Monday, March 07, 2005

The Honour and Character of a Nation

Nations, like individuals, are perceived to have a character. That character is demonstrated in a number of ways. Health care, street crime rates, poverty, access to services, air quality in the cities, etc, are some of the indicators used to determine the character and the livability of a society.

The United States consistently scores low in most of these areas. For instance: While Americans spend more on health care, per capita, than any other country, it ranks something like 27th in services actually delivered, because the American ideal, the medicine for profit model, creates world class care for those who can afford it, while it presents very poor care for a majority of its citizens.

Over whelming medical bills are the chief cause of personal bankruptcies in America. What does that say for health care in such a supposedly rich country? The first question that will come to mind, for many is, "Who's rich in this rich country?"

That has become a good question in a country whose national wealth is so heavily concentrated in the hands of a few big time corporate families.

The specific indicator of a nation's character and honor, I want to talk about today, is how we treat the veterans of our armed services. An important one because it is the back side of the patriotic rhetoric used to recruit these citizens. It is, in deed, where the rubber meets the road regarding the governments sense of responsibility to and for those who have given so much to the nation and the government.

I have learned things in the last couple of days, that are at once, enraging, depressing, and just plain shameful. It really makes you wonder what kind of people can do these things and still sleep at night and whistle "On Ward Christian Soldier" as they set such tragedies in motion.

The next couple of stories are two examples of the reality awaiting many returning vets.
As you may already know, a huge percentage of Vietnam era veterans either are or have been on the streets, for lengthy periods of time.

Many, suffering from untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, have suffered for years with no help, what so ever. It took the government and department of veterans affairs over thirty years to admit to the existence PTSD. Simply because the powers that be, refuse to accept any responsibility for the damage they do and the cost they create. The blame is placed on individuals who are punished for being so afflicted.

Iraq injuries differ from past wars: More amputations, brain traumas By William M. Welch of USA Today. In spite of the title, this is an almost cheery article about some of the things being done for seriously wounded vets. As one would expect from USA Today, the article focuses on the advanced technology of modern prosthetic limbs, by way off letting you know about the marvelous things that could be done.

It fails to mention how difficult it will be to get such wonderful things out of the VA, or how long the backlog is for treating returning vets. Of course, the massive budget cuts were not mentioned. It was a 'feel good in spite of it all' article.

The article starts with details about the nature of wounds being dealt with in this conflict. The combination of improved body armor and the powerful explosive weapons being used, (taken from American control) mean that men are surviving blasts that would have previously killed them. Surviving with massive debilitating injuries such as multiple amputations and serious brain trauma. Many of these are people that will require medical assistance and living assistance for most of their lives.

Here is a short quote from the article:
"The VA is financing research into a variety of new technologies to help amputees, including high-tech prosthetic limbs and regeneration of tissue. A study underway at the VA's center in Providence, in collaboration with Brown University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is exploring the potential for restoring greater function after limb loss."

This all sounds great until you realize the VA is grossly under funded, grossly under staffed, and the line ups of new cases are getting longer every week. Add to that, a minimum $10 billion (the smallest estimate I've heard) bucks was just axed from the VA budget, to help pay for the one point seven Trillion dollar tax cut for the rich.

A bit closer to reality, is this article, The New Wave: Our Future Homeless (vets) is found a blog called the Junkheap of History.

A quote from the article: “John Staresinich is a Purple Heart veteran who has slept in cracks in highway overpasses and abandoned cars, camped out in thin tents next to railroad tracks and fought off rats and bugs in Chinatown flophouses.In December, he was diagnosed with severe combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder -- 32 years after returning from Vietnam -- and is now getting help from the federal Veterans Affairs in Chicago. He says it took more than a year of begging that agency.
"Soldiers from Iraq are going to come back with PTSD," said Staresinich, 54. "I hope they treat them sooner than they did me."

Something wicked this way comes. A large percent of Vietnam era veterans, are or have been, homeless for significant periods of time. Many are ill, physically disabled, and or mentally traumatized to the extent that they are unable to work or care for themselves. Many have been denied VA treatment or assistance for thirty years until Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was finally recognized by the Veterans Administration.

Iraq war veterans are already beginning to appear in homeless shelters. Often wounded in one sense or another, they are discharged by the Army one day, the next day, still ill and still recovering from often serious wounds, they are on the street. With no job. If they don't have families, or their families are unable or unwilling to help them, they rent a room and apply for medical assistance from the VA and begin waiting. It is probably going to be a very long wait. Mean while you are sitting somewhere with your injuries, getting broker by the day.

