Saturday, April 24, 2010

They were supposed to help the wounded

John Pace stumbled to his car, slipped Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" into the compact disc player and turned the key.
From half a century away, one Air Force veteran crooned to another:
When I was just a baby, my mama told me, 'Son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns.'

Five years as a military police officer, including a stint in South Korea, a tour of duty in Afghanistan and multiple deployments in Iraq, had all come to this: a drunken 23-year-old combat vet behind the wheel, determined to find another bottle to empty onto his pain.
Pace pulled into the dark parking lot of a TGI Friday's restaurant in Riverdale, broke a window and crawled inside. He took one bottle, then
another. Then he decided to empty out the entire bar.
More than 2 million American military members have served in the nation's ongoing conflicts, and many are returning home deeply troubled by their experiences. About a third suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, depression or other mental illness. At least a fifth struggle with drug or alcohol dependency.

The above is from Matthew D. LaPlante's "From Cobat to Lockdown: Vets in trouble" (Salt Lake City Tribune) on issues facing veterans returning to civilian life. Also exploring the issues addressing some veterans are James Dao and Dan Frosch who file a major piece for the New York Times entitled "In Army's Trauma Care Units, Feelings Warehoused" which explores the Warrior Transition Units created in the wake of the Walter Reed scandal. The WTU were supposed to assist. Instead, the reporters find people like Spc Michael Crawford who was put on multiple medications after joining a WTU, tried to take his own life and says of WTU, "It is just a dark place. Being in the W.T.U. is worse than being in Iraq."

That's just one person. That's true. But he reporters speak to others at the Fort Carson WTU and find similar stories: "For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncomissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson's unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse."

This calls for Congressional hearings. It will be interesting to see which committees step forward on the issue and how long it takes them to raise the issues.

For those late to the party or confused, yes, I am referring to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. I have stated Daniel Akaka needs to be replaced as Chair. I've stated he is not up to the job. That's my opinion. I can be wrong. Here's the Committee's chance to prove me wrong. And I'd be delighted and thrilled if they would. They can address this very real scandal right now as it is taking place as opposed to seven months from now (that's how long it took them to hold a hearing regarding the problems with the GI Bill's payment deliveries).

So prove me wrong, I'll be thrilled. I'll say you held the hearing and you held it promptly. I've been wrong a million times before and will be wrong a million times more. Prove me wrong. No one would be happier than me to be proven wrong on this point.

The following community sites updated last night and this morning -- plus Military Families Speak Out and

Sherwood Ross has a poem we'll include a lengthy excerpt of. It's called "America, The Imperial" and you can read it in full at OpEdNews among other places:

America, The Imperial

© 2010 by Sherwood Ross

I write to you in my last hour

In the last hour of the night

The hour of fear before the light

The hour of persecution and execution

Of the headsman’s bloody institution

Of prisoners dragged from their cells

Hearts pounding, legs trembling

Piss-soaked with fright.

I write to you from the land of discredited dreams

Of delicate white petals spilled upon the floor

Like semen wasted in the fingers of a whore

Of American dreams twisted into nightmares

Of a president’s lying schemes

For which Christ has no parable, no metaphor.

I write to you when poets are beaten in the streets

When students are shot dead for protesting war

When men earn their bread making killing machines

And never question what their work is for.

I will show you the land of the dying cities

Where the many see little hope to get ahead

Where few among the poor wear caps and gowns

And lines are lengthening for hot soup and for bread.

The gardens of pleasure of my youth are withered

The gray Tudor mansions stand in ruins along the beach

I would not dare to step inside and eat a peach.

High winds off the Atlantic drive the rain

Through the broken shards of windowpane

And the wind slams the unlocked doors


And tidal surges spill over the window sills and rot the floors.

In America, The Imperial,

The generals are solemn, the generals are stiff

Their work requires perpetual attention

To details: “Send this detail here! Send that detail there!”

After all, war is no Saturday sail on a pleasure skiff

War is a guided missile fired from a battleship.

War is the champagne of the Pentagon brass

Intoxicating! Effervescent!

Billion dollar bubbles of planned obsolescence

Step right up and try the latest weapons

We got your wars right here!

Cold wars! Hot wars!

Chocolate and vanilla

Step right up and kill a guerrilla!”

I write to you of Panama and Viet Nam

From the ruins of Iraq and Afghanistan

Of nations where our armies’ flags have flown

And from Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, and Iran

Among the many nations we have overthrown.

