Is propaganda creating POW’s?

Is propaganda creating POW’s?

May 26, 2010 – Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position.  Propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience.  Propaganda is sweeping across our country and we are buying into it.  There will be a high price to pay if we don’t demand the truth.

Case in point: In late April, 2010, the New York Times published an article called “Feeling Warehoused in Army Trauma Care Units” written by Jim Dao and Dan Frosch.  Everyone was outraged at the idea that our troops were being mistreated.  Apparently the article’s truth hit a nerve because since the article was released on April 24, the media has suddenly been inundated with all sorts of feel good stories about the excellent care being given to those assigned to Wounded Warrior units in all branches of the service, each with a mention of the inaccuracy of the Times article.  Could this be propaganda?

Numerous roundtable discussions hosted by the Department of Defense have defended their wounded warrior units and even gone so far as to introduce us to a soldier, usually an NCO or perhaps even an officer, who has an amazing story of good treatment, a full recovery, and an experience that was completely “stigma-free”.  Could this be propaganda?

Is it possible that these soldiers are hand picked to share their positive experiences?  I tend to think that is exactly what is happening.  Why? Because I’ve had numerous random encounters with Soldiers and Marines over the past year and they are sharing completely different accounts of their experiences. Is it possible that I have only bumped into the small percentage of bad eggs that the military brings to our attention?  The claim is that these bad eggs slipped through the cracks during the recruiting process and wormed their way into the military.  If that’s the case, I guess I’m a magnet for them.

Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates recently made a two hour visit to the WTU at Fort Carson. He met with about 10 wounded warriors and some of their spouses.  Then he spent an hour with doctors, caseworkers, social workers and so on.  He remarked that he even received an op-ed written by a soldier. It was said that this piece states a different view than was given by the New York Times article published last month.  Secretary Gates reported, at the conclusion of his visit, that he did not hear a single complaint!  Say again?  HE DID NOT HEAR A SINGLE COMPLAINT! Could this be propaganda?

LTG Erik Schoomaker reported that there was a 91% satisfaction level at the Fort Carson WTU.  Even if I actually believed that statistic to be true, wouldn’t this indicate that at least one of the ten soldiers who met with Secretary Gates could have been dissatisfied but didn’t say anything about his experience?  There are approximately 480 soldiers in the WTU at Ft. Carson. Would the other 470 soldiers have also told Secretary Gates that everything was simply wonderful if they had been given the chance to speak with him?   Who decided on the ten soldiers chosen to participate?  Why were they chosen?  Was it because they would say all the right things that Secretary Gates wanted to hear?  Could this be propaganda?

If I was a young soldier, living in a “warehouse of despair” who was given a chance to speak to  the United States of America’s Secretary of Defense and tell him the real truth about what was going on in my unit, would I have the courage to tell him things he would not want to hear?  Would I be willing to report an officer who was mistreating soldiers?  Would I be able to trust Secretary Gates to be completely unbiased, and investigate my complaint thoroughly, rather than just hear the officer’s excuse, accept it and move on?  Would I be certain that he would be able to fix the problem?  The answer to each of these questions is NO!  The soldier wouldn’t be able to do it because he has seen others try to take a brave step forward and he knows the end result.  Command retaliation is the driving force and the soldier finds himself trapped and hopeless.

Therefore, the young and wounded soldier is not going to rock the boat.  He’s going to say what is expected of him because he knows the alternative is far more painful.  He’s beginning to realize that even when there is a ray of hope, it’s impossible to snatch.  He begins to understand that he has no freedom.  He slowly realizes that he has become a prisoner of war in his own country.

Does Secretary Gates actually believe that these ten soldiers he spoke with last week truly represent the majority?  If he can walk into a wounded warrior program, spend only TWO hours on the premises, talking to patients, doctors, case workers, social workers, and staff and walk out satisfied then I am frightened.   Have you ever felt a strong surge of hope because you heard the search plane overhead coming to get you out of a dangerous situation, only to find that the plane flew by, and no one saw you waving for help?  That’s how I would feel if I heard the Secretary of Defense was coming to visit me, the wounded warrior, in my WTU.  I’d be certain that he was going to get to the bottom of whatever problems had been reported, and I would be devastated to see him walking out the door just two hours later shaking hands and smiling ear to ear. I would quickly recognize that he did not have my best interest at heart.  I would literally see my hope walking out the door.  I would remain a prisoner of war in my own country.

