Bob Higgins

Walter Reed: Who Expected More From A Goverment On The Take?

Posted in Politics by Bob Higgins on March 7, 2007

Twice a week I have a physical therapy session at the Dayton VA Hospital. I had a heart attack last March 15, (beware the ides?) in October they referred me to cardio pulmonary therapy to build me up for whatever years may lie ahead. They have done an excellent job and I am pleased with my future prospects.

I have been treated at the Dayton VA several times over the years, have volunteered there performing Veteran’s memorial services as part of an honor guard, and three years ago said good bye to my father who died in the VA hospice at the age of 80.

My experiences with VA medical care have been almost entirely positive. The medical staff has been competent caring and willing to communicate with me. My physical therapist (Kinesiologist) whom I refer to as Ms Torquemada has enabled me to return to a relatively normal life and I love her for it. The hospice ward is amazing, they treated my Dad with the dignity and respect he deserved in his final days on this planet and were equally wonderful with my family. The people in the ER and Cardiac Intensive Care wards saved my life which fact may leave me with some bias on the issue at hand.

I have personally witnessed the operations of this facility during the current federal administration as well as during the Clinton years and I have seen a noticeable decline in the state of the physical plant and the attitudes of some employees during the Cheney/Bush era.

What once was a well funded and squeaky clean facility has deteriorated noticeably and budget cutting has caused serious staffing problems. I believe that this decline is due to the penny pinching policies of the knuckle heads who are passing themselves off as our government.

The blame for conditions at Walter Reed and other problems throughout the veterans health system must be placed firmly at the feet of those who set the policies. For the last six years those feet have belonged to George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. To lay the blame on anyone below the the level of policy maker and budget controllers would be wrong.
A head or two may roll following the scandal over the appalling conditions at Walter Reed revealed over the last few weeks few by Dana Priest and Ann Hull in the Washington Post. The Cheney/Bush administration will toss a few expendables
overboard, General Weightman, with just months on the job has been thrown to the sharks already and the Army’s Surgeon General Kevin Kiley will likely be forced to swim the media infested waters of the public’s brief attention span, but that’s as far as it’s likely to go. There will be commissions of course, (Dole and Shalala were announced yesterday) there will be reports that few will read, there will be time and money wasted going through the motions, creating the appearance of grave concern and concerted action, there will be a great public breast beating, and little if anything beyond a coat of paint and a few new faces is likely to change.

Congress will hold the inevitably meaningless hearings featuring impeccably dressed and tonsured members mouthing pitifully predictable five minute expressions of self righteous outrage and politically self serving patriotic platitudes while our poor leaky rust bucket of state sails on through the straits of human misery created by the same incompetents and criminals in government and industry that lately have seized control of the helm.

The news media will cover the story and it’s aftermath until it becomes distracted by a Brittany or a Lindsay, an Angelina, Jenifer, Brad Rosie or a Trump and move on to it’s primary business of selling the products of its’ owners and masters by providing the public the steady stream of sensationally trivial bullshit it has grown to love and live for.

The amputees and other horribly maimed and broken veterans will be pushed aside and warehoused in the corridors of the VA health care system until a cost effective way (read cheap) is found to cut them loose to some form of thoroughly neglectful privatized care.

Other Vets, less injured physically, seeking outpatient services for mental and emotional traumas suffered as a result of their experience of these twenty first century colonial wars, or simply trying to save a wrecked marriage or receive job training in order to find gainful employment that doesn’t require the skill sets they acquired in Baghdad or Baquba, Kabul or Tora Bora, will encounter a cliff face of frozen budgets, bureaucratic indifference and the cold, apathetic impersonality of the Civil Service, before they are turned out to the tender mercies of the “for profit political cronies of the well connected in the private sector.

Many of them, broken and discarded, will succumb to despair, will turn to drugs or alcohol, will be involved in violent domestic disputes, fights in streets and saloons, caught up in ugly tragic battles in their own homes, with their own families. Many will become trapped in the criminal justice system as probationers or prisoners and will join their brothers from past wars as members of an American under class that no one wants to discuss.

Our leaders meanwhile will find yet another spot on the globe that offers an opportunity for enormous private profit that requires their boundless noblesse oblige, along with great piles of taxpayer dollars and they will sound the drums and trumpets of war in yet another patriotic call to other sons and grandsons, daughters and mothers to make the sacrifices that are necessary to the maintenance of the lusts for wealth and power of the ruling class.

