Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cher, the hidden wounded, and an odd resemblance to WW I

I'd no idea at first how old this Washington Times article, turns out was written in October 2003 (the URL is a clue). I guess the Washington Times hasn't figured out that a web page needs date metadata.

Particularly given the date and her prescience, I'll have to rethink my impression of Cher I had from, oh, about 30 years ago ...
Cher waits turn on C-SPAN call to air views on wounded troops - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics

Celebrities voice their political opinions in many ways. They sign petitions, make donations, appear at rallies and sound off on late-night talk shows.
And sometimes they just stay on hold. That is what Cher did yesterday.

Anonymous and unsolicited, the singer joined the line of callers for C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" shortly after 7 a.m., remaining on hold for about four minutes until her moment came to speak on the war in Iraq.

"Thank you for C-SPAN," she said, simply as a generic "caller from Miami" who offered an immediate and graphic description of wounded soldiers she had met, including "a boy about 19 or 20 who had lost both his arms."

Alert for bogus claims, on-air host Peter Slen pressed the female caller for more information, establishing she had seen the soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, working as an entertainer.

..."Why are Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president — why aren't they taking pictures with these guys," she demanded. "I don't understand why these guys are so hidden, why there are no pictures of them."
Cher also chided the news media for omitting the "devastatedly wounded" from their coverage.

"Don't hide them. Let's have some news coverage where people are sitting and talking to these guys and seeing their spirit," the singer said, adding that she watched C-SPAN's morning show daily, along with the BBC and World Link.
I searched Google trying to figure out the date and discovered Cher is widely mocked and despised by the right wingnuts. Thirty years is a long time, apparently Cher moved on. I'll have to reset my expectations and pass on a belated "thank you".

I came to Cher via Frank Rich, who, in an article explaining why Libby will be pardoned (the man knows far too much about how Cheney and Rice cooked up the nuclear story), provides a useful summary of what Cheney/Bush have done to keep the reality of war out of the minds of the American people..
Why Libby’s Pardon Is a Slam Dunk

... The steps the White House took to keep casualties out of view were extraordinary, even as it deployed troops to decorate every presidential victory rally and gave the Pentagon free rein to exploit the sacrifices of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman in mendacious P.R. stunts.

The administration’s enforcement of a prohibition on photographs of coffins returning from Iraq was the first policy manifestation of the hide-the-carnage strategy. It was complemented by the president’s decision to break with precedent, set by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter among others, and refuse to attend military funerals, lest he lend them a media spotlight. But Mark Benjamin, who has chronicled the mistreatment of Iraq war veterans since 2003, discovered an equally concerted effort to keep injured troops off camera. Mr. Benjamin wrote in Salon in 2005 that “flights carrying the wounded arrive in the United States only at night” and that both Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda barred the press “from seeing or photographing incoming patients.”

A particularly vivid example of the extreme measures taken by the White House to cover up the war’s devastation turned up in The Washington Post’s Walter Reed exposé. Sgt. David Thomas, a Tennessee National Guard gunner with a Purple Heart and an amputated leg, found himself left off the guest list for a summer presidential ceremony honoring a fellow amputee after he said he would be wearing shorts, not pants, when occupying a front-row seat in camera range...

The answer is simple: Out of sight, out of mind was the game plan, and it has been enforced down to the tiniest instances. When HBO produced an acclaimed (and apolitical) documentary last year about military medics’ remarkable efforts to save lives in Iraq, “Baghdad ER,” Army brass at the last minute boycotted planned promotional screenings in Washington and at Fort Campbell, Ky. In a memo, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley warned that the film, though made with Army cooperation, could endanger veterans’ health by provoking symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder...

Advanced medical technology means many who would have died 15 years ago now live, but this means a much higher cost of care and more longterm disability. The use of the so-called "IED" (no longer improvised) means many of our injured have severe brain injuries and, until we learn to repair brains, a high probability of lifelong disability. Cheney/Bush have tried to keep this from our sight, but there's only so much they can do. It's leaking out.

Which brings me to an odd connection. Our soldiers are not dying at even a small fraction of the rate of WW I veterans, but there's one odd resemblance. The medicine of 1912 meant that most injured warriors died, but those who lived had very high amputation rates, and, in an era of manual labor, extended disability. Our warriors, in an era of cognitive labor, may share a similar story. We can't do anything about this until we face the wounded. That, I suspect, will be a task for the next President.

1 comment:

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