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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Image over substance

Shower at Patton Barracks, Heidelberg, Germany, 1971The picture at right is of a shower stall in an Army barracks in Germany in 1971. This was not at some remote outpost like Baumholder, but in Patton Barracks, in Heidelberg, the headquarters of the U.S. Army in Europe (USAREUR). I was stationed there, and had to use this shower. It was a balancing act, and if I stood the wrong way, the unsteady pan would tip over. If conditions like this existed in the headquarters, it can only be imagined what they were like in the boonies. It is also likely that conditions were and are better in "American" prisons.

What reminded me of this indignity was the investigative report by Dana Priest and Anne Hull of the Washington Post, in which they revealed the conditions wounded soldiers are experiencing at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in “Washington, D.C.” The conditions at Walter Reed are much worse than what existed at Patton Barracks, and I was not wounded, but the pattern is familiar.

Join the Army and get out of debtPublic image. In a world of infinite resources, the wounded soldiers would be properly cared for, and Patton Barracks would have had adequate bathing facilities. In the actual world, resources are scarce, and are allocated according to priorities. In the military, a top priority is public relations. It used to be preparing for and fighting wars, and that still is a high priority, but more important nowadays is public perception, and its derivative, recruiting. Thus, there are advertising campaigns on TV, in magazines, and in newspapers. The Army even sponsors a high school all-star football game.

That isn't the only factor. I'm sure there are plenty of people at the bottom level at Walter Reed who are disgusted at the conditions there. A few of them probably complained to “superiors.” But the driving factor in the administration of health care in the military is bureaucracy - the movement of paper. As paper moves “up the line,” it gets sifted, neglected, and lost in the shuffle. Also, at every level, someone in a bureaucratic capacity has to make a decision. The more remote the mover of paper is from the soldier enduring neglect and hardship, the easier it is to ignore and reject the complaint.

So now the Army has a public relations disaster, at just the time when the Commander in Chief needs all the public relations help he can get in order to start his next war. If this story helps to stop the Bush criminal organization in its reckless bloodlust, then the sacrifices of these brave soldiers will not have been in vain.
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For more information about the Walter Reed scandal, click here.

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