19 February, 2007

The Wounded are "Combat-Addled" Druggies

That title offend you much? Well, that's how the Washington Post paints wounded American warfighters (yes, "combat-addled"). Yesterday they published a story about a run-down facility off the Walter Reed grounds ["Building 18"] that houses some of the outpatients. I have some thoughts about what can be done to help, but that's a separate post.

What has me seething today is the WaPo followup. This time they cover Mologne House:

Mologne House is afloat on a river of painkillers and antipsychotic drugs...

Pill bottles clutter the nightstands: pills for depression or insomnia, to stop nightmares and pain, to calm the nerves.

Here at Hotel Aftermath, a crash of dishes in the cafeteria can induce seizures in the combat-addled. Even among the gazebos and tranquility of the Walter Reed campus in upper Northwest Washington, manhole covers are sidestepped for fear of bombs and rooftops are scanned for snipers.

Bomb blasts are the most common cause of injury in Iraq, and nearly 60 percent of the blast victims also suffer from traumatic brain injury, according to Walter Reed's studies, which explains why some at Mologne House wander the hallways trying to remember their room numbers.

It goes on to outline some heart-breaking stories of people whose mental capacities have been affected by their injury or emotional trauma, and details the absurdity of the military bureaucracy and disability ratings.

It even covers people like Brian Anderson. But here's the interesting part, Brian has a paper trail--one in which he is positive, upbeat, and inspirational. So they can't really have him say too much. Instead they frame him as the recipient of unfair generosity and describe how the ceremonial cannon salutes at Arlington (quite reasonably) freak him out.

And that's the proof of the agenda. This article was not written to show the cross-section of survivors and their challenges. No, it was not written to analyze and dissect the bureaucratic inadequacies of post-injury care or the med boards. This was a pathetic piece of propaganda about how all the wounded are to be pitied and how they'll never be able to function in society, and how nobody really cares. The anti-war whisper throughout is almost a shout...

And you want to talk about manipulation of a story by what is not reported? Try this on for size... They mention Code Pink outside the gates, but not the counter-protesters. And Valour-IT gets a mention, though not by name; instead, having to practice the voice software is painted as a burden on the poor addled soldier.

My God! I KNOW people who've been wounded, who lived in Mologne house, who coped (are still coping) with PTSD, who have had more surgeries than I can keep track of, who went through the hell of GETTING OFF OF the painkillers that turned them into zombies, who are slowly but inexorably finding their new and productive place in the world and who are putting their lives back together!

There are thousands of us working behind the scenes to address the points where the military bureaucracy has dropped the ball or sets up roadblocks; we're aware of the monumental and de-humanizing problems. But we do not pity the wounded, we do not see their condition as static, we do not look on the hospital as a "holding pen" or their final destination. We find the idea of a hotel bar in Malogne House with a "bowl of red apples" on the desk and a Toby Keith concert all interspersed with disfiguring injuries and their emotional aftermath to be standard, to be a sign that life is returning, that all will not end in this place of confusion and pain.

But no, that view is too hopeful, too respectful of the wounded and their capabilities, too "worshipful" of those who have given so much. Better that we pity and emasculate them...

UPDATE: For a truly informative article on the bureaucratic challenges the outpatients face, read today's Army Times article on the subject.

UPDATE II: "Tom the Redhunter" adds his on-the-scene observations in comments below. Well worth reading for those who may not have personal experience in this area.

UPDATE III: My thoughts on the Building 18 story.

UPDATE IV: Welcome, Michelle Malkin readers! If you are interested in how you can help patients at Walter Reed immediately (without waiting for the bureaucracy to fix itself), please consider volunteering with or donating to Soldiers' Angels or Project Valour-IT.]