Nonpartisan Veterans Organization Executive Director Jon Soltz meets with bipartisan group of Democrats/military supporters like John Murtha (who accused our Marines of murdering civilians “in cold blood.”)
Jon Soltz is
Gen. Wesley Clark’s designated attack doggie the executive director of Votevets.org. According to the most absurd bio I’ve possibly seen:
Jon Soltz is a leader of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans community and is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From May to September 2003, Soltz served as a Captain during Operation Iraqi Freedom, deploying logistics convoys with the 1st Armored Division. During 2005, Soltz was mobilized for 365 days at Fort Dix New Jersey, training soldiers for combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also served his country with distinction in the Kosovo Campaign as a Tank Platoon Leader between June and December 2000. Soltz is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College with dual degree in Political Science and History. He has completed graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
Jon Soltz has quickly become one of the most authoritative voices on veterans issues and military issues.
Remember that last sentence, we will come back to that.
Jon is of the belief that his 4 months in Iraq imbues him not just with wisdom, knowledge, and a level of scholarship unknown to other mortals, but also with an absolute moral authority card he can use to trump whenever he wants. For instance, watch him take LTC Buzz Patterson to task. Mind you LTC Patterson served 20 years in the Air Force, was selected to carry the nuclear football for Clinton, and flew combat support missions in Bosnia, but CPT Soltz really got him I’ll tell you what!
As I will talk about in part II of this discussion of VoteVets (probably tomorrow), the group itself is certainly something to be proud of being the ED for. In what has to be the funniest description of VV eveh, I point your attention to this press release sent in conjunction with CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington):
VoteVets.org is a pro-military organization committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world, with force when necessary. It represents the Voice of America’s 21 Century Patriots – those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. It primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on behalf of troops, veterans and their families.
Seriously, savor the nuance of a group devoted to “ethics” and “responsibility” describing VV as “nonpartisan”, “patriots”, “pro-military”, who are devoted to “destruction of terror.” It is nigh on impossible to find anything in there that even approaches an objective reality. For the record, I also am committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world, with hugs, hacky sack and fluffy bunnies when necessary. When that doesn’t work though, I would advocate 5.56, 7.62 and the MOABs.
One way CPT Soltz, convoy commander for the 1st ID 1st AD (correction by way of Sgt Bowlery) has displayed his pro-military, patriotic nature is by suggesting that Pat Tillman was killed for his political views.
We know he was a free thinker. But it leads you to think was this guy killed possibly by people that didn’t like his political views or was he killed accidentally? We had a time in the war when the Abu Ghraibscandal broke in April 2004 in Iraq; we had basically the Iraqi Tet offensive where the Shiite militias rose up and the contractors were burned at the stake; the President was facing the election and he decided not to go into Fallujah for six months. Did they use him to justify, politically, bad policy in Iraq?
Nothing says “responsibility” like a wild-assed accusation of assassination. My favorite display of his pro-military leanings though has to be when he went after a soldier in uniform at the YearlyKos convention:
“For the sergeant I want to see you outside, I want the name of your commander, your first sergeant, you never ever use my uniform again in the name of political purposes.”
Boy, I’ll bet that scared the rice pilaf out of him eh? I mean, who wouldn’t be afraid of an Army Reserve O3, not in your chain of command, not in uniform, and not in the Active Duty just laying into you like that. Reminds me of our first Rocket Attack. But, to soothe the soul from the overpowering fear of that moment, I offer you this dish of delicious hypocrisy. You see, Jon’s picture at VoteVets at the time had him in his uniform. Rather than admit any fault though, he corrected it with economy of action, by sending the picture down the memory hole. It wouldn’t be the first or last time that Soltz would employ this means of cleaning up his messes.
Jon Soltz, sans Interceptor Ballistic Armor and helmet stands on the front lines of the war on terror, showing the war face that scared many a man with an inproperly filled out DA Form 2404. This picture acceptible according to his infathomable standard of what is acceptible and what is not.
