soldier-down.jpg
image courtesy www.inkycirus.com 

I started to write a piece on Rudy Ghouliani's latest Presidential fantasy, but this story floored me and sent my blood pressure shooting through the tiles of my office ceiling.

Bush first toured a typical — but empty — patient room in Abrams Hall, where soldiers were transferred after they were vacated from the facility's Building 18, where moldy walls, rodent infestation and other problems went unchecked until reported by the media. The room Bush saw featured a wide-screen television and a Macintosh computer on a desk.

"I appreciate that soldiers have got a Mac" to communicate with their families, the president said.

Commander Codpiece, indeed. It's been how long since this scandal broke wide open? Why didn't you storm over to Walter Reed the day you heard of it, so that you could see the squalor for yourself?

No, instead, you sloughed it off on your Secretary of Defense, waited six weeks, waited for them to repair all the damage, waited for all of the patients to be hidden from plain view or gussied up for you. An empty hospital room? Why? What are you so afraid of — that one of your victims might accost you and demand answers to hard "kweschuns"?  That you might witness soldiers not thoroughly enjoying their rehabilitation, not grateful for the fact that life is now just a hair more difficult with two aching stumps where their legs once were? That they can no longer cradle the tiny fingers of their newborn children?

Oh, sure, President Bush will tell you that he's just accentuating the positive here, focusing on something so trivial as a computer, but the fact of the matter is that the President is so completely in over his head, intellectually and psychologically, that most of his brain functions have shut down, leaving only the primal, reptile part in control. The closest thing to reality he can manage is a Rove-manufactured trompe l'oeil. Plastic turkey, anyone? Content to fixate on the shiny thing, the Mac computer, he avoids contemplating the obvious — that soldiers are wounded so badly by his war of vanity that they can't go home and get the care they need there.

Oh, I know, I'm being too hard on the guy; it's certainly not easy for the poor, beleaguered President. But you know what they say about webs, lies, and houses made out of cards. No matter how many defenses he puts up against all the increasingly loud anti-war sentiment, the Ghost of 11/7/06 keeps pushing its way through and getting in Bush's face:

Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, among retired military officers who took part in a conference call about Bush's visit, praised the president for seeing wounded soldiers. But, he added: "I'm convinced he would honor them more if he would refrain from using soldiers as props in political theater." (Emphasis added.)

"I would be very happy to see him do the Walter Reed visit more like the commander and secondarily as an inspector general, rather than as a politician," he said.

Bobby Muller, president of Veterans for America, said Bush isn't going to see areas of the hospital most in need of change. He cited Ward 54, where soldiers are suffering from acute mental health conditions, and outpatient holding facilities where soldiers see long waits to get processed out of the Army.

"Walter Reed is not a photo-op," Muller said. "Walter Reed is still broken. The DOD health care system is still broken. … Our troops need their commander in chief to start working harder for them."

And then the Ghost hoists Bush on his own petard. How bracingly refreshing, this willingness and ferocity with which an increasing number of retired military officials and veterans — not Dirty Fucking Hippies, by any means — are revealing the secret behind Rove's "prestige". (What's even more astounding is that the press is actually reporting on it, even after laughing and applauding Rove's "superwhiteboy" performance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner.)

Of course, the White House responds from its usual defensive crouch: 

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said "I would disagree with the characterization" that Bush was using Walter Reed as merely a picture-taking opportunity. She said it took some time to clear enough room on the president's schedule to spend over three hours with patients and staff at Walter Reed, and that Bush intends to find out from them what more needs to be done. (Emphasis added.)

Three hours? He needed to find three hours to spend with these broken men and women who have been fighting in his futile war?  He could attend a Cattlemen's Beef Association breakfast, hang out with the Florida Gators college football team, check out those cool electric cars that the Big Three are promising or jet off to Missouri to huff some ethanol, but he couldn't find the time to visit wounded soldiers. 

The conditions at Walter Reed and the shameful treatment of our returning servicemen and women are just another example of how the Bush administration has cloaked incompetence in a cloud of Orwellian doublespeak. From the very start, the Bush spin machine has arrogantly manipulated words and images, constructing Potemkin villages out of everything from "Compassionate Conservativism" to Social Security "reform" to "No Child Left Behind" to the war in Iraq. They think they've fooled everyone, but as we are now seeing, thanks to some determined Congressmen and a few intrepid reporters, they've only fooled 28% of us. Frankly, those 28% believe that Jesus rode a dinosaur, so I suspect that they're content to believe that those fake villages that Bush and his administration are trying to sell them are real. 

Not as real as First Lieutenant Scott Quilty's new arm, though.