Revealed, at least in part, the mystery surrounding the hospitalization of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The head of the Pentagon suffers from prostate cancer and his admission since January 1, which he hid for three days even from President Joe Biden himself, was due to an infection after surgery related to this disease and to which on December 22 as revealed by the Walter Reed Military Medical Center, where he remains admitted. But the White House acknowledged that Biden had not yet learned the nature of his secretary’s illness.
“No one at the White House knew that Secretary Austin had cancer until Tuesday,” admitted presidential spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre during her daily press conference, a few minutes after Walter Reed’s announcement. . Initially, the Pentagon had indicated that the first operation was optional, that is, it was not medically necessary.
The military hospital’s notification comes nearly a week after the Pentagon and Austin itself faced widespread criticism for the delay in communicating the soldier’s condition, second in the chain of American military command, only behind Biden. himself. If the four-star general was admitted on Monday the 1st, he only informed the White House three days later. The first public statement on the hospitalization was issued on Friday 5. His second, Kathleen Hicks, in Puerto Rico, assumed some of her duties, but was also not aware of the situation from the first moment.
The White House, however, insists that it maintains its confidence in the soldier, a man with an introverted personality who does not like to divulge details of his private life. President Biden plans to keep Austin at the head of the Pentagon at least until the end of his first term next January, Jean-Pierre assured.
“Obviously, prostate cancer and its treatments are deeply personal,” said Pentagon spokesperson General Pat Ryder, trying to justify the lack of communication on the state of health of his superior.
The Walter Reed medical report noted an improvement in Austin’s health. “Your infection has been cured. “He continues to progress and we expect a full recovery, although it may be a slow process,” the center said in a statement distributed by the Pentagon.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
The cancer treatment he is undergoing has left the general with severe pain in his abdomen, hip and leg, according to the hospital. After being diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, he was admitted to the intensive care unit on January 2. “Further examination revealed a buildup of abdominal fluid that was making it difficult for his small intestine to function. This led to a buildup of his intestinal contents, which was treated by placing a tube in his nose to drain his stomach,” explain Trauma Director John Maddox and Walter Reed Prostate Disease Research Center Director Gregory Chesnut, signatories of the statement. .
The Biden administration announced a review of illness communication protocols. So far, even though, in the words of National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, government officials are “expected” to report their whereabouts, the presidential office only conducts a cursory check each morning. , which is limited to checking the city or country in which it is located. where they are located.
The Pentagon also announced a review of its own procedures, which will last 30 days. This review, Ryder said, will help determine what can be improved in communications and when is most appropriate to inform the public. “Obviously we could have done better and we will do better in the future. We have learned our lesson,” the spokesperson stressed.
In Austin’s case, the lack of transparency was more striking because his responsibility as second in the chain of command requires him to be available at all times in the event of a threat to national security. And the United States is closely following events in Ukraine, where Russia has intensified its offensive, and in the Middle East, where the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza threatens to spread across the region.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits