John Kriesel thinks fighting Ebola is ‘dumb’

A tent in the new Ebola Treatment Center built by the United States Army in hard hit region of Liberia. Zoom Dosso/AFP/Getty Images

Former state rep John Kriesel isn’t a fan of using the Minnesota National Guard to fight the Ebola epidemic.

Kriesel, now the director of veteran services for Anoka County, took to Twitter yesterday after it was announced members of the Red Bulls — he was one when he was wounded in Iraq — would be deployed to Liberia to provide logistical help for U.S. forces already assigned to the region.

Kriesel said fighting disease shouldn’t be a military mission.

“Maybe it should be,” a Twitter friend responded.

Krisel, who’s good for one Twitter fight every Sunday afternoon, called that suggestion “dumb.”

Why does the military need to get involved? Because it’s the only organization with “the rapid deployment capability and chain-of-command structure necessary now,” according to Dr. Joanne Liu, the president of Doctors Without Borders.

Sriram Khé, associate professor of geography at Western Oregon University, also says its attention to discipline also serves it well in a fight that requires it .

Fighting Ebola was an issue right up until the election. Now, apparently, it’s not our fight.

Related: 2009 case of hemorrhagic fever similar to US military’s Ebola fight (Stars & Stripes).

  • Robert Moffitt

    On some levels, I like Sgt. Kriesel, but once again he’s off base here. The Red Bulls have been picked again (he’s right about their heavy overseas deployment) because they have been so good at their jobs. We can’t be safe from Ebola here until it’s under control there. Besides, it’s just the right thing to do.
    The former MN lawmaker would be better served if he used the same questions about the policies that sent him to Iraq, and very nearly got him killed.
    PS: If you are following this thread, Mr. Kriesel, your staff was very helpful to me when I stopped by your office on Friday with questions about VA health care. Thanks for helping the veteran community of Anoka County.

  • Gary F

    Mixed feelings on the this. Once again, the USA has to do the heavy lifting for the word. I haven’t heard the rest of NATO chipping in. All those great socialist nations of Europe can’t seem to help.

    Wondering why the National Guard is being called up. I can see why he’s called this dumb. This isn’t war, this is a humanitarian operation. We have regular armed forces to send over there. We are only supposed to use the National Guards as supplement to our base forces.

    We still have a messed up policy as a country on Ebola right now. Our plan is to attack it once it gets inside our boundaries. Lots of other big and small countries have policies not to let folks in, which makes sense. We can charter relief efforts in and out. So, a messed up policy home and abroad.

    I sure hope these soldiers will be quarantined for the proper time when they return.

    And, yes, the Red Bulls are a top notch division. I participate in the Serving Our Troops events, and these families are the best.

    But, I’m going to have to agree with Kreisel on this, it is dumb, we shouldn’t be sending the National Guard.

    • jon

      If a Spanish nurse got Ebola while she was in West Africa working to help Ebola victims clearly Spain has managed to send some support to West Africa, no?

      Would it surprise you to know that as of late October CUBA had sent more doctors and nurses than the US?

      quick google brings up two articles:

      151 people from the US listed in that article
      256 from Cuba in that article…

      Just because your news sources don’t cover what international aid is coming from other countries doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

      • Gary F

        That’s good. I hope the Cubans defect and go to a free country, that is, after they wait out the 3 weeks in a quarantine hideout somewhere.

        Good to see some other countries helping out. Not much from Europe or Middle Eastern countries though.

        • jon

          “The UK has so far committed £125m and 750 military personnel to fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone”
          From the guardian article linked above.

        • jon

          Wikipedia has a nice list:

          In October, Egypt sent three tons of medical aid, consisting of medicine and medical equipment.[102]

          In October 2014 it was announced that Ethiopia would send approximately 200 volunteer health workers to West Africa. The country also donated $500,000 to affected countries.[103]”

          I also found an article showing Qatar was sending aid…

          Though much of the area in the middle east isn’t stable enough to send aid any where… they need to be receiving it as they have been engaged in fighting and refugees from civil wars and such…

        • David P.

          I don’t understand your point. Does doing the right thing require group participation? If you saw two people drowning, would you wait for another helper to join you before attempting a rescue?
          I do understand your feverish anti-socialism, though you use the term so loosely, I’m not sure you know exactly what socialism is.
          Regarding the recommendation that the Cubans abandon their country, I’m curious as to how you reacted to President Carter’s policy towards the Cuban “boat people” in the ’70s.

        • Jerry

          Gary, do you have any proof to your allegations that Europe isn’t helping, or are you just assuming?

          • Gary? Proof? Hahahahahahaha!!!

          • davehoug

            Sad to say OUR media does an awful job reporting on what is going on in the rest of the world. Tough to know IF they send aid and I read the paper every day.

    • It’s the best option. That or do nothing.

  • wendywulff

    It is a much more complex issue than most are willing to admit. I am a veteran, from a very military family. There have been some huge rules of engagement issues in the military, for a long time, where soldiers are either not allowed to defend themselves and/or are left with no win situations. For example, the soldiers will not be providing direct patient care, but what if they are manning a gate somewhere, and someone who is infected tries to run through the gate, or a group of people storm the gate. Are they supposed to wrestle with them? Shoot them? Just let them run through? Logically, they would need to shoot them, but would end up being a world-wide pariah if they did. If the chain of command is not going to deal with those kinds of questions, before sending troops, then they shouldn’t send them at all.

  • Is stopping Ebola in our self interest?

    • jon

      Honestly, I’m not sure.

      On the one hand it’s a scary disease that could kill millions.

      On the other hand, while this is the largest outbreak to happen in recorded history, we’ve only known about Ebola since the 1970’s, odds are the bug has been around longer than that, and has had outbreaks that have burned themselves out with-in Africa (which is a big place to try to get out of with out a airline ticket, or a boat)

      Honestly I’m not sure that if we took a laissez faire approach that some people have been advocating for that we’d ever see a US case of Ebola… People smarter than me have suggested it could be a serious problem, and I’m inclined to believe them.

      Really if we can contain a smaller population, the better things will be in the long run for the world…

      All of this is of course missing the ethical ramifications of letting millions possibly die when we could have helped, with little risk to ourselves…

    • Kassie

      It isn’t just about the disease, right? It is about the huge economic and security issues it can leave in its wake. If it runs through a country, killing many, the economy of the country can collapse, as can the government. That can lead to extremists taking power, which could be a direct threat to American interests.

      • Kassie, thank you for showing wisdom. Your courage and foresight are a refeshing departure from the typical posts on this topic. We live in a global, fast-paced world and our lives are interconnected, whether we want to admit that or not. What we buy, eat, sell, trade, drink and breathe, for that matter, are all influenced in one way or another by what is happening in other countries. We have the strength and the capability of making a difference in Liberia (not to mention other developing countries in Africa). The policies of the US govt under Boosh/Chainface ruined the lives of millions of people in the middle east and beyond. Maybe this time we can make a positive change in the world.

  • Dave

    To paraphrase somebody, either we fight Ebola there or we fight it here. It is clearly a threat to the world, and we need to be a force for good. It is appropriate to use the military, in my opinion.

  • John Peschken

    Clearly, Ebola could ultimately be a threat to the US or anywhere. Surely it’s better to stop it before it gets any bigger. The US Military has some of the best logistical capabilities in the world, and that skill seems like exactly what is needed now. This man is far too short sighted.

  • kcmarshall

    My concern is that it seems the only somewhat functional part of the government is the military. Thus, when an important mission arises, we call in the military. I would argue that a marginally functional government is a result of intentional neglect and ill will towards the institution. Others have a different opinion.

    In any case, we’ve only got one club in our bag – the military – and so that is what we use for everything. That also militarizes every problem; we end up leading with combat gear and combat training, regardless of the circumstances.

    • A letter on 60 Minutes last night alerted me to the existence of the U.S. Public Health Service corps.

      • kcmarshall

        I’m glad we’re able to send some Public Health Service corps members to assist with the Ebola outbreak. I note that we’re sending less than 10% as many USPHS personnel as we are Guard troops. That may be a rational division of labor – USPHS staff are likely to be highly focused on medical capabilities.

        I also see that there are as many MN members of the Red Bulls as there are members of the full USPHS: around 6500. And the USPHS is led by an Acting Surgeon General because the current nominee for that position is being blocked in the Senate. I would suggest that shows our $$ and attention is being directed towards the military and away from other governmental services.

        Not arguing here – I just feel we’re letting non-military capabilities wither.

  • BReynolds33

    I have zero issue sending the NG there to fight ebola. None whatsoever.