Imagine, that you are suffering the emotional and mental effects of combat, unable to sleep, afraid to sleep because of the dreams and night terrors, unable to relate to being sick, in a world that is utterly oblivious to you and what has happened to you, in the service of your country. The nation that was so proud to 'support our troops' until you got messed up in combat. Then, you disappear. Blind, legless, or traumatized, it don't matter. You disappear.

Especially for people with no family support, the step from the barracks to the street can be very fast. The effects on families of these returning vets is profound, as well.

The stress and unending burden of years of care and heavy medical expenses, destroy families. Living with a loved one who has come back changed, in strange, often frightening ways, is beyond the coping resources of many.

I've known men who had what in the vernacular of the day was called, "the thousand yard stare". The look of a person with a profound emotional detachment. A barrier that nothing gets through. People are talking about that thousand yard stare again. That "Marine Look" as some Marine wives attempt to describe it.

A person trying to get back from that mental hell hole, to reclaim himself and his life again, has a very long road and an extremely difficult road ahead of him, with out proper professional care. Families can help but they are not equipped to dealt with something they can not understand. Something so profound.

A few months ago, in another blog posting, I said: I want you people who voted Republican to remember that, when they take your kids to fight for Cheneys' millions. When beauty comes home in a body bag, when athlete of the year comes back permanently mangled, when your once cheerful lad returns changed and estranged from you in ways you could not have imagined, remember, YOU asked for it. You made it all possible.

I feel I must say it again. It is happening. It is not a future event. But, very few seem to really care. It is a terrible thing yet there is very little media mention of such problems for vets. When there is, you get a 'feel good about it' fluff piece like the article from USA Today, as mentioned above.

Listen carefully, the so called "all volunteer Army" is about to go the way of the dinosaur. It is being burned up and chewed up bit, by irreplaceable bit. The economic draft is not working anymore. The Army is no longer a rational alternative to poverty and poor job prospects. Poor job prospects have become a rational alternative to death or dismemberment.

Give it what ever bureaucratic sobriquet you like, the Draft is on it's way back and will be operating by this summer. The present Army can not last another year with out a massive injection of new soldiers and equipment to replace exhausted Reserve, National Guard and regular Army and Marine units, now long in the field.

Keeping in mind the terrible state of VA care for seriously wounded vets, remembering the nature and severity of wounds characteristic to this war, and not forgetting that the draft is coming to families near you in the near future, ponder what this president and this government have done to the VA, in the latest budget.

I've said before that the budget is a true reflection of the real agenda behind the
Bush and neocon rhetoric. It is where the moral rhetoric meets hard reality..

I have a somewhat cynical saying, all mine, that I believe pretty well sums up the lesson in this budget. Having spent much of my life in and around the music biz, I eventually came to the conclusion that Money, not imitation, is the most sincere form of flattery. Imitation may be copy right infringement and money says the record company means some of the crap they hand you.

You see, the music biz is full of people that want you do freebies. Only they don't call it a freebie because then they might owe you something for providing free entertainment at their successful bar or for their premeir or what ever. They tell you how wonderful you are, how you are a star on the rise, and this gig is going to be Great Exposure for you.

You know they really like you when the check doesn't bounce.

This budget is the flip side of the Army contract that says "You Giveth, We Taketh Away".

Like the record company, Bush and the war supporters say, "We love our troops, they are the finest most honorable and bravest people in America". Over and over they say it. But, when they have squeezed every thing they possibly can from you, broken your body and your mind and disrupted your life and every thing you are, you are suddenly characterized as a "drain on national security".

In other words, you are on your own, we want to forget you, you suddenly unpatriotic drain on our security.

Magnetic ribbons become an endlessly repeating bad joke in the eyes of veterans and active soldiers, as the grandstanding of official liars, wears thinner and thinner.

Read'em and weep as the saying goes. The underhanded methods of presenting this budget, refusing to make projections for future cuts and effects beyond 2006, the specific nature of the cuts, and the very direct effect on returning vets, tells you about as much as you need to know regarding the reality behind the rhetoric and lies of Mr. Bush. He knows he's lying but that is what sociopaths do.

The numbers speak volumes. This article, from Common Dreams, is written by Ashley L. Decker. Herself, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran who still suffers from exposure to Agent Orange. Ashley also suffers from genetic problems directly attributable to her father's exposure to Agent Orange.

