Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 1, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the US military announces another death, the US Congress gets a song and dance on PTSD and TBI, they do learn that 12 months IS TOO SOON for redeployment,  the puppet Nouri tries to claim sucess while begging the victors to return items, and more.
Starting with war resisters, Cherise Ryan (World On the Web) zooms in on war resister Phil McDowell who is not in Candad and cites a Washington Post report on McDowell in explaining how he enlisted following 9/11, deployed to Iraq and made the grade of sergeant, discharged and returned to civilian life only to discover he was being stop-lossed and re-deployed to Iraq.  Instead, McDowell decided to seek refugee status in Canada, as many other war resisters have done.  Currently, McDowell is among many waiting to find out what the Candidan Parliament will decide this month.
A measure is before it that would grant safe harbor to war resisters.  Canada granted that to US war resisters during Vietnam.  There's a really bad editorial from a right-wing Canadian paper that keeps popping up everywhere and argues that back then Canada was taking in draft dodgers and there is no draft.  (What do you call stop-loss then?)  No, there's not a draft but a lot of bloated men who sat out Vietnam in the US via a variety of deferrments sure do love to lie and claim opposition to the illegal war then was all due 'to the draft, man.'  We've noted before the damage their lies (one took to inflating his 'service' and 'trauma' from enduring a physical -- he was never drafted, he had a college deferment among other things) do, their bragging, their boasting.  It damages the peace movement (provides a nice easy out to avoid working harder) and we've also noted how it continues to damage the cases war resisters are attempting to make in Canada.
So let's review it one more time.  During Vietnam, American males could go to Canada and seek asylum.  There were two categories "draft dodgers" -- which everyone seems to remember -- and "deserters."  A "draft doger" (also known as a "draft resister") was someone who had been called up.  A "deserter" was someone already in the service.  Canada's asylum then was not conditional upon someone being drafted.  Those who were in the military and elected to resist were waived on through the border and welcomed the same way.  There was no additional burden placed on them.  They were not required, for instance, to prove that, yes, they were in the service, but they had been drafted into it.  A male who chose to enlist and then began resisting after he was serving could go to Canada and be granted asylum.  Pot apparently smoked the brains of not only our left 'leaders' of that period -- a pot haze is the only thing to explain the repeating of the lies of the draft -- but the Canadian education system failed to educate their citizenry on recent history because an editorial board that wants to argue -- as one did last week and all the right-wing Canadian cites have re-posted it -- that Canada should say "no" to today's war resisters because there was a draft during Vietnam and Canada only took in "draft dodgers" is merely flaunting how ignorant everyone serving on the editorial board is.
Had Canada put in a place a qualifier that said, "We will take war resisters but only those who have seen duty in Vietnam," Canada still would have been swarmed with some of the same war resisters.  "Draft dodger" (or "draft resister") or "deserter," both cateogries were welcomed in Canada during Vietnam.  That is reality and I'm sorry that the Canadian education system is so poor today.  In terms of the US, honestly the same male 'leaders' of the left tripping out on tales of the draft today hurt the movement in many ways back then as well.  They'll probably continue to do so when they are in their graves.
Then US president Gerald Ford pardoned Tricky Dick of crimes against the US citizenry, crimes against the US government, crimes against humanity and a great deal more.  With the war resisters, he set conditions.  Apparently he didn't think Tricky Dick's fat ass could make it through an obstacle course so he just waived Nixon on through.  Ford granted war resisters an amnesty . . . . provided they went through a long process and met this criteria and that critieria and then, in the end, were judged to be worthy of the pardon.  Having just pardoned the War Criminal Nixon, it was outrageous.  Hearing an idiot, post-Ford's death, go on Democracy Now! and brag about Ford's program only explained to you just how much "establishment" is also in the left.  In Canada (and I was visiting Canada when that program was announced) there was huge outrage and outcry -- from Canadians as well as US war resisters.  Those who resisted the slaughter in Inochina were being asked to leep through hoop after hoop with no guarantee that if they made it through all the hoops they might be pardoned.  Much speculation at the time was that it was a trap/trick to get US war resisters back in the United States where they would be tossed in prison.  But Ford's program offered the obstacle course to both.