    I would wonder, however, when we start to focus the amount of time & treasure we are putting into ebola into other diseases that kill hundreds of times more people each year than ebola has killed in total. Mental illness, Alzheimers, etc. The ones that don’t make headlines. The ones we can’t see, the ones without hazmat suits involved, the ones maybe the National Guard can’t be deployed to solve.

    • jon

      I personally wonder about the diseases where the national guard could be helpful in dealing with… malaria or polio, where the deployment and supply chain management capability of the military is the among the leading issues that is really being faced in the eradication of these diseases.

      Things where we know the solution, and we have the capabilities right now, no research needed, but we don’t do the same as we are doing for Ebola.

    • I had to unfriend a guy on Facebook last night who put one of those memes up comparing the ’50s to now… with various panels of mental illness…
      teenage hormones then = bipolar now
      typical loneliness = depression

      Yada yada yada.

      I don’t think even the military has a weapon to fight stupid.

      • Jerry

        People had the same problems then as they do now, we are just getting better at diagnosing and treating them now. Or at the very least acknowledging the problem.

        It’s why I find most nostalgia a misleading emotion. The world wasn’t better when a person was younger, they were just younger when they were younger.

        • tboom

          Younger and less aware of what was going on around them.

  • What are you going to do, just let it get out of hand until no one can fight it? If the US CAN take the lead on this, it should because it has the resources. If you don’t get ahead of this thing, it will undermine national security and then not even the holier than thou corporations will be able to save us. Ebola is a real threat, in case you missed that.

  • CHS

    I find myself ‘agreeing’ with Kriesel, but for different reasons. I DO think this a military mission, there is no other organization capable of this type of rapid mobilization and deployment, rapid training and mission briefing, etc. Even if the ‘government’ were functioning ideally, the military makes the most sense in this capacity from a readiness and capabilities standpoint. Where I agree with Kriesel is that I don’t think this should be put to the Red Bulls, or any other National Guard group first. Our standing military should be utilized much more often in these types of scenarios, especially in foreign lands, as it provides one of the best opportunities available to show a different side of our nation and the men and women who serve. No propaganda is as powerful as the image of our troops handing out aid or assisting in a crisis, rather than wearing body armor and patrolling streets. Top to bottom our military should have the same focus and capabilities, with the reserves and guard units filling in as needed where needed. A mission shouldn’t be first shunted to the Guards because they happen to be really good at it. Granted, the current reality might be very well that our regular military is stretched too thin, but I still feel a bit of recalibration of how we use our military could go a long ways….

    • DavidG

      I don’t think anyone in Africa would be able to tell the difference between the Red Bulls and a regular US Army unit just by looking at them.

      Maybe if they knew how to read the unit patches.

    • davehoug

      AAHHHHH but then we would need a larger permanent military and more money. The Guard is used because our regular troops are stretched thin. Same reason they were rotated in and out of active war zones.

  • tboom

    This wouldn’t be appropriate for the current crisis, but how would you feel about a year of mandatory service in the United States? That might be military or it might be non-military to include emergency health work of this nature.

    • Moffitt

      I have long supported this idea. I also support have very few exceptions, applying to men and women alike. Make it 2 or 3 years. Military training takes time.

      • And everybody gets GI Bill bennies? That should be interesting.

        • jon

          On the one hand, Single payer medical coverage comes to the USA!
          On the other hand, the single payer is the VA…

          • davehoug

            There was a movie where only those who HAD served their country could vote and other bennies (tax reduction?).

            Everybody planned around knowing a coupla years would be in service to their country.

        • tboom

          Perhaps GI benefits would only accrue to individuals that enlist beyond the mandatory service period (other than medical and insurance benefits for “job related” injuries).

      • tboom

        I’ve noted your support for the idea in past posts. I don’t believe the service would need to be exclusively military, health care and conservation projects come to mind. The key however would be that individuals can’t serve in “their own back yard”, get out and work with people from other parts of the nation and other economic classes. I share your “very few exceptions” opinion. An age deferment of some sort (perhaps to 35 or 40) in order to get job experienced and even professionals in the mix might be beneficial.

    • Lisa

      I’d support it if it included non-military as well. People should have some skin in the game as far as maintaining their country and throwing money at it, then bellyaching when it isn’t perfect doesn’t count.