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“A Culture of Disregard”

Lawmakers to scrutinize Walter Reed
Jonathan E. Kaplan, The Hill – February 27, 2007

Several House and Senate committees will begin oversight hearings into how Walter Reed Army Medical Center subjected wounded soldiers and Marines to bureaucratic indifference and allowed them to live in squalor.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and a leading critic of the Iraq war, has scheduled a closed hearing on Friday and Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), an Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee chairman, announced yesterday that he intended to conduct a field hearing to Walter Reed next Monday.

To say that the tragic circumstances in which these veterans were held is a failure of oversight would be an un understatement, but like so much else regarding our troops, care for veterans has been treated as something that could be done “on the cheap”:

The hearings could foreshadow Democratic tactics as they craft a budget resolution and political message to keep President Bush on the defensive for his conduct of the war in Iraq and, more specifically, over a $2 billion proposed cut to veterans' healthcare. Democrats will also make the point that pre- and post-war planning has been inadequate.

New Member Peter Welch of Vermont described the situation in stark terms:

“This reflects a culture of disregard, almost contempt for the men and women in the military. My view is that the same lack of planning in the run-up to the war is being repeated,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who called for hearings shortly after the news reports appeared.

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