Jimmy Carter followed the Ford presidency.  Carter didn't offer anything to deserters.  Carter did offer draft resisters a limited asylum.In recent years, a number of war resisters from that era have been arrested while visiting the US.  So there's really no excuse for people who lived through that time period to not know the difference.  The only excuse is to provide cover for a peace movement that continues to struggle and to provide an excuse for your own inaction.  (And to brag about days forty years ago which, let's face it, is all some left 'leaders' have to offer today having willingly been co-opted long ago.)  Not grasping the difference, not speaking of that difference between reality then and 'reality' remembered now is hurting US war resisters and someone please throw a pie in the face of the next Baby Boom left male 'leader' who wants to gas bag about the hardships he endured due to the 'draft' that never found him called out because he knew how to game the system.  It's the equivalent of fishing tales only damaging and it needs to stop.  If you can't pie them, stop the males with, "When did you serve in Vietnam?"  And when they stutter that they didn't, ask them how they got it.  When they start to offer the tale of that 'invasive' physical, stop them and repeat, "I asked how you were able to avoid serving since you didn't go to Canada and you didn't go to Vietnam?"  If one claims "I went underground" ask him, "From the time you turned 18 until Vietnam was over?"  Because, no, the bulk of the 'leaders' jaw boning today did not go 'underground' and when a few did, it had nothing to do with the illegal war but everything to do with being kicked to the curb by the peace movement.  But that's the story they never want to tell.
Their efforts at boasting stroke their own egos but they do not help today's war resisters.  If you are interested in helping today's war resisters, you need to remember that the measure before the Canadian Parliament is supposed to be addressed early this month.  You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. 

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).  
"Post-traumatic stress disorder is among the most common diagnoses made by the Veterans Health Administration.  Of the approximately 300,000 veterans from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom who have accessed VA health care, nearly 20 percent –60,000 veterans- have received a preliminary diagnosis of PTSD.  The VA also continues to treat veterans from Vietnam and other conflicts who have PTSD."  That was how US House Rep Michael H. Michaud today opened the Subcommittee on Health that he chairs.  The title of the hearing was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Treatment and Research: Moving Ahead Toward Recovery and there were five panels to the hearing.
The first panel revolved around the testimony of US Army Director, Divisions of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge.  That's the bulk of our focus because there were enough revelations and lies in that one panel to fill a book.
US House Rep John T. Salazar spoke of a veteran who had PTSD and was being denied benefits, explained that the veteran struggles to get the help promised and to navigate the VA system while working part-time at a Subway.  Hoge didn't seem overly concerned.  US House Rep Shelley Berkley spoke of speaking with a lifetime friend who was also a Vietnam veteran and shared with her that basically it was the exact same problems happening all over again.  Hoge didn't seem overly concernced.
What Hoge did seem concerned with was repeatedly intoning "New England Jounal of Medicine" and trying out catch phrases.  On the former, Hoge published.  We're not his parents, we honestly don't give a damn.  On the latter, considering all the questions he couldn't answer, a little less time attempting to manufacture sound bytes and a little more time spent doing the job that US tax payers pay him to do would be appreciated.
Hoge had a big problem and the implication was that the press was the problem.  Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) gets too much attention, he felt.  And even worse, he felt, there is mild TBI and no one wants to talk about that.  When you see a story, he insisted, reported, they always go with the most extreme cases of TBI.  What about mild TBI, Hoge wanted to know, what about mild TBI?
No doubt some people were grumbling, "Damn press."  But the reality is, the press didn't push TBI.  The Pentagon last year -- check any briefing -- repeatedly pushed TBI.  Over and over.  They are the ones, the generals they trotted out, who stated TBI was the signature wound of the Iraq War.  Few in the press have any medical background.  The easiest thing in the world is to toss out numbers and make assertions to them.  If Hoge feels TBI's gotten too much attention from the press, he doesn't need to blame the press, he needs to blame the Pentagon.  He was also blaming the press for the use of the term "TBI" and, no, the press did not invent the term. 