No surprises here. This administration has done nothing but work to destroy American government since the day it arrived in Washington.

That, after all, was their design, their intent, it was and is the stated raison d’etre of the entire neo-conservative movement.

They told us up front, well in advance, that they hated government, that government was the source of most of the world’s evils, that only some Ayn Randian John Gault riding the white horse of laissez faire capitalism could save us from the perils of our tragically misguided liberal democratic altruism, that if in control they would move to privatize everything.

They were true to their word. They have given us a war in which a hundred thousand private contractors are lined up for their share of the loot and which has failed miserably in all of its stated goals while making a sizable segment of the filthy rich even filthier and richer.

They “planned” this fiasco in advance, it was to be the “New American Century.”

This administration has placed political loyalists, servants of industry in positions once properly held by career professionals and servants of the people thus relieving from public regulation the same businesses whose corporate boardrooms they and their friend’s control and in so doing have corrupted nearly every federal regulatory agency with the rotten stench of big money politics while along the way lining the pockets of their grateful class with untold wealth.

They want to privatize everything and have the American taxpayer subsidize all of it. It’s how the Railroad industry operated in the nineteenth century and Big Oil in the twentieth. If it was good enough for the “Robber Barons” then by golly it’s good enough for the neocons.

Take the necessary land or resources, be they oil, mineral rights, timber, water, what have you, from the people who own it, use public money for improvements and development, then over charge the original owners for a drink of water, a gallon of gas, a walk in the woods or a ticket to ride.

The system only works if they can buy at wholesale the acquiescence of the political leadership, control the Justice Department and write the rules to serve themselves. These feats have become minor problems in this century because there is so much more cash and so many more willing and eager recipients.

They are attempting to privatize everything, from public schools to prisons, (see Rob Ellmans excellent article) leaving all children behind while pushing for longer sentences for petty non violent drug offenses and reaping profits on the pathetic and fully predictable results.

They are selling our toll roads to offshore companies and want to throw open our ports to foreign governments with possible ties to terrorist organizations.

Privatization of public entities is bullshit. Pardon my English but I searched my thesaurus and there simply is no other term that fits as well as bullshit. After watching the corporate scandals in American business during the last decade I am completely convinced that most of the people’s business should be conducted by entities that are answerable to the people and under the scrutiny of their elected representatives.

Companies receiving contracts for work formerly performed by public employees often take the cream off the top, performing where they can realize the maximum profits and leaving the rest undone, poorly done or in default which appears to be what happened with IAP’s 120 million dollar deal at Walter Reed.

Would you trust former Enron CEO Ken Lay to write US energy policy?

No, of course you wouldn’t but Dick Cheney did and George Bush did.

Would you entrust facilities management and outpatient medical care at Walter Reed to a company (IAP International) run by a former executive of Halliburton?

Given Halliburton’s record of under performance and over billing in Iraq you probably would not, but Dick Cheney did and George Bush did. Indirectly, of course, but the connection still smells.

Privatization of our social security system is a centerpiece of the neocon agenda, for nearly three trillion obvious reasons. These guys want desperately to pass legislation that allows the financial community legal access to those funds, they will realize enormous profits, you will be screwed as will your Granny, allow them to do it and your meager commitment from this long established public trust will be as worthless as shares of Enron or Arthur Anderson or any of the other flimflams being sold to the public by this crowd.

I had a discussion with some of the staff at the VA this past week and they are hurt by this scandal. Bear in mind that these are hard working dedicated professionals. They feel that they have been slandered by the Walter Reed affair and they are afraid that the blame and shame will fall upon them rather than the policy makers and budget slashers who outsourced the business to their cronies.

Also keep in mind that there are nearly twenty five million veterans in this country and a significant and growing number of them will be treated at VA facilities and companies like IAP are climbing the walls trying to get close to those in the administration who have the power to award these sweetheart deals.

When I watched Cheney (who avoided the draft with five deferments during the Vietnam war) addressing this issue yesterday I felt the urge to vomit.

Cheney assured his audience that he, with the help of his smirking little sidekick and the rest of the hapless gang that gave us Iraq) would fix the problem.

Bullshit (there I go again) They caused the problem. They are the problem.

Bob Higgins
Worldwide Sawdust


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