Bryan Lentz and the Coffin Flag Controversy

Bryan Lentz is a veteran and a young Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Today the right wing Philadelphia Inquirer asked Lentz to defend the policy of nt allowing press photographs of the flag draped coffins of servicemen on their return to the US. Lentz failed logically in presenting his arguments.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Barack Obama recently said his people would be reviewing the policy of not allowing photographs of soldiers coffins, draped in American flags, to be photographed by the press as they return to Dover from wherever that soldier died. As the proud owner of the flag that draped my father’s coffin, I believe we should honor all of our soldiers, their commitment and their service, by noting, with solemnity. I just don’t see how photographing the coffins impedes that goal. But the Philadelphia Inquirer, in its neverending pursuit of defending George Bush’s policies, has brought in Bryan Lentz, a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, to defend that policy. Lentz shows just how weak he is at structuring an argument in said defense when he discusses the notion of free speech and how it impacts the ruling.

Here’s the offending paragraph from Bryan Lentz in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

For those who say the First Amendment requires unfettered public access, I say – in this limited case – the First Amendment be damned. Free-speech protections don’t encompass yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and they shouldn’t include intruding on mourning military families.

There’s a world of nonsense in Lentz’s words here. First, the yelling “Fire” example is an example of one area where we may limit speech because yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater can be a major safety hazard. There is no safety hazard to taking press photos of flag draped coffins. Lentz’s analogy is simply stupid. If Lentz can find precedent where free speech is inhibited in order to spare the feelings of mourners, then he might find the proper precedent, but there’s no evidence in these cases that photographs of flaf draped coffins harms anyone’s ability to mourn. Indeed, there are no names on the coffins, and thus there is no privacy violated when photos are taken of those coffins.

Bryan Lentz has put up some straw men arguments to defend a Bush policy that helped sanitize a war where Bush asked for no sacrifice from the American people, then tried to shield our view from the ultimate sacrifices he did require. Americans in general were impeded under the Bush Administration, through a limitation of free speech, to take part in a national mouring in a significant way. We were not required by Bush to sacrifice, and we were limited by Bush in experiencing the sacrifice of others.

I respect Bryan Lentz’s service to our country. Indeed, and in the interest of full disclosure, I have touted his campaigning in the past, for instance here, where I touted his plan to challenge Curt Weldon a few years ago. Bryan Lentz may have heartfelt reasons to want the coverage of flag draped coffins of servicemen to be stifled, and I can respect those heartfelt reasons. I just can’t respect his use of faulty logic in defense of those policies.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Veterans For Obama Over McCain

Barack Obama is fundraising among active servicemen overseas by a 6 to 1 margin over John McCain. I cannot recall a population of servicemen so overwhelmingly supporting a Democrat. And check out the reception McCain got at the Disabled Veterans of America shindig in Vegas. He can be thankful he wasn’t openly heckled by the vets.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

So it seems, so it seems. Reports yesterday indicate that that Barack Obama has gotten more contributions from military members serving overseas, by a 6 to 1 margin. Yeah, the soldiers are supporting the candidate who wants to bring the troops home. From Open Secrets:

During World War II, soldiers crouching in foxholes penned letters assuring their sweethearts that they’d be home soon. Now, between firefights in the Iraqi desert, some infantrymen have been sending a different kind of mail stateside: two or three hundred dollars – or whatever they can spare – towards a presidential election that could very well determine just how soon they come home.

According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain, and the fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain’s haul.

Despite McCain’s status as a decorated veteran and a historically Republican bent among the military, members of the armed services overall – whether stationed overseas or at home – are also favoring Obama with their campaign contributions in 2008, by a $55,000 margin. Although 59 percent of federal contributions by military personnel has gone to Republicans this cycle, of money from the military to the presumed presidential nominees, 57 percent has gone to Obama.

Obama ourraising McCain among servicemen serving overseas? By a 6 to 1 margin? Holy Cow! Perhaps more astonishing, is that Ron Paul is also outraising McCain among the same group, though only by a 4 to 1 margin. TPM Election Central is also on this story, and Crooks and Liars has an article about McCain’s tepid reception in Vegas at a gathering of Disabled Veterans of America. Here’s a snippet:

The Las Vegas Sun interviewed 14 veterans after McCain’s speech, only one identified himself as a certain McCain voter. Devoting most of his remarks to attacking Obama apparently didn’t help.

