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Censoring the Whistle!

By       Message WILLIAM FISHER     Permalink
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Republicans on cable news have been hyperventilating about the White House leaking whistleblower information that makes the president look good before the election. Maybe so, maybe no.

But whistleblowers' information can work two ways. More often than not, news that ought to be disclosed is suppressed by people who worry that it will make the president look bad. And those self-appointed censors -- including high-ranking military officers -- need to be held accountable for spewing a barf of lies among the American people.

The practice is known as Propaganda. No, not Public Diplomacy. Propaganda -- in which despite the Obama Administration's pledge of openness and accountability -- the public is fed a menu of lies and half-truths designed to morph a bad war into a slightly less bad war, or boast about "victories" in what is becoming a "good war."

Such was the case when the American general who led a NATO training mission in Afghanistan opposed an investigation into corruption and "Auschwitz-like" conditions at a US-funded hospital in Kabul for political reasons, US military officers told the House of Representatives Committee on Government Oversight last week.

According to an active-duty witness, a three-star general, Lieutenant General William Caldwell, who headed the training mission in Afghanistan, forced him to do a 180 on a request for an inspector general's investigation into the Dawood Khan national military hospital in Kabul.

This signature hospital, funded by the US and dedicated to caring for wounded Afghan soldiers, is entirely run by and supposedly for the Afghan military.

When your members of Congress return from Afghanistan and tell you we're winning the war, losing it, or doing something in the middle, the chances are they aren't getting to see much of the war at all. What they're seeing is what senior officers are describing as a "dog and pony show."

In the case of the Dawood Khan Hospital, your Congress people -- and senior officers assigned to inspect the facility -- will get to see the part of the hospital reserved for the favoring eyes of VIPs.  

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But what was actually seen in an inspection by a retired Air Force surgeon and other officers will curl your toes.

For example, a witness before the House Committee on Oversight,   retired colonel Schuyler Geller, a command surgeon attached to the training mission, charged poor patient treatment and corruption. He also confirmed that Gen. Caldwell rejected an inspector general's investigation and had partisan motives in postponing any investigation until after the 2010 election.

Geller told the hearing that when military officials came to visit the hospital they got a "dog and pony show" that covered up the abuse.

What was actually seen by those who ducked the dog and pony show was described by another high-ranking officer, Col. Mark F. Fassl.

At the hearing, he and other officers described the extent of human suffering at the hospital, where the lack of care forced families of soldiers to empty "vats of blood draining from their wounds."

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When asked to describe the scene at the hospital, Fassl said it lacked basic facilities. Hygiene was poor and the hospital had no soap, no heat and no means to boil water, he said.

"There were open vats of blood draining out of soldiers' wounds, there were feces on the floor. There were many family members taking care of their loved ones. The family members were emptying these vats of blood to help their patients out."

Fassl said: "When I think about what we were trying to do in Afghanistan, which is build the army and police corps, how could we allow this type of suffering to go on when we should be showing the Afghan citizens that their soldiers matter?"

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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