A quote from the article: The House of Representatives have recently voted on the 2004 budget which will cut funding for veteran's health care and benefit programs by nearly $25 billion over the next ten years. It narrowly passed by a vote of 215 to 212, and came just a day after Congress passed a resolution to "Support Our Troops." How exactly does this vote support our troops? Does leaving our current and future veterans without access to health care and compensation qualify as supporting them?

The Veteran's Administration, plagued by recent budget cuts, has had to resort to charging new veterans entering into its system a yearly fee of $250 in order for them to receive treatment. It is a sad irony that the very people being sent to fight the war are going to have to pay to treat the effects of it.

How's that for 'supporting our troops' ? Makes you feel good to be an American, don't it? We support our troops as long as they are healthy and still in uniform. As soon as they are used up, we just toss'em, like no refund bottles. What good is a used up hero, eh? Is that not the American Way?

The great American comedy never stops with the laughs. First those brave and noble Congress people vote for a hearty and self soothing "Support Our Troops" resolution, then set about dismantling the only support available for our returning troops. Yes, that is a shining example of what has become the American way.

This next article is from the News Tribune, in Tacoma, Washington. The article details some of the damage that will be done to veterans in Washington State, a state which has the fifth highest number of ex-military personnel among its citizens. What is talked about here is happening all over the country.

A quote from this article: WASHINGTON – More than 10,000 Washington state veterans could face a $1,000-a-year increase for their medical care under a Bush administration budget proposal, a veterans advocacy group says. And state officials warn that the White House spending plan could force out roughly half of the 600 residents at Washington’s three veterans homes, possibly resulting in the closure of one of them.

“It’s almost hopeless for the average vet to get taken care of,” said John Kenny, who fought as a machine gunner in the Philippines and New Guinea during World War II. “It’s a scandal.”
The administration has proposed charging some veterans a $250 annual fee for access to medical services provided by the Veterans Administration and more than doubling the copayment for prescription drugs from $7 to $15. The new fees would apply to single veterans making more than $26,000 annually and married veterans making about $30,000 annually.
In addition, the Bush administration budget would significantly reduce federal support for state-operated veterans homes and impose new limitations on who can be admitted.

What can I say about this? Thousands of vets are on their way home. Many with serious debilitating injuries. The VA is already struggling and failing to keep up. We love to shout empty slogans about 'our troops'. While laying off nurses and closing clinics, hospitals, and homes.

I've written this with a particular eye to young men who are thinking of joining the military or facing future conscription. Please, be aware, that if you are one of the very many who will be killed or injured in this conflict, you will count for nothing, in the grand schemes of things in America.

You will be, "a drain on national security" to quote a White House nob.

Here is one last little issue, that I will write about in greater detail, later. Depleted Uranium, which is packed into a variety of munitions, is proving to be much more danger than originally thought.

It has been demonstrated, by the army, that the DU in a twenty mm round is partly vaporized upon contact with any hard surface, rocks, building, or Armour. In larger munitions such as artillery and tank shells can vaporize as much as 100 percent of the DU inside it.

The vaporized DU forms microscopic aerosol particles which are then breathed in by those in the vicinity of the firing. Which is pretty much everyone in Iraq. These micro particles, unlike normal sized particles pass through the blood brain barrier with ease. They end up deposited in the brain, liver, kidneys, pancreas, you name it. The micro particles stay there and do much more damage, including more genetic damage, than than conventional sized radio active particles.

These problems are showing up in the vets and the children of vets from the first Gulf War. Coming home in one piece does not mean you have survived the war. Or even that your future children have survived the war.

Of course, the VA and the military and the government are refusing to even admit, much less take any responsibility for something the world has been warning them about for some time now. DU is very dangerous and most of the soldiers in Iraq are being exposed to vaporized DU, many on a daily basis.

It took the VA thirty years to admit the existence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are a long way from admitting and taking responsibility for the wave of cancer loaded vets and genetic deformities, in their children, that have already been created by DU.

Young people considering the army or just waiting for the draft, keep these things in mind. No matter what that recruiting officer tells you, you will be an utterly expendable counter in this game of money and power. The pride offered in the wearing of that uniform will melt away very quickly when you realize just how valuable you really aren't, to those whose interests you serve.

Trust and loyalty are necessarily two way streets. The present government is loyal only to its' own aspirations, which in many ways, are profoundly disloyal to the country and its people. They do not deserve your trust.

