Do right by veterans


Over 15 million Americans are jobless, and veterans are being hit even harder, says Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Young veterans are facing 20 percent unemployment, a big jump from 6.1 percent in 2007.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, citing Veterans Administration figures, says approximately 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness. Veterans are about 8 percent of the general population, but they make up nearly 25 percent - one in four - of the nation's homeless, says the group. About 1.5 million other veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

We are seeing a flood of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a Daytona Beach News-Journal op ed, Florida Veterans for Peace member Phil Restino notes that "traumatic brain injury is the 'signature wound' for our combat troops." Many others return from combat "as single or multiple amputees requiring lifelong care."

"The number of homeless and incarcerated military veterans in America is reaching all- time highs," he writes.

"Epidemic levels of post-traumatic stress disorder have, in turn, led to high incidences of alcoholism and drug abuse among our troops and veterans. Military families are being broken up as spouses and children have to endure multiple deployments of their loved ones, and, when the troops do return home, the family members are often exposed to domestic violence.

"Repeated exposure to depleted uranium, used in U.S. munitions during deployments, has led to our troops and military veterans being subject to various cancers, auto-immune diseases, and other serious illnesses as well as birth defects in their offspring. Depleted uranium has often been referred to as this war's 'Agent Orange.'"

The VA serves many thousands of these veterans, and the Obama administration has made a point of increasing resources for this very successful 80-year-old government-run health care and social service agency, but funding limitations mean many more thousands must turn to local government agencies and community organizations for help.

At a time when more services are urgently needed for our nation's veterans, the war-hawk Republicans and their tea party allies not only denounce "big government" but are moving to slash government jobs and services at the federal, state and local levels. Veterans will be among the first victims of such cuts - as workers and job-seekers, and as Americans who need help to get back on their feet after having fought our country's wars.

At the same time, the Republicans are blocking government action to create jobs - a particularly vital need for our veterans.

Meanwhile, Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham are ratcheting up war threats against Iran, and more of that can be expected in the coming months. Just as in the Bush-Cheney era, these over-age Republicans have no compunction about starting another war, sending our men and women into harm's way.

You can bet GOP politicians will rush to be first in line at Veteran's Day parades and ceremonies. But the real tribute to veterans lies in funding jobs and public services that they so badly need and deserve. Let your elected officials know they need to do what's right, not what's right-wing.

Photo: A group of Marines from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., attended a Veterans Day ceremony in honor of Operation One Voice, Nov. 8, 2010. (Pamela Jackson)

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  • Worker's Song

    Yeh, this one's for the workers who toil night and day
    By hand and by brain to earn your pay
    Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
    Have bled for your countries and counted your dead

    In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
    We've often been told to keep up with the times
    For our skills are not needed, they've streamlined the job
    And with sliderule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed

    We're the first ones to starve, we're the first ones to die
    The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
    And we're always the last when the cream is shared out
    For the worker is working when the fat cat's about

    And when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
    Who's given a gun and then pushed to the fore
    And expected to die for the land of our birth
    Though we've never owned one lousy handful of earth?

    All of these things the worker has done
    From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
    We've been yoked to the plough since time first began
    And always expected to carry the can

    Posted by Starry Messenger, 11/11/2011 1:20pm (4 years ago)

  • @linkvad Your intellectual exercise is flawed. The equation of people caught in a class system that provides them few or now alternatives to military service with a "tool of imperialism" is both elitist and invalid as a logical statement.

    Besides, not everything can be chalked up to intellectual exercises or reading.

    Some of the most politically advanced people you'll ever meet have family members in the military and your demand they hate their family members the same way one hates nazis is simply ignorant and little more than abusive.

    Posted by Joel , 11/15/2010 2:35pm (5 years ago)

  • To the commentator below this: I never suggested that all U.S. soldiers were "brainwashed." I did suggest that some soldiers are there because they wanted to escape bad environments and try to find a better life. (Shame on them, I guess?) I also said that there are many people in the U.S. military who do believe in the idea of defending the country, and, as we're told on television, that the U.S. military is used to defend people around the world. (As they were said to be doing in Iraq; as the Marines did in Haiti).

    I myself am typing a comment on a website, but, at the same time, I'm humble enough not to condemn these people. I hope that, had I actually believed the Iraq War was for good, I would have been brave enough to join the fight. I'm also not deluding myself into thinking that I'm doing some sort of important "propaganda work" by typing hateful comments, either. I understand the limited role of what I'm doing here: responding to a comment that I found to be an irritant.

    Once again, comparing U.S. soldiers to Nazis is... Well, I feel bad to simply mock what you've written, but, as Thomas Jefferson said, "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions."

    Posted by Dan M, 11/15/2010 12:33pm (5 years ago)

  • I'm with Linkvad. Two different people now have posted mocking those who "just post comments" instead of doing something more productive and honorable like "just following orders" in the furtherance of gross crimes against humanity. I know many soldiers come from poor families and are subjected to extensive brainwashing, but people have to accept responsibility for their actions. Like at the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi war criminals, "just following orders" does not absolve one of crimes committed.

    So, getting back to the mockery, what makes you think we just post comments? I do lots of things, but right now I am attempting to engage in crucial propaganda work (in the original sense of the word - political outreach and persuasion). Maybe once in a while I'll plant a seed of thought and reach someone, like others reached out to me and helped me get through the fog of deception that envelops this country.