When not busy disappearing things, he just makes them up. For instance, in this wonderful post at Huffington (one which compares Veterans Care to Hurricane Katrina without any apparent concept of the profligate hyperbole of such an analogy), Soltz states that, “Now, the President wants to cut the VA budget in 2009 and 2010.”
Of course, this is based on absotively nothing, as you can see for yourself if you read the actual budget request:
VA will treat about 333,000 OIF/OEF veterans in 2009, a 14 percent increase over the estimated 2008 figure. Medical care funding for these patients will climb to nearly $1.3 billion in 2009, or 21 percent more than in 2008.
But let’s not let some pesky facts get in the way of a great narrative. The Huffington piece was to praise his own appearance earlier in the day before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Actually, before a Subcommittee of that Committee. We’ll go through that testimony in a minute to show just how on top of veterans issues this dedicated veterans’ advocate is, but first, I would be remiss if I didn’t note the end to Jon’s post that day:
P.S. As an aside, I’ll be on Olbermann tonight to talk about Gen. Pace’s comments on gays in the military.
Jon, I think I speak for all of us when I say I will never forget that great moment in TV history. (Dude: When are you NOT on Olbermann? How about putting out a release when you AREN’T on the damn show.)
Anyway, Jon’s testimony can be read here. Proving once again that he has his finger on the life blood of Veterans Issues, Jon testified that:
The recent report in the Washington Post regarding Walter Reed’s Building 18 set off a media and political firestorm here on Capitol Hill. Many in the media dramatically shook their heads in sorrow on television. Many Members of Congress started to call press conferences to express their dismay. Even the President expressed surprise and anger.
I have to admit, as someone who has dealt with our veterans’ care system, and talks on a daily basis to many others who have, I found it somewhat amusing that everyone seemed so surprised that the quality of care didn’t meet the quality of service these troops and veterans gave. Those of us who have served have known for a long time about bureaucratic and capacity problems, especially at the VA. I want to make clear that I do not impugn the fine service those who work at the VA centers have given. They are all great people, and do heroic work. But, it is an overburdened and woefully underfunded system that has all too often tied their hands, and hurt America’s veterans.
Um… Jon… Walter Reed is an Army Medical Center. The VA is a different Department. See, there is the Department of Defense (DoD) that runs the Army, who runs the center. They are housed in the funny shaped building over in Arlington. The VA is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THING, run in DC, over on 18th street I believe, near Lafayette park. They run VA centers. (Oh, and by the way, VA stands for “Department of Veterans Affairs.” As an expert, I am sure you know that, but you might want to let your buddies know, because over at your blog you have an entire “Veterans Administration” section. It hasn’t been called that since the Reagan Administration, when you were in seventh grade, looking forward with youthful optimism to your coming years at Gaithersburg High School.)
I would now take several hours dismantling all of your expert testimony before the House and Senate as the Military and Veterans expert you are, but alas, THAT SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY TESTIMONY YOU’VE SUBMITTED. If I happen to be wrong, I look forward to reading your cogent analysis on other issues.
“When you were in Iraq, I believed you. I trusted you. Our soldiers needed your leadership. And you told us ‘Weapons of mass destruction, we’ve turned the corner in Iraq.’ So I’m not gonna sit here and be lectured by someone like you. I just can’t have that. I can be lectured by General Petraeus. I can be lectured by our generals. But you’ve spun me once, you’ve spun me twice. You’re not gonna spin me a third time. I’m sorry … I trusted you. I believed in the war. You misled me. I’m not gonna listen to your opinion.”
Dude, did you run that Petreaus line by the Dread General Wesley before it came out? The reason I ask is less than a week later your fruity little club came out with this gem:
Perhaps, now, track with me here, perhaps the reason he was saying he didn’t know, is that it wasn’t in his lane, what with being commander of MNFI. See, one major difference between you, and Petreaus, is he actually deals with the shit in front of him, whereas you just make up facts to meet your narrative. Or, should we go back and revisit you altering 102 year old quotes from philosophers just to attempt in vain to prove a point?
