THE REALITIES OF WHAT TOOK PLACE YESTERDAY DO NOT YET APPEAR TO HAVE SUNK IN FOR A U.S. SENATOR.
SPEAKING TO THESE REPORTERS TODAY, SENATOR TED STEVENS APPEARED DOWNBEAT AS HE EXPLAINED, "I WAS ALL FOR IT BUT I THOUGHT THEY SAID 'PANTY RAID'."
NO, IT WASN'T A FLASHBACK TO HIS UCLA DAYS.
YESTERDAY, THE F.B.I. RAIDED SENATOR STEVENS HOME. AT ISSUE, WHETHER OR NOT AN ADDITION TO HIS HOME THAT DOUBLED ITS SIZE AND WAS OVERSEEN BY VECO WAS ON THE UP AND UP. VECO IS AN OIL PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION AND SERVICE COMPANY BASED IN ALASKA WHOSE C.E.O. AND VICE PRSIDENT LEFT THEIR POSTS AFTER ENTERING GUILTY PLEAS TO EXTORTION AND BRIBERY.
AS BEST AS THESE REPORTERS CAN DETERMINE, THE VECO CORPORATION HAS NO KNOWN PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE IN EITHER FASHION DESIGN OR HOME REMODELING HOWEVER ONE VELCO EXEC, WHO ASKED NOT TO BE NAMED, SAID HE WAS PRETTY SURE MOST HAD "WATCHED AT LEAST ONE EPISODE OF THIS OLD HOUSE."
STEVENS, WHO NOT ONLY HAS BEEN IN THE U.S. SENATE FOR ALMOST 40 YEARS, HE ALSO HOLDS A LAW DEGREE. PRESUMABLY, HE IS SMART ENOUGH TO GRASP BOTH THAT VELCO IS NOT NORMALLY IN THE HOUSING BUSINESS AND THAT EVEN THE APPEARENCE OF CONFLICT SHOULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.
TROUBLE SHOULD HAVE BEEN SENSED ON THE HORIZON WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TED STEVENS FOUNDATION, NOT ONLY FOR THE EGOMANIA IN CREATING A FOUNDATION TO GET OUT THE WORD ON YOURSELF, BUT ALSO DUE TO IT'S INABILITY TO REGISTER AND PAY FEES IN A TIMELY MANNER.
WHEN INFORMED THAT CREW WAS CALLING FOR HIM TO STEP DOWN FROM THE APPRORIATIONS COMMITTEE IN LIGHT OF THE F.B.I. RAID, SENATOR STEVENS BEGAN GRUNTING, DECLARING, "YOU ARE MAKING MAD. YOU WON'T LIKE ME WHEN I'M MAD," AND PAINTING HIS FACE GREEN. AS HE BEGAN REMOVING CLOTHING TO PAINT THE REST OF HIS BODY GREEN, THESE REPORTERS EXCUSED OURSELVES.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Starting with war resisters. Yesterday on on WBAI's Law and Disorder, Dalia Hashad, Michael Smith and Michael Ratner spoke with war resister Camilo Mejia.
Dalia Hashad : You're one of the very first publicly known conscientious objectors to this Iraq war and I believe the first military soldier who went to Iraq, saw what happened, came back and said I will not go back.
Camilo Mejia: That's right. Let me start by saying that when I allegedly went AWOL, I didn't really go AWOL because when we received orders to go to Iraq I had pretty much come to the end of my eight year service. So what happened was that I was extended from the year 2003 to the year 2031 by this thing that they called "stop loss"
Michael Ratner: (chuckling) Only 28 years more, you mean?
Camilo Mejia: 28 years more.
Dalia Hashad: Is that typical for stop loss to extend for that period of time?
Camilo Mejia: It's typical, it's typical because I mean the likelihood of soldiers actually serving that long beyond their service or their eight-year-service it's very low. But what it does, it just gives the military, you know, a pretty big window to just keep extending people as many times as they need them.