I write of plots to shake the planet from its course

Not cheap schemes to fix the action on the Paris bourse

But to move great armies onto foreign soil

To gain control of pipeline routes and precious oil.

I will take you to the dungeon

I will take you to the cell

Let us pay an uninvited visit

To one American white hell.

Hakim was an Afghan artisan

Wrongly thrown in jail

The Americans allowed no lawyers

No Red Cross and no bail

They forced him to go naked

They shaved off his beard and hair

When they put the hood over his head

He thought he’d die for lack of air.

Hakim had nothing to confess to

Still, they knocked him to the floor

Soldiers stomped his back and kicked his legs

Until he could stand no more

They chained his hands to the ceiling

For ten days and ten nights

Longer than Jesus hung on Calvary

So much for human rights.

I am really tired. We've flown home, I've been at a memorial service, blah, blah, blah. Point. I didn't see a word in there that was objectionable but Friday or Thursday (it's all a blur), I hit "publish" and two seconds later realized "s**t" was in an excerpt of something. I immediately went back in and changed it. We're a work safe site. If there's a curse word in there that's objectionable and I missed it, e-mail to let me know, because I'm tired and my vision is blurry. (And "s**t" never stands out big as a curse word because it's a term I use all the time in my own life.) Also "whore"? We can use that term here by our policy. Generally speaking, any term that's in the Bible passes most work-safe tests.

A number of visitors are e-mailing the public e-mail about curse words . . . at community sites. I am not responsible for community sites. I know Ruth used the s-word this week and I know she was very clear why she was using it. Ruth cursing online is practically news. I've never heard her curse in real life. She was calling out crap and she wanted to convey how huge the crap was so she used that term. That's her right. That's anyone's right. Susan at Random Thoughts (linked to by going to "About me" and seeing "Blogs I follow") had to be pulled off the permalinks because she used s-word in the title of a post and the permalinks now show the titles of the post. I do not condemn her for using that word (which, I am sure, I utter in real life more times a day than she ever could). But here, it is work safe. So I couldn't have the s-word displayed like that. She'd used the term (and others) in posts and that didn't effect this site, but now titles are displayed. I've pulled three sites with no worries or second thoughts since. I feel bad about Susan's (who is still linked by going to "About me") but I didn't give a damn about the others including a magazine.

Ruth's site is Ruth's site. She'll do what she wants there and I find it hilarious that someone's up in arms that Ruth intentionally used that term (and wrote in that post about how she was intentionally using it) and a man wants to object when I know that man also follows Mike's site and Mike used the same word -- in full -- about two weeks ago at his site and there was no objection.

Nineteen other men are e-mailing regarding Marcia and Rebecca. I don't see anything in their book posts from last night that's objectionable for language reason. The b-word? We've used it here in various forms. It's actually in the dictionary. "Ass" is a word we use here but we don't use it with "hole" added to it and don't assume that the term -- as one word -- would pass our work safe policy. But that's here. I know for a fact that Rebecca and Marcia repeatedly warned (for two weeks now) that yesterday's posts would contain language some might find objectionable. They warned online at their sites.

They're reviewing a book about an actor who slept with men and slept with women and his sex was combative (to put it mildly). There's not a lot of ways they can talk about that book. I think they did a good job of covering it and I think anyone reading their posts immediately knows whether that book is a book that would interest them or not.

And the word that's being objected to? Mike has it at his site last night and no objections. (Mike notes that it's a pet term I use to mock various men. And refers to a 2009 skit by a friend of mine that elaborates on that theme.) What's the deal here, Mike can write anything because he's a guy? Is that how it works?

I don't find anything objectionable in Mike's writing, I love Mike very much. But I do find it strange that men are e-mailing me that other women in this community are using 'language' but they're not bothered when Mike uses it. I find that strange.

I find it irritating that I'm forced to comment on this. Don't e-mail me to 'tattle' on what someone in this community did at their site. I don't run their sites, I'm not responsible for their sites. They are all grown adults. They do what they want and those are their sites to run as they please. The public e-mail exists for visitors. It's there in case you catch an error or think you do. It's there for you to suggest an article I've missed. It's there for you to rip into me because you disagree with what I've written. It's there for you to sound off or whatever. About what's up here. Not what someone did at their site. Don't come tattling to me, I'm not your mother. I've raised my children, they're adults now. I don't have time to wipe your noses and asses for you. You logged on to a computer, you figured out to send an e-mail, I assume you can take care of yourself. Stop running to me to tattle. I'm not interested.

The e-mail address for this site is