Thursday, May 18, 2006

Government Not Accountable, People Are Disposable

Dear President Bush,

Two recent stories show how the long arm of the nation state smacks down any individual’s rights. The most telling concerns the CIA’s legal perpetual “get out of jail free” card. All they have to say is the trial endangers national security and it is wiped away like a Bounty spill. A German citizen, kidnapped and tortured by the CIA had his case thrown out of court for that very reason. In this case, the government is above accountability for its actions.

Meanwhile another suit, EFF vs. AT&T proceeds with secret documents remaining under seal. This case involves AT&T’s participation in the National Security Agency’s secret spying program. Secret documents can be used in a lawsuit against the phone giant but must remain sealed according to the federal judge.

Soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder are returned to the front lines in Iraq with no medical evaluation or treatment. It matters not their condition, they are disposable. The government knew this to be a problem in 2004 yet it continues today. A year ago the GAO cited the Veterans Administration did not have the capacity to treat new combat veterans while still providing for veterans of past wars. It showed the department falling behind its own goals for treatment of PTSD. More recent reports show this continued shortfall in meeting the mental health needs of our fighting men and women.

A report in the Hartford Courant showed soldiers with severe psychological problems are sent to Iraq or kept in combat even when superiors have been aware of signs of mental illness. Medical experts call the practice “a ticking time bomb”. The military’s top mental health expert said the practice has been driven in part by a troop shortage.

"The challenge for us ... is that the Army has a mission to fight. And, as you know, recruiting has been a challenge," she said. "And so we have to weigh the needs of the Army, the needs of the mission, with the soldiers' personal needs."

Commanders, not medical professionals, have final say as to the disposition of impaired soldiers in a war zone. A military lawyer admitted a commander does not want to send the message to his troops if you act up, you can go home.

It adds up to the nation state’s interests trump the rights of the individual. But then again, you already know that from your imperial directives.

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