You give, they take, that is the true law of the land and will remain so as long as you are willing to give yourself away so easily.


At 1:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

o god help me out

i cant stop taking shit

At 7:28 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

This was certainly an eye-opener to an even worse problem than I ever imagined. Incidentally, I have a former military friend who is infuriated by those stckers for cars. He says if those people want to support our troops, they can do a hell of a lot better than stick a ribbon on their car, since more often than not, its those same people who will vote unilaterally against ANY form of taxes that might actually do just that. Support them. The cuts to VA care are a horrifying example of the fact that we are a nation of words, slogans, sound bites and bumper stickers. But no one actually steps up to the plate, willing to do ANYTHING that might possibly effect them personally.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger ThomasMcCay said...

In deed, I've already receive two emails concerning the bloody ribbons.

Living in Canada, of course, it is a rare sight. I'm glad to know the bitter joke, inherent in those ribbons, is not lost on anyone but the many who display them.

It remains perplexing, to me, how so many people can not see what is rolling straight at them.

I believe you are absolutely correct to identify their belief that they will escape the consequences is part of what feeds this loud empty 'patriotism' one sees so much of in America.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Back on Jan. 20th, I found and article in the Louisville Courrier-Journal discussing a how the VA was not allowing active searching and solicitation of veterans to inform them of services available to them. The link is no longer active, but this is what I quoted on my blog at the time:

"A directive issued last year for the VA MidSouth Healthcare Network, which includes the Louisville hospital, said facilities may not aggressively take steps to recruit new enrollees or new workload."

That directive followed a national VA memo issued in July 2002 that said recruiting veterans is "inappropriate" because of a tight budget and growing demand for services."

I'm glad you posted this so eloquently. It's not that we're running out of money for veterans; it was never provided for in the beginning. I'd like to see the role call for the votes that cut the benefits.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger ThomasMcCay said...

Yes, it's 'inappropriate' to let Vets know what they have a right to. But, by gawd we support our troops.
Readers should check out Jet's blog, well worth the read.

At 5:23 AM, Blogger BlueEnsign said...

I'm a vet and a reservist, so I appreciate the comments. The US really does not support it's troops -except to pay lip service.

I disagree that the draft is coming (though I hope I"m wrong - I hope we do go back to the draft)

The main lesson of Vietnam was that if you draft people and send them off to die for a country/cause they don't genuinely care about, they'll turn against the war.

Immagine if the right wingers watching the war on FOX actually were at risk of going - they'd be anti-war the next morning. Nothing will turn this country against the Administration like the draft.

I hope we do go to the draft, because the burdens should be shared , and the joy of bringing democracy to Iraq should be shared :-)

The Air Force is reducing it's numbers, as is the Navy Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve. There is even a program to encourage Navy/AF people who are being let go, to join the Army (I don't know how well it's working) So, there really isn't a troop shortage, except in the Army.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger ThomasMcCay said...

Greetings Blue Ensign,
The arguments go both ways , of course. The draft is full of political danger but at this point, they seem to be faced with the opption of pulling back and reversing their aggressive forgeign policy, or find some way to replenish the ground troops.

The Air Force and Navy, traditionally, were seen as alternatives to the Army. They seem to be having no recruitment problems. :)

Here is a quote from an email I received from Thomas McCullock today.

""According to the SSS plan, which is public record, they must
report to the President by the end of March that they will be fully
functional for a draft in 75 days. (e.g., no later than June 15).""

I agree that conscription is fraught with danger. But the neocons figure they have four years in which to make it happen.

They have a lot riding on this. The corporate neocons are in a position they have been working towards, for years. They have their eyes glued to the brass ring of complete control. I think they will go for it. The machinery is all in place.

Our crystal balls will just have to up date as we go, eh?

The white house has laws and levels of media control that they have not had before. I believe Bush will go for it. Being as he is not part of the so called 'reality community'.

We shall see.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Thanks for the positive feedback Thomas. I always learn something when I visit your blog. I added you to my links list.

I think that the administration is waiting for a global excuse, like an uprising or detonation in Korea or Iran, to use as an excuse to implement the draft. Barring that, the republicans are grooming Jeb hard, providing him an international presence, etc. so they may not want to rock the vote. As we were told, "all options are on the table". Sigh.

At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad teenage suicide is up in Canada, maybe than they wont grow up to be child-molesting canuck commies.

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Dane Crimmins said...

Thanks so very much for taking your time to create your blog. Excellent work


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