November 28, 2007

Conservatives Can’t Count

Whether we’re discussing fiscal responsibility or social accountability, conservatives have proven time and time again that they simply can’t count. It’s not about tallying numbers and coming up with incorrect figures, it’s about fudging statistics when the numbers disagree with their perspectives, it’s about taking opt-in surveys and parading them as independent studies until someone comes along and debunks it, it’s about claiming there’s plenty of money in the tax coffers when it comes to bombing children and putting off diplomacy and accountability but claiming the coffers are empty and we suddenly need to control spending when it comes to giving children health care and protecting children from lead-covered toys being shipped in from sweatshops abroad. When it comes to the right side of the aisle, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and they like it that way – gives them a kind of implausible deniability.

There are dozens of examples of this in the war in Iraq, from the way veterans are treated when they return home and the near squalid conditions that many of them were subjected to (the lucky ones who were even granted care – others have been booted from the service entirely for no other reason than suffering PTSD under the guise of having ‘personality disorders), but looking past the fact that our brave men and women aren’t getting the support and care they need and deserve from the military when they get back, we can see something more troubling: veteran suicides. The trend has manifested itself as an ugly number in recent months, and conservatives, typical to form, don’t think there’s a problem:

CBS news wanted to learn more about the problem of suicide among returning Iraq veterans. Here, first, is what they learned:

[I]t turns out little information exists about how widespread suicides are among these who have served in the military. There have been some studies, but no one has ever counted the numbers nationwide.

“Nobody wants to tally it up in the form of a government total,” Bowman said.

Why do the families think that is?

“Because they don’t want the true numbers of casualties to really be known,” Lucey said.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

“If you’re just looking at the overall number of veterans themselves who’ve committed suicide, we have not been able to get the numbers,” Murray said.

So CBS went looking itself. In return, they—and the American people—received a slap in the face. They filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense for suicide numbers for the last dozen years:

Four months later, they sent CBS News a document, showing that between 1995 and 2007, there were almost 2,200 suicides. That’s 188 last year alone. But these numbers included only “active duty” soldiers.

CBS News went to the Department of Veterans Affairs, where Dr. Ira Katz is head of mental health….

Why hasn’t the VA done a national study seeking national data on how many veterans have committed suicide in this country?

“That research is ongoing,” he said.

The “research is ongoing,” and the check is in the mail.

That sounds about right to me.

[ Conservatives Can’t Count ]