Mild TBI, he insisted, was nothing more than a concussion, nothing more, he appeared to think he was really cute here, than having your bell rung -- like a boxer!  But that damn press is going around chanting "TBI! TBI!"  Again, check the transcripts of any Pentagon press conference (via video link or with all participants present).  Who is introducing the term and topic each time, it's the Pentagon.  If Hoge wants to point a finger he needs to point it at his own branch of government and not at the press.  But he was more comfortable whining that, in the press, "it's often not made clear that the vast majority of those soldiers, service members, labeled as TBI injury have had concussions."  Again, take it up with your own branch of government and quit blaming the press.
He did acknowledge there were also categories of "moderate and severe traumatic brain injury" but he wasn't interested in addressing that.  He just wanted to repeatedly focus on mild TBI.  "A lot of concern lately," he grumbled, "about mild traumatic brain injury and potential longterm effects of mild traumatic brain injury," when all it is is a concussion with symptoms such as "headaches, irrtability . . . concentration problems."  He then wanted to state that mild TBI was most likely PTSD masking as mild TBI. 
Apparently there is some trouble telling the difference between the two. Golly, if only there was a way to screen for PTSD and TBI.  If only someone had worked on that . . . Oh, wait they have.  On the first day of Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldier Investigation a panel was held entitled The Crisis in Veterans' Healthcare.  Among those speaking were veteran Adrienne Kinne who spoke not just of being a member and discharging in 1998 and then re-enlisting after 9-11, but of her time as a civilian following her second discharge and specifically, from that time period, of being a research assistant at a VA where she helped on a group that devised a way to screen for PTSD and TBI in such a way that there would be no confusion in diagnosing.  Here's her testimony on what happened after they had study ready to be implemented.
Adrienne Kinne: And then they went to go to the next step, to actually make this happen. And I was actually on a conference call when someone said, "Wait a second. We can't start this screening process. Do you know that if we start screening for TBI there will be tens of thousands of soldiers who will screen positive and we do not have the resources available that would allow us to take care of these people so we cannot do the screening." And their rationale was that medically, medical ethics say if you know someone has a problem, you have to treat them. So since they didn't have the resources to treat them, they didn't want to know about the problem.
So Hoge, so important at Walter Reed, so informed, wanted to boo-hoo to Congress today that misdiagnosis is taking place but his branch of the government is the very branch that prevented the needed screening from taking place.  The denial took place because the military didn't want to responsible for the costs resulting from TBI being identified, as Kinne noted, identify an illness and you are ethically bound to treat it.  Last month, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reported on this issue noting:

For more than two years, the Pentagon delayed screening troops returning from Iraq for mild brain injuries because officials feared veterans would blame vague ailments on the little-understood wound caused by exposure to bomb blasts, says the military's director of medical assessments.
Which would appear to be what Hoge was doing with his dismissive listing of symptoms such as "headaches."  Amazing that a doctor wouldn't cite the ringing in the ears and hearing loss, isn't it?  Zoroya noted, "In a January 2006 report, scientists at the federal Defense and Veteran Brain Injury Center urged that troops be screend for TBI 'immediately'."  January 2006.  It's 2008.  And Hoge wants to act like that never happened and thinks the problem is the press which, by his accounting, appears to have invented the term TBI and then alarmed the country falsely.
And wanted to assert that it is "very difficult to do screening and know with accuracy what the cause of the symptoms are."  Yes, it is very difficult to screen for PTSD and TBI when the study for that has been buried.  Since Hoge was mentioning and alluding to money, research grants, research he was working on, someone in Congress should have asked about the study Kinne worked on and why, instead of Hoge 'developing' one, the one already developed still wasn't in place?  Why is the tax payer expected to pay Hoge to devise a screening when, in fact, one already exists and has been buried?
