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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Vietnam Flashback?


It happened inside the Freyne Brain early on in Gov. Jim Douglas’ weekly Statehouse news conference Thursday. The Vietnam Flashback, that is.

It was created out of the contrast between the suddenly tongued-tied professional politician who has supported the Iraq War that everyone now knows was based on lies, and the fire-in-the-eyes soldier who, in the wake of the Walter Reed Army Hospital Scandal, was in no mood for politicians treating men and women in uniform like mere cannon fodder.

Republican Gov. Jim Douglas kicked off his weekly press show with the important announcement that his January 5 Inaugural Ball at the Sheraton-Burlington, his third inaugural, had raised $47,000 for the Vermont Military Family Emergency Assistance Fund. The donations came primarily from 30 corporate donors named on the press release from Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Pike Industries, Inc., to Corrections Corporation of America, Casella Waste Systems and Kimbell, Sherman, Ellis, the noted lobbying firm.

On hand to say nice things about it all were Monica Gragg representing the Families Assistance Fund and Vermont National Guard Adjutant Gen. Michael Dubie - Green Mountain Boy numero uno!

Basically, Gov. Scissorhands, who is obviously (and wisely) already running hard for reelection in November 2008, had a nice photo-op all put together. It truly had the feel of a campaign presser. The candidate supporting the troops and their families! And the general there in uniform to give the picture some sparkle!

Assuming, of course, no reporter asks some kind of curve ball question permitted under the damn First Amendment.

Look. Everyone knows 22 Vermont soldiers have died fighting the Bush-Cheney War in Iraq. Gave their lives. Governor Jim Douglas has attended most if not all of the funerals. But what about "the armless, the legless, the blind and the insane -  the poor wounded heroes" of Baghdad?

Press: Governor, do you know how many Vermont soldiers, wounded soldiers there are? Wounded in the Iraq War [that] there currently are?

Gov. Douglas: "I don’t."

The Guv quickly turned to his left and gestured to Gen. Dubie to step up to the microphones and cough up the magic number (and get him out of this jam).

Press: But I just wondered if you knew?

Gov. Douglas: "I don’t."

Press: You don’t know. Okay. General, do you know?

Gen. Dubie: "We currently have about 68 soldiers that are on some type of medical status...We currently have two who are at Walter Reed. That has been a very big item of concern of ours. But we monitor very closely at the different facilities our soldiers are at: Ft. Gordon, Ft. Shelby, Ft. Drum, Walter Reed, Ft. Benning also Ft. Hood.

"And we attempt to contact them once a week just to make sure they know they’re not forgotten...We have found that to let them know that we’re thinking of them, there’s some great value to that. It’s reassuring to them to know they haven’t disappeared into some kind of medical black hole."

Then Gen. Dubie, brother of Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (in D.C. for the national Lite-Govs gathering), brought up the recent, sickening Walter Reed Army Hospital scandal, the story broken by The Washington Post about three weeks ago.

Gen_2 Gen. Dubie: "We had heard about some of the conditions, but I will tell you that I think you have to differentiate between the conditions, living conditions, as opposed to the medical treatment. And generally speaking, the medical treatment has been getting high reviews. The condition of the outpatient facility is really what has been a big issue and quite frankly, we were unaware I think, as many people were, about how bad the outpatient facility was.

"It sounds like at the highest level of the US Army and the US Government that changes are going to be made quickly to ensure that all of our soldiers get the kind of care and the type of living facilities that they deserve."

Press: "You’ve been wearing the uniform a long time, General. Do you feel let down by this administration because of this kind of treatment?""

Gen. Dubie: "I think that as an American I feel let down and doubly so as a commander. I feel bad for the fact we obviously left people in facilities that were less than sub-standard, and I am hopeful that if anything good comes out of the Walter Reed issue, it is that we have a renewed effort of treating people the way they should be treated."

You'd a thunk Gov. Douglas would have at least had a ballpark guess on the number of wounded Vermonters in the Iraq War, wouldn't you?

Bet a lot of folks with yellow-ribbon "Support Our Troops" stickers on their SUVs don't have a clue either
, eh?


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Paul H. Rounds

Thank God for the 1st Amendment and the journalists that have the guts to dig out the truth.

Paul Rounds, U.S. Army (Ret)

sandy ward

And, how many of the 68 wounded Vermonters are now addicted to rx pain drugs due to their injuries? These soldiers will never be the same again. Thank you so much President Bush and Governor Douglas!

Graham Hunter


Good Eric Bogle quote there. I would be wondering about the people who are back but may be suffering Post Traumatic Strees, but who are either not yet diagnosed or so nearly incapacitated that they are seeking treatment (and, one would hope, receiving treatment as well). I think that we are going to be living with the residue of this War for an awfully long time.

Do we have an accurate count of the Vermonters who now have Iraq War experience, and how many of them are now out of the active duty military, or have ceased their involvement with the National Guard or the Reserves. Let's see... Paul Bremer, plus there must be some others.... In any case, I hope that they are well, and if they are having 'problems', they are getting appropriate treatment and attention.

Meanwhile keep up with your recovery, and keep us posted.


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