Michael Smith: You know what it reminds me of, Camilo? My grandfather came here from Romania in 1912 and the draft law in Romania, particularly for Jews, in 1912 was fifty years.
Michael Smith: And he packed up and left. And now they're trying to do the same sort of thing to the country that people fled to.
Camilo Mejia: Right, so yeah, that's happening now. it's pretty common. I don't think anybody's going to actually serve 28 years beyond their contract. But what it does it gives the military the ability to keep extending people two years at a time. When I deployed to Iraq I was just politically opposed to the war
but it was a very detached and selfish opposition because I basically didn't want my life disrupted. And when I actually went to Iraq, and, you know, the first mission that we had there was to just basically torture prisoners -- to keep them awake for periods of 72 hours and, you know, we did that by performing mock executions, putting pistols up to their heads, yelling at them, creating explosion like sounds just to scare them. And from there we moved on to more combat
missions and because of a combination of bad leadership and disregard for the lives of both Iraqi civilians and soldiers we ended up killing a bunch of innocent civilians and, you know, just doing things the opposite way from what we should do.
Mejia tells his story in book form with Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (The New Press). The interview is wide ranging the section above is selected because it is an aspect that tends to get left out of the coverage. Mejia was a non-US citizen. The US military could not stop loss him, they could not extend his eight year contract. US Senator Bill Nelson had already addressed this, unknown to Mejia who was serving in Iraq at the time, and the military knew they could not extend his eight-year contract. What they attempted to do was to trick him, to try to get him to apply for citizenship and, except for one person, to refuse to tell the truth up the chain. We're also highlighting this section because Dalia Hashad (who obviously read the book) tried to address it with another guest previously and, as Mike (Mikey Likes It!) noted, she was more or less treated as if she was making something up. She was correct (and Mike cites the passage in the book.) There are other sections of this week's Law and Disorder that we'll note as the week goes along and Mike's going to be covering this week's broadcast at his site later in the week.
With war resisters, it is often said that they don't "live up to their contract" and no one bothers note how the only one expected to live up to the "contract" is those at the bottom. This is one of the points addressed in "Where Have All the War Resisters Gone?" (The Third Estate Sunday Review).
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.
Today Democracy Now! broadcast an interview Amy Goodman did with Military Families Speak Out's Kevin and Joyce Lucey about the lawsuit they've brought against the US Veterans Affair Dept. over the death of their son Jeffrey Lucey who, as Goodman explained, "hanged himself after the US military refused to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. In May of 2004, Jeffrey's parents had him involuntarily committed to a VA hospital. But the hospital discharged him a few days later. Two weeks later, Kevin Lucey came home to find his son hanging from a hose in the cellar. Lying on his bed were the dog tags of two unarmed Iraqi prisoners Jeffrey had said he was forced to shoot. The Luceys are suing the VA for negligence."
