Friday, March 02, 2007

Bush Announces Walter Reed Commission

A bipartisan commission will investigate squalid conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center, according to an announcement by the White House:

Bush devoted his weekly radio address — to be broadcast on Saturday — to the problems of veterans' care, and the White House took the unusual step of releasing excerpts in advance. A full text also was to be released later Friday. The administration's response came amid growing outrage about the poor treatment of some veterans — and the prospect that it could backfire on the White House.

...Bush, in his radio address, said he had asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to make a firsthand assessment of conditions at Walter Reed. "He confirmed to me there are real problems at Walter Reed and he has taken action to hold people accountable, including relieving the general in charge of the facility.

"As we work to improve conditions at Walter Reed, we are also taking steps to find out whether similar problems have occurred at other military and veteran hospitals," the president said.

"We will use the commission's recommendations as part of our ongoing effort to improve our service to our nation's veterans," Bush said.

The commission to be named by Bush is separate from a review panel appointed by Gates to investigate outpatient care at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. The presidential panel will look at all of the nation's military and veteran facilities, according to White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino.
Obviously, the buck from the scandal should end up on the big desk in the Oval Office and at the doors of Republican lawmakers who sent soldiers into harms way while failing those same soldiers as they returned home as well as at the desks of senior Pentagon and VA figures (who have known and done nothing for a very long time). After all, it's been Bush and the GOP who have pushed to de-fund the VA at every chance they got as well as failing to provide other essentials - as veteran's groups have been protesting for at least two years now. Somehow, though, I don't think that will be within the remit of this commission.

I'm with Joseph Galloway of McClatchy/Knight Ridder, who has a powerful op-ed on the subject: He starts with this reminder of the politicians' and generals' duties:
Let's get this straight once and for all: With great power comes great responsibility.

The president and the Congress have the power to send America's fighting men and women to war. They also bear the responsibility for caring for those troops and their families.

It's their duty to make certain that the families of those who fall in battle don't fall through the cracks. They also have a sacred obligation to see that those who are wounded or injured in service receive the finest medical care that a rich nation can provide.

And while we're restating what should be clear and obvious, the politicians also have a responsibility to make certain that the Veterans Administration takes good care of the veterans of the wars gone by - World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War.

This is our nation's contract with those who bear the burden of protecting and defending the rest of us. If the politicians can't be trusted to get that right all the time, what can we trust them with?

It's the responsibility of all the rest of us to ensure that the politicians and the generals do their duty - and if they don't, then to ensure that their heads roll swiftly.

Those who fail in that honorable mission should be rooted out, called before Congress to deliver whatever lame excuses they can muster, and then sacked. They don't deserve respect or high office or rank, let alone fat pensions.
and ends with a down-home suggestion to make sure real accountability happens:
One reader e-mailed me this week to suggest that if we really want to get to the bottom of this scandal, we should appoint an investigative commission made up of 10 mothers of wounded soldiers instead of the usual suspects who sit on blue-ribbon commissions and find no one responsible for problems.

The mothers, the reader wrote, would sort out who was to blame in short order and find the problems that need fixing even faster. I second her motion.

Until we get this right and get back to living up to our responsibilities, we don't deserve the sacrifices that our soldiers, sailors, Marines and Air Force personnel make for us every day.
He's right - and I somehow don't see Bush or any of the Republicans who hid de-funding measures inside bills to fund the Iraq war or who voted to give the troops less care having the guts to stand up and admit their failure or even to really work to solve the problems by reversing those actions. Go read the whole thing.