Why isn't that screening being used right now if Hoge really believes that, "There is a risk that [veterans] might get misdiagnosed with having braing injury" when it's really "PTSD or depression."   When a screening has already been devised why is he asking for more money to develop his own screening while claiming it's "very difficult to do screening and know with accuracy what the causes of the symptoms are"?
He did allow that "there was a very strong" relationship between experiencing a concussion in Iraq and then developing PTSD ("almost half" went on to develop PTSD).  He also stated that "One of the issues with multiple deployments and the dwell time for soldiers when they've come back, we've learned from the research that we've done, [is] that 12 months is not enough time for soldiers to reset and go back for another deployment."
That's a very strong statement and it's one he would attempt to back off from when he was questioned about it later.  At at time when the military repeatedly sends troops on second and third and fourth and fifth deployments to Iraq, if the medical doctor is stating twelve months is insufficient to reset, then there is a problem and that needs to be explored.
Most didn't.  Rep Berkley did in her follow up questioning.
Berkely:  Not enough time between tours of duty, did I hear you correctly?
Hoge: Yes . . . What we've found . . .  Yes.  That's what I said . . .  The 12 months is insuf- . . . appears to be insufficient.
All ". . ." in Hoge's statements above indicate pauses.  That's not noting that he's been edited.  That was his stumbling response when someone rightly pressed him on the biggest news to emerge in the hearing. 
Berkely asked him to "correct me if I'm wrong," about his statement and what's actually taking place, "but many are being called back in less that 12 months."  She wanted to know if that was his "understanding as well?"  And what wisdom did Hoge offer?  "I don't know."
He'd told Congress that twelve months was insufficient time to redeploy, to reset and yet the US military continues to send to redeploy troops in twelve months or less.  And Congress has been repeatedly told prior that this is a non-issue and certainly not an issue that Congress needs to address, told by witnesses trotted up before Congress.  From the Feb. 28 snapshot, about the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Deptartment of the Army:
US House Rep Patrick Murphy was also concerned about readiness.  He wanted to know specifically that, regardless of any upcoming announcements, would the length of tours be reduced.  On Tuesday of this week, Casey and Geren appeared before the Senate's Armed Service Committee also offering testimony on the 2009 Fiscal Year.  From that hearing, the only thing that the media picked up on was that tours in Iraq and Afghanistan would (maybe) drop from fifteen months to twelve months.  (Some outlets picked up on the stop-loss issue, stop-loss will continue but they 'hope' to drop the numbers from 8,000 to 7,000 -- ignored was Senator Jim Webb's questioning of Casey which produced Casey's claim that the UCMJ had been applied to Defense Department contractors serving in Iraq.) Murphy wanted to know specifically with the Afghanistan War still going on, an incomplete serach for Osama bin laden, with "the majority of our military in Iraq," what happens "if we're still bogged down refereeing a civil war in Iraq?"  And when Petraeus appears before Congress, Murphy wanted to know, "What happens" in terms of the reduction of tours of duty "if he comes back to us and says we need a 'pause' not a 'drawdown.'  Casey maintained that regardless of a "a brief pause, as you say, that will not impact our ability to come off of 15 months . . . the most important thing for us to do is to come off 15 months."
Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"?  Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job.  Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).
Hoge admitted today that 12 months wasn't enough.  When he was pressed on that statement, he attempted to back track and Congress has repeatedly been told not to worry about this issue, that the military is handling it.  General Casey even said that for Congress to address it would tie the military's hands.  If Congress isn't going to address this issue, who will?
Repeating from Hoge's testimony today, "One of the issues with multiple deployments and the dwell time for soldiers when they come back, we've learned from the research that we've done, [is] that 12 months is not enough time for soldiers to reset and go back for another deployment." 
Berkely wasn't done with this issue even with Hoge attempting to avoid her questions.  She offered an example from her own state (Nevada) where a man served in Iraq, came home and was informed he would be redeployed.  The man "told his grandmother he'd rather kill himself than go back" and the military's 'medical' response was to supply him with Prozac and put on him suicide watch while they redeployed him anyway.  Once in Iraq, they took him off suicide watch "and the day he was taken off suicide watch, he killed himself.  It seems to me that we should be doing a better job of screening people" and grasping when they can't handle "the strain of war.  Do you agree with me?"