Joyce Lucey explained, "Jeffrey went to Kuwait in the beginning of February of 2003, into Iraq with the initial invasion in March. He returned home to us in July of 2003. And at the beginning, we really saw -- we didn't notice any major difference, although his girlfriend said he was distant when they went away for the weekend to Cape Cod, and he told a friend that he had seen enough sand to last him a lifetime, so he really didn't want to go on the beach. We found out during the fall that he was vomiting on a daily basis. We encouraged him to go to the doctor on that. And they went more for a physical reason, rather than a psychological, and now, looking back, it might have been the PTSD starting. And then he progressed onto Christmas Eve, where he threw the dog tags at his sister and called himself a murderer. From there to nightmares, which I heard him yelling out, and to which he said he was fine, that he was just having a dream that he was caught in an alleyway and they were coming after him. And then Jeffrey went back to college. He had been in college since September, after his return, went back to college in January and was fine until March, when they have their college break. And at that point, he got very depressed, drinking, and couldn't go back to school, even though he didn't actually tell me that. But he would go and come home early and say class had ended early or the professor didn't show up. So I didn't really know he wasnât attending classes, but he was having panic attacks, and when he finally did say something, he said he just couldn't stay in class. And he was also having a startled response, if somebody would slam a door. So he went to our primary care physician at that point and was put on Prozac and Ativan to see if it could keep him in class. And it just continued on from there, the inability to sleep, the lack of appetite, the social seclusion. "
From the broadcast:
KEVIN LUCEY: Well, I think that the primary reason is that what happened to Jeff should never have happened. Jeff was so afraid to go to the VA, because he was afraid that the military would find out. And it's that stigma issue. And so, therefore, we called anonymously, and we described the symptoms, and they told us that thatâs classic PTSD and get him in as soon as possible. And what happened was, Jeff finally did agree to go in, but he delayed it until May 28th, on Friday. And when I was bringing Jeff to them, I really did think that we were bringing him to the arms of the angels, because they were going to save him. They were going to deal with Jeffâs problems. And it took us about six hours to get him committed. They tried to talk him into going in voluntarily, but Jeff refused to. So Jeff was finally committed, and he tried to leave the building, but the nursing staff and the police had to go after him. But they brought him back in. He was there for about three-and-a-half days. He was discharged on June 1st. And what we discovered -- and this was about a year afterwards -- that there was a psychiatrist that saw him upon the admission, and then there was the psychiatrist who saw him at the discharge, but no psychiatrist saw him at all during those two times.
AMY GOODMAN: You mean, during the entire time he was committed, he was not seen by a psychiatrist, except for being admitted and for being released?
KEVIN LUCEY: Correct.JOYCE LUCEY: And it was two different psychiatrists, so there really was no continuity in the care.
What the two psychiatrists were most likely doing was the initial assement upon entry and the discharge. This isn't treatment. The assesment is just to get a general feel and know what issues need to explore. The final interview is, in Jeffrey Lucey's case, most likely the cover-your-own-ass interview that is actually supposed to ensure that the patient is not a harm to themselves or others. Kevin Lucey goes on to stress that Jeffrey Lucey, while under VA care, spoke of "three ways that he had planned to commit suicide". Joyce Lucey notes this is in "the records" and that's the charts. In the commercial world of medicine, what has happened was that Jeffrey Lucey received no medical treatment. He was babysat. That's not an insult to the staffers. But they chart for a reason and that's not to kill to time. The doctors are supposed to be reviewing the charts. In the for-profit world this would be described as a 'treatment team'. The staffers would be on it in terms of charting. But with Jeffrey Lucey, it appears the only ones treating him were the staffers and, most likely, they were not medically trained. I'm not saying "Bad staffers." I am pointing out that were we speaking of a commercial hospital setting with the exact same circumstances, this lawsuit would be a strong one. (It should be a strong one now but the government has a habit of weaseling out of blame.) In a commercial setting, an excuse might be offered that by admitting on a Friday, no doctor was going to do anything with him over the weekend unless he had an episode. I'm not justifying that but I am noting that Jeffrey Lucey was discharged on a Tuesday (June 1, 2004) and the point there is if the weekend excuse (or 'excuse') was being used, it would mean that treatment started on Monday. No psychiatrist saw Lucey on Monday. The Tuesday interview was the mandated exit interview that had to be done so it could be charted. If this isn't clear -- or the VA's failure -- again, Jeffrey Lucey was committed. He didn't check himself. Jeffrey Lucey was given no treatment at all, he had no medical supervision at all (the entry and exit interviews are not supervision). He was babysat from Friday through Tuesday.
