Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Mosaic, Villa Romana del Casale. via Historia Magazine

Weird from Marc Thiessen at Wapo in defense of Ronny Jackson's nomination as head of the Veterans Admimistration, starting off with a headline that really sounds like something that might mean something—
VA doesn’t need a manager. It needs a leader.
Until you ask yourself, well,  this guy certainly doesn't seem to be a manager, but, um, wait maybe it does need a manager.

Of course Thiessen seems to have been writing when this story was at a fairly early stage in its evolution,
Jackson’s nomination hearing has been postponed because of last-minute allegations that he created a “hostile work environment.”
before we started hearing about the misbehavior on overseas trips with President Obama, and the passing out of Percosets and writing prescriptions for himself, and the hostile working atmosphere turning out to be on the Game of Thrones model,
‘flat-out unethical,’ ‘explosive,’ ‘100 percent bad temper,’ ‘toxic,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘volatile,’ ‘incapable of not losing his temper,’ ‘the worst officer I have ever served with,’ ‘despicable,’ ‘dishonest,’ as having ‘screaming tantrums’ and “screaming fits,’ as someone who would ‘lose his mind over small things,’ ‘vindictive,’ ‘belittling,’ ‘the worse [sic] leader I’ve ever worked for.’
or he might at least have devoted some time to suggesting the stories might be fictional.

But I think he goes wrong in a somewhat less silly way here:

Jackson understands what veterans such as White are going through because has been a combat medic in the field treating severely injured warriors. He served in Taqaddum, Iraq, as an emergency physician in charge of resuscitative medicine for a forward-deployed surgical shock trauma platoon. He has been there when a helicopter landed carrying a solider whose body had been torn apart by an IED, and he’s been covered in their blood as he struggled to stabilize them and save their lives.
No other nominee to run VA has seen the plight of our wounded warriors in the war on terrorism up close like he has. Jackson understands what our vets went through on the battlefield, because he was on the battlefield with them. He understands their mental and physical wounds, because he has treated them.
That's exactly wrong, because the VA doesn't treat anybody on the battlefield, it treats people who are demobilized and not in the service any more at all, with old wounds doing what old wounds do, and in need not of instant care but care administered patiently, attentive and taking its time. It's exactly the opposite of combat medicine.

And it occurs to me, with a lot of respect, and I'm saying it because as far as I can tell nobody else is, that if Jackson's Iraq experience was as Thiessen describes it, he could be wounded himself, post-traumatic, still affected by the unbelievable stress of those days, and that could even explain some of his strange behavior, especially the part that looks like self-medication. In which case he'd be a veteran who's treating himself in exactly the way combat vets don't need. He doesn't "understand their mental and physical wounds," because he doesn't understand his own. He shouldn't be running the VA, he should be consulting it.

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