Now, as I recall, this little Video of yours making Petreaus look like an ass didn’t work out so well since (as I will discuss in more depth in part II) it was at least partially the catalyst for General Batiste leaving. You timed it perfectly though, just as your friends and fellow travellers in Moveon.org were accusing this man who managed to pretty much single-handedly saveour collective asses “General Betrayus.”
How am I doing so far Jon? Everything okay? Need a drink? This next part may sting a little.
What set these posts in motion though was your absolutely shit-tastic Huffington Post piece entitled Why Army Suicides Continued to Rise in May, and What we can do. Of course, that article was nothing more than you rehashing your TV appearances from earlier on the same subject. I thought your performance was a bit flat though, what with the same language and the same emphasis in each of these. Could have used a few more pieces of flair. If this were a jump to conclusions mat, it would seem to have only one “conclusion” that you could “jump to” which not coincidentally, is whatever fertilizer you happen to be spreading that day.
Where was I? Ah yes, this odious, deplorable, reprehensible, perfidious and fact-free analysis of yours about military suicides. See, this need not be an issue we disagree on. The suicide problem in our armed forces is a deadly serious problem which people are working on night and day. It is as shocking to me as it is to you, and it’s even more frightening to the people at the DoD and the VA who are working to address it. Now, I know that, but you don’t. And I know this because you got your facts from CNN, and I got mine from the people involved. Yup, got it sitting right here in front of me. But let’s not jump too far ahead in our story.
The news gets more and more troubling when it comes to Army suicides, which continue on a record pace, according to the latest report. March and April saw 13 suicides each.
Just like where the first rule of fight club is to not talk about fight club, let me add this little nugget to your repertoire: first rule of reporting is don’t rely on another reporters stats. See, CNN got the number wrong. Actual number in April, 8. The reporter got it wrong. See the original number was 7 Active Duty Army suicides, and the Army added one later (7+1=8) but the reporter misread the info, and added 1 to the total from April 2008 which was 12 (12+1=13).
But, you can’t be faulted for getting the info where everyone else would get it, right? Credit where it is due though, you redeemed yourself for a bit.
The Army is taking the issue much more seriously, trying to stop the trend. Most notably, Fort Campbell ordered a three-day stand-down for suicide prevention training. And, the Pentagon is trying to offer better counseling for those soldiers who feel like they’re going to break down. But, obviously, the military alone can’t do everything.
True dat. But then you start sliding away…
While a lot of attention has been paid to increasing counseling even more, and removing the stigma that troops attach to depression as a weak trait, that’s just treating the problem after the fact. The root causes of combat stress leading to suicide are three-fold, mostly out of the hands of our generals, and therefore must be addressed by the Federal government.
OK, increased counselling is good. Removing the stigma is good. But, the Federal Gov’t holds the key to success in helping our brothers and sisters? Tell me more. What’s the first way. And if you could, would you use a strawman?
First, it isn’t just the stress in the field, it’s the stress of having to do multiple tours, with very little time at home.
Imagine that you’re in the Army and you do a year in Iraq, come home for under a year, are redeployed for another year, come home for a short period, and are sent out again. It’s like being in a revolving door moving at supersonic speed, and just when you think you’re out and can relax, they throw you back in. Eventually, you don’t know which way you’re going, or how to make it all stop. For some, sadly, taking their own life becomes the answer.
Oh! Jon, gotta stop you there. In this hypothetical, it’s “multiple tours” and then three tours. So, let’s start by looking at the numbers of suicides this year, supplied to me by the guy who gave CNN the numbers, Lt. Col. George B. Wright at the Army PAO shop. We’ll look at all of 2009 since those numbers illustrate the point better.
There havebeen 84 suicides* in the Army during the first 5 months of this year. An additional 37 reservists not on active duty have taken their own lives in that time as well, for a total of 121. These numbers are FAR TOO HIGH, and rightly something needs to be done. But let’s look at these numbers through the tortured lens of Soltz answer, which is to say addressing the issue of Soldiers who have deployed 3 times or more. How many of the 121 meet that criteria? 6. That means that assuming a 100% success rate of Jon’s scheme, there would have been 115 suicides instead of 121.