The Luceys explain to Goodman that the days after the release were not good ones. A non-drunk Lucey "totaled the family car on Thursday, June 3rd" and two days later, at his sister's graduation, he was "barely able to walk . . . slurring his words". Again, he goes to the VA and he's not admitted, he won't go inside, the VA sends someone outside to speak to him but it's not a psychiatrist. There are many issues here but, and remember the Luceys are bringing this lawsuit so that no other family has to go what they went through, the one that's a standard and repeating thing with the VA is staffing. Where were the doctors, how many were scheduled, why weren't more scheduled (there clearly was not enough if -- in a five day stay -- Jeffrey Lucey was never assigned a psychiatrist as part of his care) . . . The details may be a bit different (or not) but this story is not uncommon today and it wasn't uncommon during Vietnam. Pretending that these issues are being addressed with the nonsense of a panel is insane. Kevin Lucey speaking during the broadcast:
I think one of the biggest things that got destroyed in my mind was my perception of the American government. I couldn't believe and I can't believe even until today that the government would have never prepared for the soldiers upon their return home. It was more of an afterthought. Even now, even now, even with all the money that they've been investing and all the Blue Star commissions, Blue Ribbon commissions, they aren't really dealing with what they need to deal with. Not one military family, I noticed, was ever appointed to any of the Blue Star commissions. And I thought that that was a horrible slap in all of our faces. So, right now, due to the fact that this administration and due to the fact that past congresses haven't done anything, it's the whole -- the phrase of the government by the people, for the people, by the people -- I think we have to do something.
Last week's panel got a lot of soft press. As Kevin Lucey points out, no one serving on it is from a military family. And, to be honest, that's not even good enough. Veterans will not be served today by someone serving on a panel that can say "I served" or "my husband served" in WWII or any other war. The panel needs to have veterans or their families (ideally both) from this war because they are the ones facing the problems right now and they can be the strongest advocates. Donna Shalala and Bob Dole don't know the first thing about accessing a new medical system as a stranger. It's insane to suggest that these 'names' know the first thing about the issues let alone how to fix them.
We're going to note one other section of the broadcast and we'll have less of the day's news but (a) there's not a whole lot on any given day to begin with (not when journalists are confined in the Green Zone) and (b) this is a story that is going on for other families and will continue to go on until it's addressed. It usually isn't addressed, in any US war. It's usually swept aside and ignored or you get a nonsense committee like the one Shalala and Dole 'served' on that's not going to fix anything but makes for nice some headlines. So, one more time, from Goodman's interview with the Lucey's:
AMY GOODMAN: Is Jeffrey considered an Iraq war casualty?
JOYCE LUCEY: No. No, he's not. If he had died over in Iraq, yes, he would be. But he came home and took his life here. So he's not a casualty, even though we know he is a casualty of that war.
KEVIN LUCEY: He's unknown, uncounted and unacknowledged by his government or by the nation.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you want him to be acknowledged, his life remembered?
JOYCE LUCEY: I guess I'd like Jeffrey to be known as someone who wanted to help people. When he came back from Iraq, he said that's what he wanted to do now. He wanted to help. So through what we're trying to do, it's like Jeffrey's outreaching to help other people. We're hoping that some good will come out of this lawsuit in the form of better healthcare for the veterans. And that would be something that Jeffrey would be proud of.KEVIN LUCEY: And we want Jeff's legacy -- and it's not only Jeff. We want to really emphasize that. We have people who have died the same way, T.J. Sweet, Philip Kent, Jason Cooper, and so many others, known and unknown. We want their legacy to be that they have saved others, that through the mistakes that the government had made with them and through mistakes that we also made, that we all have learned and were able to come, especially in this country, with the most effective, the most responsive, viable VA healthcare system that can be afforded and that can be given to our veterans.
If the point is not clear (and it may not be, the story of Jeffrey Lucey makes me very angry), both interviews were required because Lucey did not admit himself. They had nothing to do with treatment. Lucey received no treatment at all. It's as though you or your child had an addiction and, at a treatment center, you got your intake assessment and you got your exit interview but you got nothing else. That's not a slam at the staffers (who are overworked) but Joyce and Kevin Lucey were not expecting that their son would have babysitters, they were (rightly) expecting that, at a medical facility, their son would receive medical care. Jeffrey Lucey received no medical care.
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