Retired Marine Duke Hendershot, a double amputee who served in Vietnam, supported McCain’s 2000 campaign, but is undecided now. “John just isn’t the same as he used to be. He’s not his own man,” Hendershot said. “A lot of that has to do with how he’s wanted this job so bad for so long that he’s tied himself to President Bush.” Hendershot added, “[McCain]should have been talking about veterans issues, not his opponent.”

Obama, in contrast, appeared via video, did not attack McCain, and focused exclusively on veterans’ issues.

Verterans are perhaps John McCain’s most natural constituency. He is one, after all. Disabled veterans should also be an easy group for McCain to win over. He’s suffered infjuries in service of country, after all. That McCain is doing so miserably with these groups has to be accounted for somehow. What an odd thing it is. But there are explanations, I’m sure. The military is strongly Republican most of the time, but the Bush Administration has shown disregard towards the military. McCain has supported the Bush Administration at every turn. Those disabled vets may be finding someone to blame for their injuries, and after the Walter Reed scandals a couple years ago, anyone connected to Bush might have some tough going. We might also note that McCain did not support the new GI Bill. I’m thinking a whole bunch of those soldiers have good memories about that sort of thing. I suppose the composition of the military serving overseas, with so many Guardsmen on active duty, might also account for this phenomenon, but still, it is hard to account for Obama outraising McCain among active soldiers serving overseas.

In other news, McCain may not be male. Or so it says in this spoof on internet hoaxes.

Friday, August 15th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Republican Snake Blogger Meets Greatest Generation

A Republican blogger set out to dig for dirt on Barack Obama’s uncle the other day. He emailed a web site that honors the uncle’s unit, the 89th, boasting that he’d performed a “gotcha” on Obama. The veterans, of course, cleaned Steve Gilbert’s clock. Amazingly, Gilbert documented and publicized every bit of the exchange.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

It’s being reported by Ben Smith of Politico and by Jake Tapper of ABCNews. A Republican blogger, digging for dirt on Barack Obama’s Great Uncle, got told off in no uncertain terms by a World War II veteran and his son. Bravo to Raymond and Mark Kitchell, my heroes for this week, for sure.

Everyone read about the story of Barack Obama saying his Great Uncle helped liberate Auchwitz, when it was in fact a different camp the uncle, Charles Payne helped liberate. Enterprising Republican blogger Steve Gilbert, of a web site ironically called “Sweetness and Light,” decided that there must be something out of the ordinary, so he decided to investigate. He probably had dreams of being the first to SwiftBoat Barack Obama’s great uncle, imagining that by impugning the reputation of a World War II veteran he was somehow making a comment on Barack Obama’s fitness for service. Yeah, this falls under the category of “Most Disgusting Republican Dirty Tricks.”

Gilbert, and “snake” is too nice a word for him, decided to contact the 89th Infantry Division of World War II unofficial web site to find some dirt on Barack Obama’s great uncle, a man who is 84 at the time of this writing. There is no doubt that Gilbert wanted to destroy Charles Payne’s reputation, of course. (Destroy the reputation of a World War II vet who is 84 years old? How completely disgusting!) Well, Gilbert got nowhere, because the men responsible for the web site, Raymond Kitchell and his son Mark, weren’t having any of it. Here’s the email in response to Steve Gilbert’s request:

– Original Message –
From: Steve Gilbert
To: markkitchell@[redacted].com
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 6:14 AM
Subject: Any Record Of Charles W Payne?

Mr. Kitchell,

As you may have heard by now, Barack Obama has claimed that his great uncle Charlie Payne was a member of the 89th Div that liberated Buchenwald.

According to records his full name is either Charles W Payne or Charles T Payne (most likely the former), and he was born in 1924 – and he is still alive today.

He most likely was from Kansas at the time of enlistment.

Do you have any record of this gentleman?

Thank you,

Steve Gilbert

PS – If you go to my website, you will see that I was probably the first to note the error in Mr. Obama’s first claims about his “uncle.”

