In today’s New York Times column, Frank Rich gives a cameo role to General Kiley, Surgeon General of the Army. Kiley, of course, has become notorious in recent weeks for his total inaction as we was repeatedly told of the horrible conditions at Walter Reed. Those of us involved in the psychologists-interrogations issue know of Kiley as the man who addressed the 2006 APA Convention in defense of the psychologist participation in the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) at Guantanamo and Iraq. These antics have led reporter Art Levine to refer to the Surgeon General as “Coverup” Kiley.
In today’s column, after describing why it is a certainty that Bush will pardon Lewis Libby, to keep him quiet about all the secret machinations of the administration that he was privy to. Rich then devotes a few paragraphs to General “Coverup”:
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. Now we can fully appreciate that bizarre incident on C-Span in October 2003, when an anguished Cher, of all unlikely callers, phoned in to ask why administration officials, from the president down, were not being photographed with patients like those she had visited at Walter Reed. “I don’t understand why these guys are so hidden,” she said.
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.
The General Kiley who was so busy policing an HBO movie for its potential health hazards is the same one who did not correct the horrific real-life conditions on his watch at Walter Reed. After the Post exposé was published, he tried to spin it by boasting that most of the medical center’s rooms “were actually perfectly O.K.” and scapegoating “soldiers leaving food in their rooms” for the mice and cockroach infestations. That this guy is still surgeon general of the Army — or was as of Friday — makes you wonder what he, like Mr. Libby, has on his superiors.
March 11th, 2007