"I do," replied Hoge before going into a lengthy blah-blah-blah leading Berkley to interrupt.  "Forgive me for interuppting," she stated, "but don't you think if the military put this young man on suicide watch," he wasn't up to being redeployed?  Hoge attempted to beg off by declaring that "I can't comment on the specifics" before going on to comment by insisting that he was sure "they had good reasons for doing that."  It's interesting how Hoge can't comment on something but can go on to declare that he just knows there was good reason for the actions the military took.  Here's reality on suicide watch (and the snapshots late because I had six different doctors walk me through it over the phone this afternoon), you're merely 'stable' at best.  You may be having a good day, you may be pretending to have a good day.  But the military has none of the transition phases that would take place in civilian treatment where you'd have a buddy for a set number of hours, the way someone in a civilian clinical system would.  In the military, you're on it or you're off it.  And it's a joke when you're on it because nothing's really done other than a superficial assessment of whether to continue it (which is nothing but regular eye checks, someone making a visible assessment and that someone isn't always a doctor but just someone assigned to take a look at X time and determine that the subject hasn't killed him or herself).  In a civilian clinical setting, there are stages of transition from suicide watch (and there can be transitions to it the first time, but once played on it, you're more likely to immediately be placed back on that stage should warning signs appear).  There is nothing like that system in the military. 
Hoge may want to assert that he is sure there was good reason to take the man off suicide watch; however, since he's already noted that he doesn't know the case, he can't assert that with any real authority and that should have been pointed out to him.  He should have also been required to explain's the military's process of suicide watch because those not familiar with the term may assume "they're doing something!" and those only familiar with how it works in a clincial setting may assume the military is doing something similar when, in fact, they are not.
Hoge was much more interested in passing off PTSD as some sort of normal evolution process in service members stationed in combat.  He wanted to stress that the problems, such as sleep deprevation, were actually "needed" in combat and considering that he avoided the biggest problem with seeking treatment, that statement may have explained more than he realizes.  We'll come back to that.
He couldn't stop pushing his own need for clinical trials and research (again, a screening has already been developed and only a glory hog would be asking for money to work on a new one while ignoring one that's ready to go straight into clinical trials).  Psychotherapy and medical therapy had "huge gaps" and he thinks "the gaps remain."  It seemed less a testimony and more of a testimonial funding pitch for his own work.  "Within my own institute," he declared, "I think one of the key studies we're planning, we've done a lot of work at helping solders transition with a program called 'battle mind.'  It didn't have the effectiveness we'd like to see, so my team is working on developing an advanced version of that that we'd like to test."  Again, he's asking for money.  He's asking for money to play with, to waste, when a screening the military has buried already exists.
What has his research produced?  Nada.  Nothing.  He bragged that it had produced "recommendations" in three areas.
* There needs to modifications to our post deployment screening to ensure that all symptoms are addressed.
*There needs to be risk communication/education because he thinks "even just the term mild Traumatic Brain Injury, which is synonmous with concussion" is "misfortunate because 'concussion' is better understood and sounds less severe than mild TBI."
* Getting the word out.  He wants to be sure that it's not "blow[n] off" the way he says "soldiers tend to do and athletes as well."
That's what his 'research' has produced, the verbal equivalent of a pamphlet.  Now he wants more money. For more 'research.'  Notice who gets the problem pushed off on them: the service members.