Obama Claims His Uncle Liberated Auschwitz | Sweetness & Light

And Mr. Kitchell’s helpful reply:

Please crawl back under the rock you came out from.

Good day

Raymond Kitchell, veteran 89th Inf Div

I have since been sent this followup email:

From: Mark Kitchell [mailto:markkitchell@[redacted].com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:47 AM
To: Steve Gilbert
Subject: Re: Any Record Of Charles W Payne?

I don’t claim to represent anyone. You are the one who came to my son and I asking for information.

Please spend ample time chasing down the lies fed to you by chickenhawks Bush & Co. Like 90% of this administration, they don’t have the foggiest idea what we went through or what we saw at Ohrdruf.

I wonder how many people who visit the 89th Infantry site and support Mr. Kitchell’s work realize his politics are those of Cindy Sheehan?

Evidencing no shame, as if he’d been raised by wolves, or maybe Karl Rove, Steve Gilbert has the entire exchange with the good folks Kitchell on the Sweetness and Light web site. It’s ugly. The guy even compares Raymond and Mark Kitchell to Cindy Sheehan.

There’s a lot of ethical ugliness to unpack here. Steve Gilbert evidently wanted to destroy the reputation of a man who served this country just because he was related to Barack Obama. That certainly ranks high on the ugliness meter, but it’s certainly within the ethical parameters of how Republicans work, I suppose. That Gilbert went to the keeper of a site honoring those veterans like Charles Payne, is simply stupid. These guys are very likely to stick together, after all. They went through a lot together in WWII. I love how Steve Gilbert crows that he’s the one to make Barack Obama look good by uncovering the Obama mistake about Auchwitz. So let’s see, we’ve got trying to smear an 84 year old veteran, counting on the complicity of a fine fellow veteran of that 84 year old Charles Payne, bragging about how he’d already stuck it to Barack Obama. . . this guy Steve Gilbert is almost ready for Republican Prime Time, don’t you think? Then he publicly compares Raymond Kitchell to Cindy Sheehan.

I’ll echo Mr. Kitchell, and note that Steve Gilbert ought to go crawl back under the rock he came from. But I’m thinking he’s almost been ugly enough in this exchange to qualify as a guest host for Rush Limbaugh. Still, I’d give a lot of money to see Steve Gilbert in a room full of veterans of the 89th, the Rolling W. I might even have enough in me to pity how those men would “honor” Steve Gilbert, though I’m more likely to break into applause.

I’m guessing the Republicans lost a few votes among members of the 89th on this one.

Monday, June 30th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Honoring War Dead Threatened By Bush Funding Cuts

We shouldn’t expect the Bush Administration to respect veterans, not after the last seven years of examples. Now they’ve cut the funding for military honors at funerals of veterans. The big question to me is how McCain plans on surging and accelerating this policy of disrespect.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Yes, the government funds those salutes with guns at the funerals of dead veterans. In Rhode Island, at least, they are going to ration the salutes and honors, limiting them to Medal of Honor winners, those killed in action, general officers and those who have served 20 years or more. the rationing is due to funding cuts by the Bush Administration. From the Army Times:

The sound of a gun salute at funerals for Rhode Island veterans could soon be heard less frequently, due to a federal funding cut.

The Rhode Island National Guard has informed funeral directors that it can only supply firing squads for certain veterans, including those killed in action, Medal of Honor winners, general officers or those who served at least 20 years.

Local vets are livid over the new restrictions. But a National Guard spokesman blamed a cut in federal money for the military honors program – from $1.16 million to $775,000.

Rhode Island state law requires a firing squad and a bugler for any honorably discharged vet, so long as the request has been made by the vet’s family. It looks like the Bush Administration has decided this isn’t a very good law. Perhaps the vets and their families will raise a stink about this or something.

Those of us in the know understand that this is part of the Bush policy of disrespecting the men and women who have served our nation well. It shouldn’t be surprising, given Bush’s own service record, and those of his VP, that they have disdain for soldiers, as much as they posture. This is the latest example, but far from the only example of that disdain.

Monday, June 9th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Are Those Opposed To GI Bill In Favor Of Stealth Conscription?