Is it possible that Secretary Gates is more concerned with how things look on the outside than he is for the well-being of the individuals residing on the inside?  If he really cared about the 480 soldiers in the WTU at Fort Carson, as well as thousands of other troops currently assigned to Wounded Warrior units across the country, he would demand a full investigation of all programs.  He would demand that the investigation be conducted from the outside, not the inside.  He would turn over every single rock until he was sure that he knew every detail about the unit.  He would guarantee confidentiality and the investigation would be done in a way that would ensure that soldiers could freely speak without any fear of repercussion.  He would EXPECT to find problems.  He would WANT to find problems.  Why?  Because if he knows what the problems are, he can address them and provide better care for his troops.  The truth, however, is that the men in power who run these programs are not the least bit interested in fixing anything.  They’ve shoved everything under the rug for so long that they just don’t know where to start.  The problem is just too big to handle and everyone continues to look the other way.

We have been at war for ten years.  Troops have endured multiple deployments.  They are coming home broken.  From the military’s viewpoint, a broken soldier is viewed as weak, fractured, and unusable.  He’s cast aside in a designated unit where he waits and waits and waits for the system to let him go.  He is expected to maintain the order and discipline of the unit for anywhere from one to three years while he wades through the medical board process for a discharge from service. As time passes, the soldier begins to take on the role that is being cast upon him.  He wakes up one day to believe that he IS that weak, fractured, and unusable person.  His only goal now is to survive.  He will make decisions based on his need to survive.  These decisions will not seem wise to those of us on the outside, but to him, they are his only option. Later, these choices will  likely make his road to recovery even more difficult.

Though the military has defined this soldier as useless to their Spartan culture, and as well, the soldier has now cast himself in that role, he is still forced to remain in the unit, awaiting his medical board findings simply because this is the way it has always been done.  While he is waiting, he won’t have a purpose except to “attend medical appointments” (code words for sit around and do nothing all day).  The person he once was will continue to fade away, being replaced by the useless individual that the program has created, and he will feel like a prisoner of war in his own country.

There is a good chance the wounded warrior won’t have good medical care which increases the chance that he will be prescribed numerous medications known to have devastating side effects.  Besides the fact that anxiety medications and antidepressants typically prescribed have side effects such as difficulty concentrating, lightheadedness, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, dizziness, sleepiness, fatigue, and headaches,  there is no way to know how these psychoactive drugs will affect the patient with psychoactive issues.  Pills are thrown at our soldiers without proper evaluations. While the medications may work well for some, there are others out there that begin to have even more difficulties.

The soldier will be expected to perform, in his Spartan world, mundane tasks such as showing up for formation twice a day, typically as early as 7:00 AM. He will slowly begin to resent the fact that he must arrive by 7:00 AM because he already knows he will sit around all day with nothing to do, and he’s certain to be subjected to another day of humiliation. He will quickly grow tired of having no purpose….and he will feel like a prisoner of war in his own country.

The wounded warrior will be treated with condescension and he will be be judged unfairly because he has been stamped with the four letter word – PTSD.  He will start to feel the effects of the stigma that permeates so thickly through the air that it won’t be long before it completely chokes him and he will remain a prisoner of war in his own country.

We all have a picture that pops into our minds when we hear the term “Prisoner of War”.  Through the media, we’ve heard their stories and seen their pictures.  They are always emaciated, unclean, and weak, and have typically been tortured.  After these prisoners are released we hear them telling us of the desperate choices they had to make just to stay alive.  We gasp at the sight of these people, and their stories, and most of us shout out thanks to God that we have not been subject to the same fate.

For each of us, our troops nobly stand up and volunteer to serve so that we can enjoy our lives filled with freedoms and choices.  They leave their families and the comforts of home.  They go to war, suffer hardships, watch friends die, and suffer physical and mental wounds.   They fight terrorism day in and day out until they are finally released to return home.  Don’t they deserve more than what the current system is providing them?

The military must stop worrying so much about the order and discipline of the unit, and let these patients be handed completely over to a system of health care workers that understand the medical problems of our wounded.  Let the military continue to maintain the order and discipline of the units for those who are training to go to war.  Let the health care professionals do the job that they have been trained to perform.  We wouldn’t send a college basketball player to spend several months with a violin teacher so he could better learn to play the game of basketball, so why are we allowing the military to play the role of doctor for these patients?  Once the soldier has made a full recovery, if he is able, he can return to the military and complete his obligation of service.

It’s time to put a stop to all of this propaganda!  We need to expose these programs for what they really are and free our nation’s POWs!

Originally published by the author on fellednot.com.

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