His laughable 'research' is junk-science that exists to place the blame for the failure of the medical military leaders and the military leaders period off on service members.  If service members are "blowing it off," why would that be?  His 'treatment' is a pamphlet for service members and avoids the issue of why there is a reluctance to go for screenings in the battle zone and why PTSD is overlooked in the battlezone -- and why both takes place outside the battle zone.  The commanders are not experiencing combat.  This is a remote control war for them and they're safely hidden away from all the battles and all the injuries and deaths.  The closest they get to 'witnessing' is some footage a predator drone transmits.  As such, they dismiss PTSD.  Want to change the way it's seen?  That's really not a medical issue demanding research, but if that's your goal, address the commanders.  The military follows chain of command.  If there's a problem in the ranks, it goes to the signals from the top.  Hoge can mass produce as many pamphlets (based on his 'research') as he wants.  That won't change the climate that's set at the top.  Why is it set at the top that way?  As he confessed, PTSD has its benefits in combats.  Hyper-aware, hyper-on-edge, those can be used by the commanders.  The problem is not within ranks, the problem is at the top.  But just as Hoge tried to blame the press for what officials and generals had done at the Pentagon, he tried to blame the enlisted for the attitudes towards PTSD.
His attempting to "switch terminology" was noted by subcommittee chair Michaud who stated that it sounded like it might "shift the burden to the veterans."  Hoge wasn't interested in that.  It became obvious that all Hoge was interested in was selling his 'research' for more funding.  It would be money wasted.  That his 'research' has produced nothing more than the 'findings' one would come across in a veneral disease pamphlet (something the military has long produced) is appalling.  He had the nerve to state the wasn't "seeing a change in perceptions" of PTSD or TBI and blame that on the ranks as well.  Again, you want to change perception, you address the issue at the top.  He tried to blame the veterans for the failures of the system and bemoan that there was "no way to force them" to get screenings once they left.  That led to an embarrassing exchange.  On Congress' part, we'll assume the questions were well meaning and they were seeking information.  On Hoge's part it was more blather.  PTSD is not a gun shot wound bleeding.  All patients have the right to refuse treatment.  That's a point Hoge never raised while 'explaining' why he didn't think screenings could be forced on anyone.  It was an embarrassing exchange and, again, Congress seemed unfamiliar with the concept of 'informed consent.'  That Hoge also did was appalling since he is a medical doctor.  But the issue HAS NEVER BEEN, despite Hoge's claims otherwise, that a large number are refusing treatment for PTSD; the issue has been and remains that they are not getting the treatment they need and want and are often being told that their benefits do not cover it.  Instead Hoge wanted to tell Congress (omitting a patient's right to refuse any treatment and informed consent) that the problem's really that a patient has to want to get better.  That was patronizing, insulting and ignorant.  On the latter, to 'get better,' one has to be aware there's a problem and, again, from the top of chain on down, a lot of time's been spent convincing veterans and active service members that there's not a problem and that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  Hoge didn't want to address that.
Let's go to Rep Berkley again because she noted that she was hearing from doctors in Nevada treating veterans that the government was either not paying or being very slow with payments.  Hoge had no response to that.  Since the government has outsourced treatment (like they've outsourced everything else) this is a serious issue. But it's not a new one and it's why Elaine stopped trying to get payment for the veterans she works with as early as the end of 2003.  It's why FactCheck.org has blood on its hands for stating in 2004 that the White House was fully funded veterans care -- as they rejected US Senator John Kerry's on the money claims that veterans care was a disaster and becoming more so.  FactCheck.org is not a medical organization, has no medical training but was happy to LIE for the White House on the eve of the 2004 election.  Everything veterans face today, all the problems with healthcare, are in part a result of FactCheck.org saying "Liar! Liar!" when John Kerry rightly noted you can't fight two wars -- increasing the number of veterans needing assistance -- and not increase the monies being spent on veterans care.  The monies are not being paid to civilian doctors and they are either doing what Elaine's done for years (pro bono) or they're refusing to take on patients.  That's reality.  Hoge played dumb.
Berkely had asked about a specific suicide, as noted before, and he had no knowledge of it but wanted to insist that everything was done for the man.  Whenever he was pressed on funds, he would attempt to beg off and then insist that the funds were being spent on research and spent well.  One exchange found him declaring, "I'm not the person to comment on the expenditures of funds."  But of course he went on to declare that research was adequately funded.  You're either the person to comment or not.  You can't have it both ways.
