Shame of the Nation

The scandal of the woefully subpar care received by US veterans has grown considerably since I recently touched on it. The resignation a few days ago of the secretary of the Army has done nothing to quiet the situation. Yesterday, ABC and CBS led their evening newscasts with the veterans' plight (NBC took a pass since Brian Williams is reporting from Iraq), and many newspapers, including the ProJo and the New York Times, today feature front-page coverage of the congressional testimony about the poor care received at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

This situation is bad enough in itself. Soldiers put their lives on the line for our country, and at minimum, they deserve appropriate care for their wounds. At yesterday's testimony suggested, the problems at Walter Reed may be the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Even more disturbing, though, is how this situation had to become a complete and utter mess before the media, and therefore the public, began to pay a shred of attention.

For fans of Anna Nicole, being distracted may be its own reward, and the Fourth Estate is certainly part of the problem. The war in Iraq, meanwhile, has demonstrated the dangers of a disengaged public and a quiescent press. While the media has since regained some of its teeth in covering the White House, one has to worry about our collective loss of the big picture.

As Frank Rich of the Times recently put it,

. . . the entire debate about the Iraq 'surge' is as much a sideshow as Britney's scalp. More troops in Baghdad are irrelevant to what's going down in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The surge supporters who accuse the Iraq war's critics of emboldening the enemy are trying to deflect attention from their own complicity in losing a bigger battle: the one against the enemy that actually did attack us on 9/11. Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more disarming question: who is losing the war on terrorism?

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