Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Walter Reed Hospital and The Washington Post

I keep trying to decide if my opinion of our three cable news networks could possibly drop any lower. As I watch the wall to wall "live coverage" on all three networks of today's Anna Nichole Smith hearing, I realize that there is no depth to which these bottom feeding slime won't go.

Thank god MSNBC interrupts the coverage every few minutes to replay the footage of Britney Spears new bald look.

I feel badly for Smith's extended, dysfunctional family and especially the remaining daughter who deserved much better from life.


There is real news. There are important stories. There is real tragedy. There is human suffering. There are people abused, abandoned and tortured. And while we couldn't possibly ask a reporter to leave their hotel in the safety and comfort of the Green Zone, how about just visiting Walter Reed Hospital in (relatively) safe Washington, D.C.?

My good friend David (famed world traveler and ex-CIA agent, at least according to Randi Rhodes over at
Air America) called me late last night to make sure I was aware of the horrific situation at America's premier military medical facility. David had been corresponding with Randi, who made the story a centerpiece of yesterday's broadcast.

While MSNBC, FOX and CNN were using there very expensive on-air talent to cover the ongoing Anna Nichole Smith saga, two real reporters from The Washington Post, Dana Priest and Anne Hull, were investigating the absolutely dreadful conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The first of their series of reports can be found here:
Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility (free registration required):

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But 5 1/2 years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely -- a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients. Almost 700 of them -- the majority soldiers, with some Marines -- have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.

Of course the real scandal here is not the pathetic news coverage by the cable news networks, it's the pathetic health care offered to so many of our military personnel who sacrificed life and limb in service to this country.

The Post articles have already gotten results. From
Editor and Publisher:

"The facility's commander, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, said Army staff members inspected each of the 54 rooms at the building and discovered that outstanding repair orders for half the rooms had not been completed. He said that mold removal had begun on several rooms and that holes in ceilings, stained carpets and leaking faucets were being fixed...."

"Walter Reed and Army officials have been 'meeting continuously for three days' since the articles began appearing,
Weightman said. A large roundtable meeting with Army and Defense Department officials will take place at the Pentagon early this morning to continue talks about improvements in the outpatient system, he added."

The question I have is why did it take two reporters from The Washington Post to get the ball rolling? The President and many Congresspersons and Senators proudly proclaim they visit the wounded. Some visit weekly.

Didn't any of them notice the mold, the rot and the psychologically damaged patients? Didn't any of them demand that the military clean the place up?

Well, my hat is off to the real heroes in this current story, Dana Priest and Anne Hull, and to Randi Rhodes, the many bloggers covering this story and to my friend David (O.K, so he's not really part of the CIA....... at least I hope he's not.... I hate to reveal a covert agent and end up on trial like Scooter Libby).

Oh, and I want to tip my pointy cap to Rita Cosby..... no... wait.... Rita is covering the Anna Nichole Smith story.... my bad.



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Anonymous said...

Chris Mathews covered the story quite extensively yesterday on Hardball on MSNBC. He had one of the Post reporters on as a guest.

the WIZARD, fkap said...

John.... Thanks for the note about Chris.

And, in the interest of fairness, I need to admit that the cable news networks cover stories like Smith so extensively BECAUSE that's what the public wants to watch.....

Not Your Mama said...

Excellent post Wizard. Years ago, I used to regularly drive a couple of Viet Nam vets back and forth to the VA (in Loma Linda, CA) and so this "expose" did not make me bat an eye. I could probably dig through the ancient-memory bin and pull out a few stories myself.

Matt Janovic said...

I don't agree--I think the public hated Anna Nicole Smith (as I did), and would love to never hear of her again. There is a component of the "white-out" of the important stories, because that is what the bosses who own CNN want. To obscure what we need to know. If we saw images of the wounded--as we did in the Vietnam war--the war would have ended earlier. This is the reality behind "learning the lessons from Vietnam," nothing more.

Anonymous said...