The total number of those committing suicide with 2 deployments (giving Jon the benefit of the word “multiple”)? 11. Number with 1 deployment was 50, and those with NO DEPLOYMENTS was 42. The remaining 12 we do not have the data on as yet. (More on this later.) But this shows that of those who committed suicide this year in the army, it is 7 times more likely that they never deployed, than that they met the straw man argument which Jon laid out. Ergo, one has to wonder why Jon isn’t agitating for deployment of all those who haven’t yet served overseas in an effort to mitigate the horrific numbers of suicides.
In closing out part I of this nonsensical policy treatise, Jonn states that:
President Obama phasing out Stop Loss is a huge move, and will help, so troops aren’t kept active, involuntarily, after their commitment. But the Dwell Time bill is crucial and it needs to be passed and signed, ASAP.
Where he got that about Stop-Loss effecting suicide rates is unknown. I asked the army and they don’t have those stats. Looks like Jon was just making shit up again. But, let’s move on to the second part of his Unabraincell Manifesto.
Secondly, we need to much better transition troops from war-life to civilian life, especially when they’re in a position to have to redeploy.
More or less, you’re on your own when you come home, but still in the military, specifically when you’re in the National Guard or Reserves, when you essentially have six months off from any duty when you return from a mobilization
No, I have no clue what he is talking about with this no duty for six months thing, nor how or why this would in any way impact the suicide rate and/or transition. I got too hung up on a sentence later on that read:
Therefore, they can’t relate to what our troops go through as they come and go to and from war.
I sent that quote to my buddy The Sniper, and he replied with this graphic:
Nonetheless, what I find so offensive about this little section here is that Jon is supposed to be a veterans advocate, he’s supposed to be representing his group on Capitol Hill to try and get some of these things, right? Well, go to this page here, which lists hearings before the House Veterans Affairs committee for this year. Find a hearing that you think Jonn would be an expert on, like this one: Legislative Hearing on H.R. 952, the “Compensation Owed for Mental Health Based on Activities in Theater Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act” Now read the testimony he submitted.
I’ll save you the fruitless search, you won’t find any. None. In fact. according to the Clerk of the House of Representatives, VoteVets has not filed the paperwork to haveany of it’s people be lobbyists. So, while actual groups like VFW, American Legion, Women Veterans of America, DAV, IAVA, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Blinded Veterans Association, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Association of Uniformed Services and many other groups walk the halls of Congress to advocate and lobby for veterans, Jon is busy lobbying Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and the people who watch MSNBC.
People are working damn hard to ease transition problems Jonn, and for you to suggest that more needs to be done without you yourself rolling up your sleeves is patently offensive.
Moving on. (You are big on moving on, right Jon?)
Third, the band-aid of drugs is not an answer.
Last year, VoteVets.org worked with TIME magazine to break the story about our Medicated Army. One of our own members, Chris LeJeune, talked in frank detail about being given anti-depressants in the field, and how they’re essentially given out like candy, so we can simply have as many bodies in the field as we need.
Here we go, back into the land of anecdotal evidence and such. Jon likes to conflate anti-depressants and sleeping pills, which is just great. I took sleeping pills in Afghanistan. Yup, I did. Because I was working reverse cycle, and during the day my hooch was 110 degrees. And with the Muslim prayers which the UAE played about 50 meters from my B-Hut, and 7 roommates, the Ambien was my friend. Guess I was a suicide risk, eh Jonn?
But lets look deeper, remember my discussion of the numbers of suicides, with 121 total? Of those, 12 were deployed at the time. I have no data suggesting how many of those 12 were on Anti-Depressants, but would love to see it. In Jon’s world though, anti-depressants are bad, sleeping pills are bad, and a stigma against getting help is bad. So, a guy goes and says “I can’t sleep” to his doctor and gets yanked from the field and can’t leave the wire with his brothers and sisters. What effect then Jon, you think that might create a stigma against going to get help?