George Bush and John McCain oppose the expanded benefits in the GI Bill passed by the Senate yesterday. They believe it might entice service members to leave the military. Limiting benefits because they provide alternatives to military service is stealth conscription.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

The passage of Senator Jim Webb’s expansion of the GI Bill to provide expanded educational benefits highlights a topic most don’t want to discuss. Since abolishing the draft and making service in the military voluntary, critics have argued that an inordinate number of the ranks are filled by those who lack other opportunities…including the ability to afford a college education. In other words, they contend that the election to join the military can often be a de facto economic decision.

When critics, like New York Representative Charlie Rangel, raise concerns that an inordinate number of new enlistments come from lower income families, those opposed to reinstating the draft accuse them of insulting our service people. Essentially, they contend the criticism impugns the patriotism of those who have volunteered to serve their country. If that deflection fails, they have also argued that the criticism insults the intelligence of military personnel by suggesting that those who serve in the military are uneducated.

That brings us back to the Senate’s passage of the Webb bill. One of the redeeming benefits of the passage of time is that is frequently shines a bright light on hyperbole and hypocrisy. In what can only be seen as a reversal of logic, some of those who rejected the assertions of men like Charlie Rangel are now opposed to expanding the benefits provided by the GI Bill. Yes, they are now arguing that those expanded benefits might entice some service members to exit the military in order to take advantage of the educational benefits. In other words, given other and better opportunities, some members of the military might not want to continue serving.

Let me be clear. The patriotism of those who enlist has never been the issue and it wasn’t for those who criticized the all volunteer army. Those who contended that it attracted individuals who lacked other opportunities always believed in the patriotism of those who enlisted…just as they will continue to believe in it should some service members elect to leave the military in order to utilize their expanded educational benefits.

Those who aligned with George Bush and John McCain in opposing this bill have simply exposed their inclination to make military service a matter of necessity. Voting to deny service members the same level of educational benefits that existed when the GI Bill was first passed is evidence that they recognize the differences between conscripted service and volunteer service. Why else would they not support a bill that would give volunteer service members the same benefits that were afforded to conscripted ones?

Truth be told, those opposed to this bill don’t want to provide a plausible alternative to military service because they know that the decision to enlist is, in fact, often a decision of economic necessity because there is a lack of other opportunities for those whose families lack the means to send them to college.

Look, I don’t object to the government using carrots to entice enlistment. The military can be the means to advance one’s education that might not otherwise be possible. Regardless, choosing to deny former service members access to benefits that will reward their patriotism and service is a far more egregious act than to question the inequity of an all volunteer military.

So what is the message given by those who would deny these benefits? Well it clearly states that they favor a system that facilitates the enlistment of the economically disadvantaged and they certainly don’t want to do anything that might take away the leverage that it provides. In other words, it tells our enlisted persons that we’re happy to have them defend their country’s commitment to freedom but we’re opposed to providing them the opportunities that would grant them the opportunity to exercise that freedom.

While I’m not in favor of a draft, I am in favor of an honest discussion on the shortcomings of the existing all volunteer system. It seems entirely hypocritical for those who have attempted to ignore the contention that economic motivations may lead to the population of our military to now be speaking out against providing the very opportunities and alternatives that their adversaries have long suggested were lacking.

When Charlie Rangel suggests that a draft would make members of Congress think twice about sending American soldiers into harms way if they knew their own sons and daughters might have to serve, he’s simply pointing out the same hypocrisy. In the end, if our volunteer military results from the fact that some individual’s lack or are denied reasonable alternatives, then it is, in essence, a form of conscription.

If I didn’t know better, I might conclude that those opposed to the expansion of the GI Bill are not only in favor of stealth conscription; they may actually be endorsing de facto enslavement…with pay…of course.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Friday, May 23rd, 2008 |

BushCo Plans for Iran? And Bonus Wiretapping Info…

Two stories are creating a lot of chatter today: an unidentified senior Bush administration official allegedly told a senior Israeli official that BushCo will be going after Iran before their term ends, plus, is there more to the illegal wiretapping story than meets the eye? Or is this simply a “buy” opportunity for Halliburton stock?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

So much to consider, so little time today.