He was happy to blather on and on about "the grant process" and "my hope" and "clinical trials" (to produce more pamphlets?).  He wasn't able to deal with reality.  Such as homeless veterans which was a topic raised at length.  Were they suffering grom PTSD, shouldn't this be addressed?  Hoge's response in full was a flat "Yes, sir."  Had he not been begging for money, he might not have even offered that.  (The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will hold a hearing on homeless veterans April 9th -- hopefully, they will have someone more qualified to testify to them.) 
There were other hearings in Congress today but we're focusing on the first panel because (a) veterans healthcare is largely ignored and (b) if it's not addressed while the illegal war drags on, it won't be addressed.  As Vietnam veterans saw after that illegal war ended, the US Congress and the public would rather address anything else.  The 'weary' attitude already evident among so many will only set in futher when the Iraq War ends. Winter Soldier didn't get much press to begin with and what press it did ignored veterans healthcare.  The US Congress also held a hearing today on oil and since 'cost of war' is a huge talking point for 'corporatist peace groups' rushing to elect Democrats this fall, you can be sure 'independent' media will steer themselves towards that instead.  Probably work in something psuedo 'pithy' about Shell's announcement today that they are eager to 'help' Iraqis.  They are eager to help themselves to Iraqi oil.  Big difference.  For more on the topic see The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Veterans Healthcare." 
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two police officers and two civilians, 2 Baghdad mortar attacksthat wounded five people and a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 5 "Awakening" council members and left three more wounded. This may be the same bombing that the US military refers to in Ninewah Province today but they state eight were killed (three wounded).
Reuters notes 6 "Awakening" council members were shot dead in Shirqat.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Late yesterday, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division – Center Soldier was killed as a result of an improvised explosive device attack south of Baghdad March 23.
The Soldier died of his wounds at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany March 29."
Meanwhile CBS and AP report that puppet of the occuaption Nouri al-Maliki is trying to call the assault he carried out on Basra at the US government's request a "success" -- this despite the fact that he had his lunch handed to him via Moqtada al-Sadr.  al-Maliki's announcement is made all the laughable by the fact that Tahsin al-Sheikhli wants some publicity.  The person in charge of Iraq's security was kidnapped last Thursday and he rushes to tell Abigail Hauslohner (Time magazine) all about it: "There were 40 of them.  My guards engaged them [with gunfired] for 45 minutes.  Part of the house caught fire.  They destroyed it."  Apparently, al-Sheikhli is going for either the sympathy factor or the "missing blonde" aspect.  Neither shore up al-Maliki's absurd claim of having a "success."  In the real world, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Sadr City section of Baghdad remains roped off by US and Iraqi military, notes that the battle over Basra is seen as a win for al-Sadr and quotes ICG's Joost Hiltermann stating, "The Iraqi government looks silly in the face of their ardent statements."  Yes, they do. Especially when James Hider (Times of London) reports that the "increasingly isolated Prime Minister" has "asked gunmen to return the 50 government cars and armoured vehicles they captured from his forces during a week of fighting that left close to 500 people dead."
Fadel and Warren P. Strobel report on the Iranian who helped broker the peace arrangement over the weekend, and note, "Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who helped U.S.-backed Iraqi leaders negotiate a deal with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to stop the fighting in Iraq's largely Shiite south, is named on U.S. Treasury Department and U.N. Security Council watch lists for alleged involvement in terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and missile technology.  His role as peacemaker, which McClatchy first reported Sunday, underscores Iran's entrenched political power and its alliances in Iraq, according to analysts."  So the winners from the assault were al-Sadr and Iran.  That was not the intent when the US government asked for the assault.  It was supposed to shore up al-Maliki's non-existant credentials to be leaders.  It only exposed as an inept puppet right before US Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker gear up to make the rounds of Congress and deliver their 'progress' reports.
CNN notes that official figures for Iraqi deaths in March (always an undercount) show an increase after a decline had seemed the big talking point for months.

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