Monday, September 10, 2007

Cornyn Watch: The Senator And Brain Damage

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is looking toward a re-election campaign next year, and his office is wasting no time generating schlock for unsuspecting e-mail users across the state. In his latest e-mail, the senator told us what he did on his summer vacation, and a lot of it was military-minded:

"As usual, what I heard was far different from what the national news media reports as conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. While visiting with troops and their families at Fort Bliss, Fort Hood and at the Soldier Appreciation Day in Round Rock, I was repeatedly reassured that morale among our volunteer military is high."

(Here's a link about the spike in the suicide rate among troops deployed in Iraq)

"Our service men and women have a far better grasp on their mission, and our prospects for success, than do some of my Congressional colleagues. The troops say they’re more committed than ever to their mission."

(Well, maybe more than ever are being committed. reported on March 13 that "Nearly a third of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who received care from Veterans Affairs between 2001 and 2005 were diagnosed with mental health or psychosocial ills, a new study concludes. The study was published in the March 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine and carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center."

Back to the senator: "Many Texans also told me they want to be sure we have a winning strategy in Iraq, and they are encouraged by the progress we’re making. ... to abandon the mission before Iraq is secure would allow that country to again (???) become a breeding ground for terrorism. Our focus must remain on the long-term security interest of the United States, and ensuring our enemy doesn’t follow us back home. ..."

Nothing strikes more fear in my heart than the prospect of Sunni insurgents attacking South Padre Island during next year's spring break. Think of those frat boys parking their Jeep Grand Cherokees right on top of IEDs.

But, concerns about homeland security aside, it might be enlightening for the senator to visit a facility at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., where many veterans undergo treatment for brain damage suffered in combat. It's being described as an epidemic.

The Associated Press reports today:

Thousands of troops have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, or TBI. These blast-caused head injuries are so different from the ones doctors are used to seeing from falls and car crashes that treating them is as much faith as it is science.

"I've been in the field for 20-plus years dealing with TBI. I have a very experienced staff. And they're saying to me, 'We're seeing things we've never seen before,'" said Sandy Schneider, director of Vanderbilt University's brain injury rehabilitation program.

Doctors also are realizing that symptoms overlap with post-traumatic stress disorder, and that both must be treated. Odd as it may seem, brain injury can protect against PTSD by blurring awareness of what happened.

But as memory improves, emotional problems can emerge: One of the first "graduates" of Vanderbilt's program committed suicide three weeks later.

"Of all the ones here, he would not have been the one we would have thought," Schneider said. "They called him the Michelangelo of Fort Campbell" — a guy who planned to go to art school.

The senator's platitudes do not constitute support for, but rather a pathetic insult to, these courageous soldiers. They come back from Iraq dealing with short-term memory loss and emotional scars sustained in a war started on fabrications, and continued on delusions for going on five years.

It's a different kind of brain damage. And, if John Cornyn is an example, it's an epidemic among members of Congress.

Crossposted at Manifesto Joe