First up: The Jerusalem Post reports today on an Israeli Army radio claim that one of the Bush administration’s higher-up henchmen informed an Israeli official in a closed door meeting that Bush and Cheney are champing at the bit to go after Iran prior to the end of their term in office. Who would the senior BushCo henchman be? Hadley? (That’s my guess.) Of course, the White House today is trying to downplay such speculation. Attaturk has more on at Firedoglake. Think this is all tinfoil hattery? Allow me to point you to an earlier post of mine.

Next up: Both Digby and Emptywheel take on a Radar Online report that there’s much more to the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping program than meets the eye. As you follow the links above, recall that Halliburton was contracted by DHS in 2006 to build detention camps in the U.S. Here’s how Marketwatch characterized the camp construction at the time the contract was awarded:

The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to expand existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs, KBR said. The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency… [emphasis mine]

Feel safer yet? And please, someone tell me once again why impeachment is off the table?

Goddammit, someone (who matters) please connect the dots…please…I know I’m just a blogosphere dilettante and my opinion is laughable…but there’s something happening here…what it is ain’t exactly clear…

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

In Defense of Discomfort and Despair

Lately I have been obsessed with my own comfort. I just got put in my place, and am grateful for the despair I’ve experienced.

Commentary By: somegirl

After a long absence I feel compelled to post today after coming across an amazing post on a site I’d never been to before. Please read the whole things as it offers much wonderful food for thought. Here’s a taste:

I once had a Professor of Polish culture who was a key figure in the Polish resistance in WWII. He was captured and was dying of starvation in a prison camp at war’s end, a skeleton, ill, terrorized, barely alive. The American government brought him to the USA where he had important things to do concerning New Europe. He was put up in a hotel in New York. It was ironic, he told me, that only six weeks later, he was complaining to the laundry about how they did his shirts.

It’s bizarre, he would have said, that we spend most of our lives in search of the pleasure of comfort and ease, convinced that happiness lies there. The truth is, comfort saps your real strength. Ease is treacherous and steals your ingenuity. The devilish pair robs your intuition and dulls your vision. I have in mind also metaphysical comfort and ease, not only natural human desires for creature comforts which in practice, as we all know, are never enough.

Yesterday, I read a post on Think Progress that really pissed me off. The comments really got me riled as they showed such ignorance, and lack of caring for veterans of the Iraqi occupation with traumatic brain injuries, which it’s now estimated is a full 20% of them, a staggering statistic. The big joke was the term “mild traumatic brain injury.” As in haha it’s an oxymoron, how can it be mild and traumatic? As someone who has struggled daily with this condition for nine years, I just want to say it’s no joke.

Last night, seeing as it was meta weekend at ASZ, I was ready to list all the ways my functioning has changed and how the world has wronged me, but after reading “The Twin Evils of Comfort and Despair” my tune is changing a little. I know I am very lucky to have almost hit 40 when the life changing event of my brain injury occurred, but at the same time, it also propelled me into a whole new reality I was totally unprepared for, leading to isolation and depths of despair I had never known before. (Not that I was ever from the happy school, but this was a whole new level.)

The election of GW Bush the following year, the disintegration of our economy along with the our constitution, and the rise of fascism, American-style, have contributed heavily to my despair over the past several years. I tried to make my home in a couple other countries, but couldn’t find anything that quite worked. I have lived in alternating terror (for my own security) and exhilaration over the thought of economic collapse in the good ol’ USA because I see it as the only way out of the debt-ridden consumer culture that is quietly destroying the hearts and souls of individuals, and sucking them from the earth as a whole. I fantasize about revolution, wondering if it could bring true purpose back into my life.

And I consider this:

Psychologists instruct us that there are only four things that people really need for their happiness: a feeling of security, a feeling of belongingness to a group, a feeling that people have affection for them, and the respect and esteem of others. That’s it. Basic needs are quite simple.

I once was highly organized and able to successfully manage people in a high stress, creative environment. When I lost many of the innate abilities I depended on my entire life, I felt for a long time that I lost the things mentioned above, even the ability to feel those things. I have found the search for meaning in my life since then to be a grueling, totally unwanted struggle most of the time, and have spent an awful lot of time bemoaning my fate, all the while knowing that I still have it so much better than most people in this world. Still, we tend to focus on what we do not have. Perhaps it is just human nature, but it seems to me sometimes that we have built an entire society as a testament to that. What a waste.