    I suggest reading Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, William Blum and Howard Zinn for starters. Educate yourself. Keep an open mind and really want to find the truth, no matter how ugly it is.

    Posted by Joseph Waters, 11/13/2010 2:33pm (5 years ago)

  • If it looks like a Nazi dog, behaves like a Nazi dog, tatoos itself like a Nazi dog, waves unit guidons with skull n crossbones symbols of Nazi dogs, wags its tail like a Nazi dog, wears the helmet and uniform of a Nazi dog, and does Nazi dogs' bidding, then, likely as not, its a Nazi dog. Again, these people were not drafted, and willingly do the work of their US Imperialist masters. The US military, like the police, or any other "special body of armed men" is the enemy of the US working class, and the world proletariat as a whole.

    Posted by Linkvad, 11/13/2010 10:15am (5 years ago)

  • I can't believe how phenomenally stupid and offensive some of this conversation is, particularly that spewed by whoever called U.S. soldiers "Nazi dogs."

    How revolting!

    After you've had no food to eat, or gone to a miserable high school and graduated with no hopes of getting a job or going to college, and then decided to join the army so that you can try to better your life, then talk about people being "Nazi dogs." After you've been shipped off to some foreign land where you've got to deal with desert heat and the fear of being shot/blown up, then talk about "Nazi dogs."

    Soldiers make sacrifices when they join the armed forces. Sometimes they do it so that they can get an education and get out of poverty. Sometimes they do it - the horror! - because they believe that joining the army and fighting is the right thing to do. There were people who joined the military because of the Iraq War. They liked and believed in the story of the global superpower, the United States, using its military to help people suffering under the Saddam dictatorship. (I would consider these people to be much nobler than some critic doing nothing but typing comments.) Some joined because they simply love this country and would like to protect it.

    When you've made such a sacrifice, then you can call these people "Nazi dogs." Unless you've done that, you sound like a cowardly, offensive fool. If you call them "Nazi dogs" afterward, you'll simply sound like a fool. Perhaps it would be best to only call Nazis "Nazi dogs."

    The wars that soldiers fight are not decided by the soldiers themselves; they are ordered by this country's elected and unelected leadership. A fight against war isn't a fight against U.S. soldiers - the first American victims of any war - but against those who ordered the war.

    It's good to be proud of your country; it's natural. The real enemies are those who would sell us out, sell out American working people, for their profits. It's good to be patriotic, so long as your understanding of patriotism isn't jingoistic or nationalistic.

    Posted by Dan M, 11/12/2010 4:26pm (5 years ago)

  • Trailer Trash,

    I never thought I would hear a Leftist nowadays suggest that workers ought to be patriotic and "support the troops", but I guess that has been the position of many, if not most, Socialist and Communist parties around the world for years. Also, whatever Marx may have meant by the phrase "Workers of the World Unite!", I know what I mean by it - and that is that it's foolish for workers to ever be patriotic and support the state-apparatus. I lean heavily toward the Anarchist and Left Communist philosophies and I believe it is a bad idea for the workers to try to seize control of the state, such as it is.

    And you're wrong, Nationalism is the bourgeois creed, especially the petite bourgeois; although the aristocratic ruling capitalist class does behave like they have no allegiance to any country, most capitalists around the world look to the U.S. as its favorite state and are in a sense quite patriotic. In fact, you only have to look at the Cuban Embargo/Blockade to see that patriotic honor can and does trump financial concerns; much of the business class would like to end the embargo so they can do business in Cuba, but there remains a powerful element among the ruling class that still wants to punish Cuba for daring to defy the "Godfather" even after 50 years.

    Finally, you replied that it was "mighty big" of me to take my principled stand against agents of imperialism. If you say so. I believe it is of prime importance to take unimpeachable stands consistent with socialist principles and values.

    Posted by Joseph Waters, 11/12/2010 2:04pm (5 years ago)

  • Please explain to me why US Imperialism's attack dogs are deserving of my sympathy? Nobody drafted them. They eat better than America's poor. They get paid more than most American workers. And they get better health care. Why should revolutionary workers care about these Nazi dogs???

    Posted by linkvad, 11/12/2010 12:32pm (5 years ago)

  • This may be the only comment in which I agree with Trailer Trash (at least partially). Don't blame war on soldiers. At least they are doing something more than posting comments.

    Posted by Joel Wendland, 11/12/2010 1:17am (5 years ago)

  • "U.S. soldiers are lethal tools of imperialism, period. They fight 'our country's wars' did you say?!"

    You can't have a war without weapons. Who bought the weapons?

    "What ever happened to: Workers of the World Unite? In other words, the working class / the proletarians have no country; this is basic Marxism."

    No, this is a basic misunderstanding. That saying means that unlike the elites, the workers don't have even one country where they are in control. That is still true today.

    In the sense that you mean, it's the elites who don't have a country, because unlike workers they are incapable of being loyal to anything other than their money. They take all they can get from one country and then move on to another country where they can get more. Workers usually love their country even when they have to leave it for survival's sake, but elites will drop any country like yesterday's garbage if somewhere else is more profitable.

    "Veterans who denounce their oath of loyalty to the United States and humbly apologize and seek restitution for their crimes, I will forgive and accept as comrades; those who do not will remain my enemies. "

    Mighty big of you.

    Posted by Trailer Trash, 11/11/2010 6:58pm (5 years ago)

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