From the June 2005 Idaho Observer:
Itís just for show
The popular magnetic "Support Our Troops" appliques
symbolize Americansí shallow support for the war effort
by Don Harkins
When the U.S. was fighting WWI and WWII, the entire nation was behind the war effort. Scrimping, saving, recycling and volunteering was how millions of Americans showed their support for our boys in uniform. It was the least they could do; after all, they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to "fight for freedom" and "make the world safe for democracy."
As the wars have worn on, the "fighting for freedom" mantra has worn thin; war has become as routine as space shuttle missions. Today, the only sign that the U.S. is a nation at war is the little magnetic appliques that say "Support Our Troops."
Instead of physically supporting the war effort by rearranging their lives and priorities to do their part, Americans advertise their support by putting little plastic things on their cars.
The shallow nature of this "gesture" is how supportive America and the U.S. government really are when these young men and women come home mentally and physically broken. Last December 7, United Press International reported, "U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era."
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans Director Linda Boone commented, "When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God...I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."
Many veterans of the Iraq war bear the physical and mental scars of battle. A strange twist to advances in modern medicine, wounds that would have been fatal during the Vietnam war may not be fatal now, but condemn the wounded soldier to a lifetime of severe disabilities.
There are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. On any given night, the nationís more than 300 shelters are providing beds for about 100,000 of them. Many of the shelters are privately funded with some support coming from the Veterans Administration (VA). Los Angeles has the largest homeless veteran population with 27,000.
So far, less than 100 Iraq war vets have turned up in homeless shelters. But veterans advocates see them as the beginning of a huge wave.
"This is what happened with the Vietnam vets. I went to Vietnam," said John Keaveney, chief operating officer of New Directions, a shelter and drug-and-alcohol treatment program for veterans in LA. "It is like watching history being repeated," he said.
The history that is repeating itself goes beyond the fact that soldiers return home from combat as damaged goods:
1. a) The second Gulf of Tonkin incident that LBJ used to make an executive decision to begin overt military action in Vietnam never occurred.
b) The Bush administration claim that Iraq had significant quantities of WMD, thereby posing a significant threat to his neighbors (Israel), has turned out to be false.
In both cases, the president lied to the nation and the world to justify making war on sovereign nations. In both cases the wars were initiated by the president, in violation of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
2. a) The Vietnam war was political in nature and was fought under false pretenses; politicians, not ranking military personnel, ran the war with no defined military objective. Soldiers on the ground and in the air were subject to the whims of politicians whose priority was not to win a war against an enemy directly threatening the safety and security of America, but to maximize wartime profits for their friends and supporters in commerce.
b) The war in Iraq is political in nature and being fought under false pretenses; politicians, not ranking military personnel, are running the war with no defined military objective. Soldiers on the ground and in the air are subject to the whims of politicians whose priority is not to win a war against an enemy directly threatening the safety and security of America, but to maximize wartime profits for their friends and supporters in commerce.
In both Vietnam and Iraq, soldiers are being used to protect the interests of multi-national corporations who specialize in producing guns, bombs and other items used in waróand the large contracting corporations who repair the damages wrought by war.
4. a) Vietnam-era soldiers were exposed to a variety of drugs and chemicals (e.g. agent orange) that have proven links to cancer and an entire menu of other chronic and degenerative physiological and neurological diseases.
b) Iraq war soldiers are being exposed to a variety of drugs and chemicals that have proven links to cancer and an entire menu of other chronic and degenerative physiological and neurological diseases.
Since Vietnam, one of a soldierís most important duties is to be a human test subject for a variety of medical and mind-control experiments. The results of these tests cover the full spectrum of mental and physical illnesses for which the government steadfastly refuses to accept culpability or responsibility.
5. a) In Vietnam, under the influence of drugs, chemicals and chemically-laden food and water, soldiers in uniform were in a foreign land fighting enemies in uniform. But they were also fighting the non-uniformed people they were supposedly liberating. Tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children were murdered.
b) In Iraq, under the influence of drugs, chemicals and chemically-laden food and water, soldiers in uniform are in a foreign land fighting enemies in uniform. But they are also fighting the non-uniformed people they are supposedly liberating. Tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children are murdered.
Soldiers may be conditioned to be killers on the battlefield and able to ignore maiming and killing whatever moves. But when they return to civilian life, their civilian mentality returns. Their government may award medals to them for their murderous conduct on the battlefield, but civilian conscience gives them the electric chairóover and over againófor the rest of their lives.
The new wave
According to the VA, as of last December, about 15 percent (21,000) of nearly 140,000 Iraq war vets who have separated from the military have sought health care from the VA; one out of every five was diagnosed with a mental disorder.
"An Army study in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 17 percent of service members returning from Iraq met screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder or PTSD, [post traumatic stress disorder]" the UPI reported.
According to the Homeless Veterans Coalition, about 25 percent of all homeless Americans are veterans; more than 75 percent of them have some sort of mental or substance abuse problem directly related to PTSD.
"More troubling, experts said, is that mental problems are emerging as a major casualty cluster, particularly from the war in Iraq where the enemy is basically everywhere and blends in with the civilian population, and death can come from any direction at any time," the UPI reported.
Since Vietnam, the VA has expanded to include 170 hospitals, adding 850 clinics and 206 veteran centers. The increased emphasis in health care is on mental health.
There are still 150,000 U.S. military personnel deployed in Iraq. The war is expected to expand to Iran and the Bush administrationís "war on terror" could drag on for years. Since the government is running out of people willing to volunteer for active duty in war time, it is predicted that Americans will soon be drafted into service. The use of U.S. soldiers for medical experimentation is still under way and there is no indication that it will ever stop.
If 500,000 veterans are currently homeless, physically disabled and mentally damaged to the point they are unemployable or unable to take care of themselves, what does the future bring? You do the math.
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