Doesn’t matter to Jon, he doesn’t operate in reality-land anyway, to wit:
Again, the military is getting better at offering real counseling to those in the field. However, as we tragically saw just a short time ago with the killings at Camp Liberty, we have to do a better job at prevention. And, at the very least, if there is someone for which combat stress is a problem, we should not hesitate to send those troops home. Keeping them armed with a weapon, dealing with a 360 degree battlefield does not do our military well, or the civilians in the lands we’re fighting well.
Never one to let a tragedy go by without exploiting it, Jon had to use this one to full advantage. Mind you that the shooter SGT John Russell had been identified by his command as having problems, had sent him to the stress clinic on the relatively secure Camp Liberty to be checked out, and had taken his rifle away from him. We still don’t know exactly what went on in the mind of this troubled soldier, but we do know that Jon’s theory of keeping this man armed, on the front lines, and not giving him the help he needs is sheer ridiculousness.
None of this is to say that the military is ignoring the issue, or that the blood of suicide victims lies on their hands. But, we have to do more. And, it cannot focus on only treating problems when they happen. Nor can we pretend that civilians in Washington don’t bear some of the burden here, who still need to do more to lessen the burden we’ve placed on our men and women in uniform.
OK, so the problem is the civilians in Washington, like my barber, my dry cleaner, my shoe shine guy, and the nice Egyptian guy at the corner of K and Connecticut that makes my Burritos each day for lunch.
No Jon, take a little accountability, I know I do. It is OUR PROBLEM, our burden, our responsibility. All of us who served and those who serve now. You need to watch your buddy, give him a hand, help him with his burden. Stop looking to DC for all the answers, take it upon yourself to do what you can to correct the problems yourself. These are our brothers and sisters; any blood from their suicides is on our hands, not politicians (civilians) in DC.
Why is this post so angry? Why so much venom towards VV and Jon in particular? Because this guy has used the death of our brothers and sisters to create a phantasmical windmill that he can joust with to the delight of his acolytes on MSNBC, Daily Kos and Huffington Post. And frankly, it is goddamneddisrespectful. He doesn’t give 2 shits about the suicide rate, he cares more about whoring out himself to progressives to accomplish political goals. Dwell time would not help our brothers and sisters, and he damn well knows it. But he gets on TV and touts it as some sort of panacea without even bothering to research the facts, or talk to the people who are involved.
The Army and the DoD take this issue VERY seriously. Here are some quotes from them:
“I am personally briefed on every suicide that occurs in the Army,” [Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W.] Chiarelli said. “This ensures we stay focused on this issue at the highest levels of Army leadership, and that we’re able to identify the underlying causes that lead to these tragedies. It also allows us to direct immediate responses that get straight to the root of the problem.”
“We have got to do better,” said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, “It’s clear we have not found full solutions to this yet. But we are trying every remedy and seeking help from outside agencies that are experts in suicide prevention. There isn’t a reasonable suicide prevention tool out there the Army won’t potentially employ.”
“As hard as this problem truly is, in some ways it is also very basic, because it requires caring for Soldiers, and that’s something we already know how to do,” said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. “We must simultaneously get back to basics and optimize current programs to set conditions for future programs to tackle this problem.”
Jon and VoteVets don’t care. They just want to use it to get on TV, and then get more Democrats elected. But I am guessing you people reading this do care.
Jon won’t respond to this. He never does. We’re beneath him. We only have 2000 readers a day, and I’ve never been on O’Reilly, Hannity, Chris Matthews or Olbermann’s. Unlikely I ever will be. Someone will likely send this to him, and he’ll likely think I am a douche, and then get ready for his appearance on Maddow. That’s the way of the world at times. But while he noisily bloviates about helping the troops, I’ll be hard at work actually doing so. And frankly, I’ll be the better man for it.
*Numbers may be 1 off, due to the unreported suicide in April, not sure if it was later added in. I will be talking to LTC Wright this morning to verify all numbers. If there are any errors in the reporting data I have, I will update it at the bottom here, rather than simply erase what I have written before which is the standard tactic of VV.