son or somebody else."
Because of his family responsibilities, he does not want to be hospitalized. He doesn't think a residential program would work, either, for the same reason.
His needs are more basic. "Why can't I have a counselor with a phone number? I'd like someone to call."
Or some help from all those people who stuck their business cards in his palm during the glory days of his return from Iraq. "I have plaques on my wall -- but nothing more than that."
The wingnut says: "There were more than 35,000 pictures of FDR taken. Two show him in a wheelchair. Why? Because the press almost unanimously agreed that — despite the huge news value — depicting FDR as a cripple would be bad for the war effort."
The comrade points out that the "war effort" began about nine years after the 1932 election, which would have been the time. But the wingnut is right that there was a decision by Old Fashioned Big Media to give FDR a pass; OTBM had cast their vote.
And of course, by 1941, I don't think it would have mattered as the populace was so pro-war, a wheelchair-confined president wouldn't have been too significant.
But the wingnut's essential point was not refuted which was: once upon a time, Big Media gave liberals a pass so it's OK now.
But you know, while we're going all historical, maybe it wasn't just a pass for political reasons but a non-visual oriented media just thought it would have been gratuitously rude... people once had manners in this country....
Okay; so the lefty isn't completely wrong... I did what I could....
For the last four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has made the controversial claim that his office is not fully part of the Bush administration in order to exempt it from a presidential order regulating federal agencies' handling of classified national security information, officials said Thursday.Link.
Cheney has held that his office is not fully part of the executive branch of government despite the continued objections of the National Archives, which says his office's failure to demonstrate that it has proper security safeguards in place could jeopardize the government's top secrets.
According to documents released Thursday by a House committee, Cheney's staff has blocked efforts by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office to enforce a key component of the presidential order: a mandatory on-site inspection of the vice president's office. At least one of those inspections would have come at a particularly delicate time — when Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and other aides were under criminal investigation for their suspected roles in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
This happens to be dead on. (Link.)
Today's New York Times has an enormous front page story today suggesting that John Edwards' antipoverty programs were set up merely to provide a "bridge" to his 2008 Presidential campaign.Link.
But guess what -- the Edwards campaign tells us that The Times refused the chance to speak to people who actually benefitted from his programs.
Despite the straight-talking image, Bloomberg has been hard to pin down on one of the most important issues of the presidential campaign: the Iraq war. During his first term, which began in 2002, he mostly avoided speaking out on international issues, but more than once he indicated he supported the decision to go to war.
In 2004, during a news conference with first lady Laura Bush in lower Manhattan, he came to her support on the topic of Iraq, suggesting that the invasion was justified by the Sept. 11 attacks.
``Don't forget that the war started not very many blocks from here,'' he said.
A year later, while Bloomberg was running for re-election in this overwhelmingly Democratic city and doing everything he could to distance himself from President Bush, he insisted the issue was about supporting the troops.
When asked at that time if he felt the president had lied to Americans about the reasons for going to war, Bloomberg said he didn't have any idea. At the time, he said, there appeared ``a distinct possibility of weapons of mass destruction.''
More recently, he has harshly criticized those who advocate pulling out of Iraq, siding with many Republicans who say it would hurt troop morale. He has also slammed the proposal put forth by Sen. Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate for president, to divide Iraq into three semiautonomous regions of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, saying it would result in ``genocide.''
That the Bush administration, and specifically its military commanders, decided to begin using the term "Al Qaeda" to designate "anyone and everyeone we fight against or kill in Iraq" is obvious. All of a sudden, every time one of the top military commanders describes our latest operations or quantifies how many we killed, the enemy is referred to, almost exclusively now, as "Al Qaeda."[more]
But what is even more notable is that the establishment press has followed right along, just as enthusiastically. I don't think the New York Times has published a story about Iraq in the last two weeks without stating that we are killing "Al Qaeda fighters," capturing "Al Qaeda leaders," and every new operation is against "Al Qaeda."
The Times -- typically in the form of the gullible and always-government-trusting "reporting" of Michael Gordon, though not only -- makes this claim over and over, as prominently as possible, often without the slightest questioning, qualification, or doubt. If your only news about Iraq came from The New York Times, you would think that the war in Iraq is now indistinguishable from the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan -- that we are there fighting against the people who hijacked those planes and flew them into our buildings: "Al Qaeda."
What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development -- not only from our military, but also from our "journalists" -- is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term "terrorists" for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: "we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing" and "we must stay on the offensive against terrorists."