Today I find hope in these words:

The much-pursued pair of comfort and ease removes and alienates us even more from reality. Comfort and ease is a golden cage. Retreat into the beguiling cocoon of comfort and ease erases the possibility of communication with the rest of mankind. It is a rejection of the reality of the world and man’s place in it.

A rejection of comfort and ease as a life goal is to choose truth over lie. It is to choose the way of extremism, of opposition to the lie. There are periods when truth exists more easily. There are other periods, mendacious and ugly periods, when truth rings seditious, subversive, revolutionary, when it however shines in its extremism.

In my mind, comfort and ease as a goal reflect anti-reality, anti-man, anti-life. For to live life, you have to accept and live with reality–in the desperation and despair it provokes. You have to learn to live without illusions. That is unpleasant at first. Uncomfortable. Uneasy. But, we can learn.

Monday, January 21st, 2008 by somegirl |

To Limbaugh and Back – Bob Woodruff’s Journey

On Limbaugh’™s show, Kathy from Levonia, Mi. made an assumption, before Bob Woodruff’™s special even aired on ABC, that the show was only about the blow dried anchorman / ABC ‘œpretty boy’. And because of her call, and subsequent exchanges, I’™ll bet that Kathy (and many Limbaugh listeners) didn’™t watch the show. She and Rush were heartbreakingly wrong. So, what else is new?


Bob WoodruffAs I was drifting off to sleep last night, I was flipping channels and stopped on a late night repeat of the ABC News piece, From Iraq and Back. I ended up staying awake for more than another hour.

Early press releases billed the show as a documentary about ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff’™s journey back from his near-death experience in Iraq last year, and his (and the Woodruff family’™s) ongoing recovery from his traumatic brain injury.

The first 20 minutes was almost painful to watch. There was a little background, and some footage from just prior to the IED attack that injured both Woodruff and his cameraman. A few minutes were devoted to the acute care that he received immediately after the attack, his evacuation to Germany, and subsequent trip back to the Bethesda Naval Hospital in the U.S. There were no shots of Woodruff prior to the time he woke up in Bethesda, but the home videos of his awakening were almost shocking – here was a guy, missing half of his skull, who was up in bed speaking to his wife and family members. The man in the bed did not look anything like the previously anchor-haired Woodruff. Frankly, he looked rather freakish with half his head missing.

Woodruff’™s continuing journey back from TBI was not unlike that of many, many GI’™s returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, as it was pointed out several times in the show, TBI is the ‘œsignature’ injury of the ongoing conflicts. And were it not for advances in neurosurgery science, the death toll in the Bush regime’™s misadventures in Iraq would be much, much higher than it actually is.

But before I continue commenting on From Iraq and Back , I want to momentarily divert toward an exchange on Rush Limbaugh’™s daily hatefest yesterday, prior to the airing of the ABC show:

KATHY FROM LEVONIA, MI.: Well, thanks for taking my call. I was calling because I wanted to comment on the Bob Woodruff piece on ABC tonight. I just thought it was a perfect example of the liberal media thinking they’™re the heroes of the war instead of the soldiers who put themselves in harm’™s way every day.

RUSH: You know, there’™s a grain of truth in what you say. You gotta be very careful here because nobody is unhappy that Bob Woodruff is recovering from his injuries. Everybody is happy about that. But we do not get stories of valor in the Drive-By Media about soldiers. We do not get too many profiles of the seriously injured and their recovery and the great strides they make. We get some of that, but normally what we get is how there are rats running around the hospitals, it’™s Bush’™s fault, Bush doesn’™t care. There is some sympathy for these people, but never valor. But there is valor for injured journalists and their quest to return to normal and the hard work they put in during rehabilitation. It is constantly chronicled and we are asked to have all this great respect and so forth, which, nobody is denying the return to good health of Bob Woodruff. But it is interesting that this kind of reporting does not make it and is not common with injured US servicemen.

