America’s Shameful Stain
By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
Today, well over 65% of the American people think the invasion of Iraq was a monumental mistake. Many of those same millions think the Bush Administration lied about the urgent need to take military action against Iraq. Others think that the cost of the war was drastically under-estimated in order to lure the public into endorsing the invasion. Remember the now-infamous troika of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld telling us that our soldiers would be greeted as liberators, and that the oil in Iraq would pay for the war, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear-tipped missiles—and how Bush fostered for years the false belief that Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attack.
However, there is one thing all Americans agree on: giving our fighting men and women the best protection possible while overseas and the best treatment possible when they return. But here again, Bush has failed, spouting his love for the military before they ship out but neglecting them when they return.
Nancy Gibbs, one of Time Magazine’s best essayists, wrote a devastating exposé in the magazine’s May 26, 2008 issue—and because we have so many former US military living here at Lakeside, we thought the following items in Ms. Gibb’s essay would be of interest to many of our readers.
• One in five returning vets suffer from major depression.
• More than 300,000 soldiers have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
• More than 400,000 military personnel are still waiting to have their cases processed.
• The number seeking assistance for homelessness is up over 600% in the past year.
But in the face of so much need often comes denial. At a May 6 hearing, lawmakers took on several officials of the Veterans Affairs after an e-mail surfaced from one Ira Katz, the department’s Chief of Mental Health, regarding the suicide rates of soldiers in its care. The subject line of the e-mail was: “Shhh.” The VA had been insisting that there were fewer than 800 suicide attempts each year by vets in its care. The real number was nearly 12,000.
The Katz e-mail goes on to say: Is this something we should carefully address ourselves in some sort of (press) release before somebody stumbles on it?
The lawmakers concluded that this came close to criminal negligence. The VA’s pattern seemed to be to deny the facts and when they came out, then cover them up. A YouTube video provided documentation of the filthy ward conditions awaiting so many of the solders who returned from the war. Even Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates (a decent man who replaced the arrogant and clueless Rumsfeld) was appalled, saying that “Soldiers should never have to live in such squalor.”
Gates is to be applauded for his forthright attitude, for the least that our veterans deserve is a government which honestly admits its failures.
Sadly, the treatment of the returning warrior (with the exception of those in WWII) has been about the same since time immemorial—as attested to by this indictment from an unknown soldier:
God and the soldier,
all men adore
In time of danger
and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted,
God is for-gotten, and the soldier slighted.