FAMILIES AND LIVES DESTROYED
BY DoctorWho, Shakti, and Rachel
PART 2, Screwing Wounded Vets at Home and in War
When former Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld issued his asinine comment about how we go to war with the army we have not the army we want, I thought to myself: "How unfortunate that we went to war with the President, Vice President, and Secretary of War that we have and not the one we legally elected."
No matter how you look at it, this Administration has been a disaster for wounded veterans. On the one hand they sent the troops into a war lacking weapons, armored vehicles, and body armor, a fact which undoubtedly increased the number of dead troops which we never saw come home in flag-draped coffins. On the other hand, when we DID properly arm the troops, we all but guaranteed an increase in the number of severely injured veterans. Body armor, surgical techniques, new medicines, and improvements in transportation have translated into an increase in the number of severely wounded troops. Today, as a result of the innovations listed above, only 6 percent of all veterans die of their wounds. That's up from 17 percent in Vietnam and from 23 percent in World War II. That isn't to suggest that we want more dead troops. Far from it. When you consider the fact that we now have nearly 4,000 dead and 29,320 wounded with outside estimates ranging from 23,000 to as many as 100,000 wounded, one really has to wonder what the Administration was thinking about (or for that matter,what it was thinking WITH) when it decided to invade Iraq in the first place. Contrary to Administration prevarications, we were attacked on 911 by terrorists from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, not Iraq. But I'm not here to argue about motives--at least not yet. No, for the time being I'm here to insist that at no point did the Bush Administration consider the possibility that under supplying some troops while properly arming others would cause tragedy at both ends of the spectrum.
Those who have survived their injuries have been plagued with injuries that only a Demon from Hell could imagine. Many, TOO many, suffer from polytrauma, combinations of injuries which include: amputations, multiple amputations, nerve damage, multiple bone fractures, loss of hearing, loss of vision, infections, unhealed body wounds, third degree burns, major brain damage, spinal cord injuries, and of course, emotional and behavior problems (think Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, dissociative disorders, thoughts about suicide, etc.)
As if that isn't bad enough many wounded vets must be taught how to walk, talk, speak, or even swallow again and that comes with some rather hefty medical expenses: thousands upon thousands of dollars per year combined with ongoing treatment and rehabilitation, often for the rest of their lives. To its credit, as a part of it's 2007 proposal, the Administration offered $80.6 billion with $34.3 billion set aside for Veterans' health care. That sounds good on the surface, but to pay for it the Administration also proposed cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Energy Assistance, and other programs for the poor. At no time did this Administration ask that everybody share in the pain. But it DID do its very best to protect tax cuts for the hyper rich while it waged a parallel war on poverty by waging a relentless war on the poor. Now consider the fact that so many of these wounded troops come from lower and lower middle class backgrounds and that the only reason many of them signed up in the first place was to obtain career and educational opportunities that they otherwise couldn't have afforded and you realize just how duplicitous the Bush Administration truly is.
Of course you just have to give Bush and his depraved band of war-mongers credit. When they decide to persecute the poor they don't go half way. They are equal opportunity persecutors. They go after anyone who has trouble making ends meet: Black, White, Hispanic, make, female, soldier or civilian. It's bred in their blue blood. They genuinely believe that poor people deserve to be poor. And the fact that so many of the troops are drawn from the ranks of the poor, from the ranks of racial minorities, may well explain part of the contempt that George W. Bush, Cheney, and their ilk show towards this particular generation of troops. In so many ways this is a sociopathic version of the contempt that Barbara Bush revealed towards Katrina survivors. Babs believed that hurricane refugees were better off in a public stadium than they were in their homes. George W. Bush seems to believe that young, twenty-some-year-olds will be better off in a body bag or in a nice sterile institution that they are in the warm comforts of a home and a family relationship.
In addition the Republicans also found new and innovative ways to financially screw wounded veterans. Never mind the Republican-led effort to cut off benefits from veterans who were receiving those benefits based on claims of Post-Taumatic Stress Disorder Let's talk about the now infamous Enlistment Bonus scandal which operated like this: Imagine, if you will that you are a young veteran who was wounded in Iraq, who came home seriously injured with an honorable discharge expecting an Enlistment Bonus for your time served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Then imagine that you received your bonus, only to receive a subsequent mailing in which the Republican-dominated Defense Department demands that you return the money because you had not served your full amount of time on duty. This, shockingly, is what was revealed by the Dole-Shalala Commission when it investigated the Defense Department's policy which quite literally prohibited payment bonuses unless entire commitments were fulfilled. It didn't matter if the soldier in question had been forced into an early discharge. The Bush Defense Department wanted its pound of flesh no matter how or why the wounded veteran had been forced into an early discharge. In fact, the situation became so bad that in 2007 the Bush Defense Department was thoroughly humiliated and the House of Representatives, proposed the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act which prohibited the Defense Department from denying enlistment bonuses to wounded vets, even if they hadn't served their full amount of time on duty. Moreover the bill would have required that bonuses be paid in full within a period of thirty days. For a complete text of the bill please go to:
So who's to blame? Certainly the Administration--people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condy Rice, Colin Powell, and others--must wash some of the blood from their hands. Can you imagine a network of homicidal maniacs were so obtuse as to invade the wrong country without properly arming an insufficient number of troops? Can you comprehend a conspiracy of oil-hungry war-mongers who were so stupid that they didn't realize that technological advances in both medicine and warfare would result in severely wounded veterans such as we have never seen in the history of mass slaughter? By this stage I think it's a given that many of us can.
But there's another group which needs to wipe the blood from its hands as well. I am talking about military recruiters who have been given carte blanche by the damnable No Child Left Behind Act. Not only are these propaganda masters allowed to spread their phony PR in American High Schools; they also receive free access to student records. With information in hand they are able to fix their arguments around the individual student,playing on fears, dreams, and personal backgrounds like psychological chess masters. And that's exactly what military recruiters really are: psychological chess masters. They'll tell an eager young man or woman anything that young man or woman wants to hear. They deal in public relations, not reality. Educational opportunities, career opportunities, honor, and valor. They'll tell any lie that a young person is prone to believe. And the part that strikes me as the most horrifying is that they know young people, young males in particular, have impressionable minds. Worse yet, they also know something that many of us have learned with maturity: recruiters know that young people don't fully understand the concept of mortality. A young person in his or her late teens and early twenties thinks that he or she is invincible, that severe injury or even death will never happen to them.
And that's a misconception that is quickly corrected when they come home wounded, or in psychological pain, or when their family relations begin to deteriorate, or when they can't find work, or when they find themselves thinking about suicide because they can't forget the horrors or war, or when...
Noli nothis permittere te terere
Brandon Alexander Geraghty-MacKenzie
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
FAMILIES AND LIVES DESTROYED