Kathy from Levonia, Mi. was allowed on Rush’™s daily hatefest for one reason: she was intent on doing one of Limbaugh’™s favorite things – bashing the ‘œliberal media’. She made the assumption, before the show even aired, that the show was only about the blow dried anchorman / ABC ‘œpretty boy’. And because of her call, and subsequent exchanges, I’™ll bet that Kathy (and many Limbaugh listeners) didn’™t watch the show. She and Rush were dead wrong.

The first part of the show was about Woodruff, but it was done in the context of showing what not only he, but many returning vets, are experiencing. The last 40 minutes of the show was completely about vets returning with TBI, and the experiences of they and their families. It was sad in the extreme.

Woodruff was lucky, in some respects. After he left Bethesda Naval Medical Center, there’™s no doubt in my mind that he received the best care that money could buy, including reconstructive and restorative surgery and physical and mental rehabilitation therapy. Whatever needs that Bob Woodruff may have for the rest of his life in dealing with the issues he faces, we can be sure that he’™ll be given the care he needs – the absolutely best care.

As the show progressed, it was clear that Woodruff had significantly progressed, both physically and mentally. While he needed to relearn many, many of life’™s simple tasks (just the exchange with his kids as he tried to relearn speaking the phrase ‘œbelt buckle’ was moving), he has, thankfully, improved significantly. In the early videos, he was literally missing half of his skull. In later footage, and the interviews he was conducting, it’™s apparent that he has undergone reconstructive surgery on his face and head – the anchorman looks are back.

That’™s not the case with the GI’™s. They’™re getting treatment from the Veteran’™s Administration healthcare system – and they’™re being stabilized in one of four centers across the U.S., then entered into local treatment systems that are (to say the least) lacking. Reconstructive surgery seems to consist of merely sewing loose and missing parts back into place. Rehabilitation services outside of the four VA chronic care centers are limited. Patients were shown backsliding after being released to local VA hospitals and outpatient facilities.

If Kathy from Levonia and Rush had bothered to watch the last 40 minutes of the 60 minute show, they would have understood that the show was all about the returning vets – and Woodruff’™s specific empathy with the GI’™s (and their families) who have been devastated by these injuries. I profiled one of these GI’™s in an earlier article on ASZ.

Bob Woodruff enjoys celebrity-level support from his family, his employer, and the private medical establishment. Like I said, the best that money can buy. Even still, it’™s hard to believe that he’™s come so far so quickly, though I’™m certain that he has many miles yet to travel and obstacles to overcome – perhaps for the rest of his life.

The military vets and families that are impacted are not so lucky to have the million dollar support system that is at the disposal of a news network anchorman. These vets and their loved ones are struggling to receive scraps from a medical system that is overloaded and overwhelmed.

As a vet myself, I thank ABC and Bob Woodruff for becoming the face of (and an advocate for) wounded vets returning with TBI. I also thank the Washington Post for revealing the discouraging warehousing of wounded vets at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

As a nation, we simply can’™t allow this to continue. With a short 60 minute return to broadcast television, Bob Woodruff has (or will), become as much of a ‘œface’ for Traumatic Brain Injury as is Michael J. Fox for Parkinson’™s Disease. And that’™s a good thing – because the Bush regime has done their level best to hide the national shame of the tens of thousands of severely wounded men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, they’™ve been pretty successful. We can hope that shows like From Iraq and Back will finally begin to draw back the curtain on these issues.

One last word for Kathy from Levonia, Mi. – don’™t be so quick to jump to conclusions next time. You might be amazed what happens when you open your mind and quit drinking Rush’™s koolaid. You might actually learn something, and become as outraged as the rest of us have been for quite some time.

Update: The GOP-controlled Senate at work in 2006:

Motion to Table Durbin Amdt. No. 4781 As Modified; To appropriate, with an offset, an additional $2,000,000 for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, Army for the improvement of imaging for traumatic brain injuries

On the Motion to Table


Senate Roll Call No. 222

109th Congress, 2nd Session

Agreed to: 54-43

If you missed Woodruff’™s documentary, you can view ‘œFrom Iraq and Back’ on ABC’™s website.

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 by Richard Blair |