Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bob Koehler: Pre-Existing Conditions

Bob Koehler's latest column is a really good one, even by his standards. It starts like this:

Pre-Existing Conditions: Pact with the devil comes wrapped in many gaudy causes
Deep in the heart of the postwar hell that awaits many injured and emotionally shattered vets lies a memo so toxic with cynical irony it deserves to be posted on americasarmy.com, the U.S. Army’s official teen-entrapment Web site.
“We can’t fix every Soldier. We have to hold Soldiers accountable for their behavior. Everyone in life beyond babies, the insane, and the demented and mentally retarded have to be held accountable for what they do in life.”
Got that, Soldier?

These are the words — first outed by NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling in May — of Col. Steven Knorr, a psychiatrist and chief of the Behavioral Health Unit at Fort Carson, Colo., to his staff. Knorr is the officer who oversaw the discharge of thousands of soldiers, many suffering brain damage and other IED-related physical and psychological injuries, on the specious diagnosis “personality disorder,” a “pre-existing condition” the Army shrinks pulled out of their hats, which meant the GIs weren’t qualified for disability pay or even medical care. Billions of taxpayer dollars were saved.

The irony is in the word “accountable,” a bully word in the hands of the U.S. military, which sees itself as a veritable accountability machine, imposing it on others — the enemy — with a righteous fury that acknowledges no overkill, and imposing it on its own rank and file once they are no longer useful to the cause.

One no-longer-useful soldier — among the 22,500 discharged in the last six years with a pre-existing personality disorder — is Army Spc. Jon Town, who, according to a recent investigative piece in The Nation and other media accounts, was knocked unconscious by a 107-millimeter rocket while serving in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart.

But the Army has ruled that the hearing loss and headaches he has suffered ever since were the result of a pre-existing personality disorder, a diagnosis, like most if not all other such diagnoses, divined without input from family members or anyone who knew Town before he enlisted and passed the Army physical. No need, see. These guys all had dormant conditions that family members wouldn’t have noticed anyway. Only trained Army docs can determine their existence, after which they have no choice but to deny the poor schnooks disability pay and medical care.
I think you should read the whole thing. But then I always say that about Bob Koehler.

And I'm reminded of Chris Floyd, who wrote:
This is a remarkable state of affairs: a militarist faction that doesn't even take care of its soldiers. Once again, we see a glaring example of the blind and brutal stupidity that is the hallmark of the Bush White House. (And this stinking fish most definitely rots from the head.) The early Caesars had the good sense to keep their legions sweet, especially the Praetorian Guard; even Saddam Hussein knew enough to take good care of his Republican Guard. But the Bushists merely chew up their soldiers and spit them out, like drunks heaving after a binge.
I continue to believe, more firmly than ever, that the destruction of the American military is going according to plan. The flip-side of that plan, of course, is the establishment of a loose network of private armies ... that just happen to be beyond the reach of the law.

[related links]

Speed Bump: Will Mass Murder In Nisoor Square Slow The Growth Of Blackwater?

Bush Hates America: US Troops Face 'A Circular Firing Squad' In Iraq

Bush Hates America: Iraqi Weapons Caches Are Still Open!

Still In Denial: Bob Woodward's Modified Limited Hangout