Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

Nobody knows exactly where or when Memorial Day began. Over two dozen American cities claim to be the birthplace of the holiday. During the Civil War, groups of women in the South would decorate the graves of their war dead.

The first official observation of Memorial Day was May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. By 1890 all Northern states were observing Memorial Day.

The South didn’t recognize Memorial Day until after World War I. Before that the Southern states had various days for honoring their war dead, and they only honored Confederate soldiers. Several Southern states continue to have a separate holiday for honoring Confederate soldiers.

While you’re enjoying the 3-day weekend, partying, drinking (or whatever your drug of choice is), please remember everyone who died defending our country. Nightline will be broadcasting the names and photographs of all U.S. service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past year. The broadcast will take approximately 45 minutes.

And while we’re honoring the dead, we need to be painfully aware of the problems facing our soldiers and veterans, and how they’re being shortchanged. Regardless of political viewpoints or how one feels about the war in Iraq, our soldiers and veterans need to be rewarded for risking their lives.

Some politicians are shouting “Support Our Troops!” from the rooftops, and then are privately trying to reduce their health care and benefits. These politicians need to be pulled out from under their rock and brought squirming and blinking into the light of day. This shortchanging of our veterans is absolutely immoral and criminal and needs to be exposed.

At the Armed Forces Retirement Home, managed by the Pentagon, residents are suing Defense Secretary Rumsfeld over budget cuts which are jeopardizing their health care. They are no longer able to get medical checkups or prescriptions on site.

A spokesman for the home says the changes have improved “efficiency.” Efficiency for whom? At whose expense? A veteran of the Korean and Viet Nam wars said “When you're playing football and you get hurt, they say 'suck it up' — we're just too old to suck it up any more.” Suck it up? It’s one thing to tell a football player to suck it up, but an aging veteran of two wars? Is this how they thought they’d be rewarded for risking their lives?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an underreported but very real problem for soldiers and veterans of the Iraqi war. More than 10,000 Iraqi war veterans have sought help for this condition. Months or years of looking for unseen snipers and roadside bombers have caused mass paranoia.

One soldier returning from Iraq said: “I am getting better with crowds, but still if it is a very confined space and I am totally surrounded I have issues with that.”

Another said: “When I am in crowds I tend to watch people's hands.”

Welcome back; now suck it up. And you’d better not have incurred any debt while you were gone. The recent bankruptcy law passed by Congress and signed by Bush wipes out any and all protections from creditors that soldiers and veterans used to have. This law was written by and for the banks and credit companies. Soldiers? Veterans? What did they contribute to my campaign?

And some of the favorite targets of payday lenders (who are barely one notch above loan sharks) are military bases. Some of the politicians who scream the loudest about supporting our troops are sitting on their thumbs while these lowlife hustlers prey on military personnel, charging as much as 391% annual interest for a short term loan. Some of these loan sharks’ “customers” are desperate enough to take out a second loan to pay off the first loan, a third loan to pay off the second, etc. until they have five or six loans they’re paying off. Hundreds of dollars a month can go into this vicious circle. One loan — one desperate decision — can lead to a downward spiral.

But whenever any kind of banking “reform” comes before Congress, the money and clout of the banking industry outweighs any concern for military families. You’ll never hear a politician screaming “Support Our Bankers” in front of TV cameras, but that’s where their priorities are.

American Legion Magazine has interviews with two senators and two congressmen from the Veterans Affairs Committee. Congressman Steve Buyer, R-Indiana and Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho both give longwinded answers full of euphemisms and political doubletalk. Basically their flowery rhetoric translates into: Cost-effectiveness. Let’s spend billions to send them off to war, and then pinch pennies when they return. You’ve served your purpose — now get lost.

Congressman Lane Evans, D-Illinois says: “The budget submitted by the White House is one of the most dishonest, disingenuous and insensitive documents I've seen in over two decades in Congress. The administration's budget shortchanges the nation's sick and disabled veterans and seeks to force hundreds of thousands of additional deserving veterans out of the VA health-care system. In his State of the Union message, President Bush saluted the bravery and sacrifice of our troops and promised that a grateful country will do everything possible to help them recover. The budget he has proposed, which devastates programs for veterans, instead makes a cruel mockery of his own rhetoric.”

He also says: “The Bush administration seeks a mere 0.5 percent more for 2006 than Congress appropriated for 2005. It ignores the 13 percent to 14 percent VA testified it needs annually to maintain services at current levels.”

Senator Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii says: “If we don't work together to provide adequate appropriations, the shortfall is going to get worse. We are at war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The president has told us that the war on terror will not be won overnight. Every day, military men and women are returning home in need of medical care for physical as well as psychological wounds. Ultimately, many will seek VA care. The influx places even greater pressure on already-overwhelmed VA facilities and staff. Our job in Congress is to try to give VA the resources it needs to meet its obligations to veterans. The president's 2006 budget falls short.”

Congressman Evans and Senator Akaka are saying the right things. Can they (or will they) follow through?

cross-posted at Bring It On!


Anonymous Bee said...

Right on target, man. I'm personally ready to puke whenever I hear some wrong-wing asshole pontificating on patriotism, when evidently it's patriot enough to have one of those yellow "support our troops" stickers in the back window of their blingbling escalade.

Well, guess what? It's not enough. Real support for these troops is just what Tom is saying - healthcare, pensions, mental health care, protection from predatory loan sharks like Payday, and how about all those volunteers get their old job back when they come back from war, rather than the "oh, sorry, you were gone for a year, we made that temp permanent, and we can't get rid of them now! Mr. Bush told us this war would only be 3 months! What else can we do? So sorry!".

Sick, Sick Sick, Sick bastards in congress, shame on you all for leaving these men and women in the lurch, especially since the larger portion of the BushCo cabinet were draft dodgers themselves!

May 30, 2005 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger Donald said...

Sorry Tom, you've been tagged. Please come to my homepage. Thanks!

May 30, 2005 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Tom Harper said...

Bee: Thanks; very nice comment. It's incredible, the disconnect between people's cheerleading for the Iraqi war and their own lack of any contribution or sacrifice. As you may have seen in the Comments section of my previous post, some of these Chicken Hawks get very, uh, "sensitive" when you call them on their inconsistency.

I hope there will be more publicity about this disconnect between politicians' rhetoric and what they actually do when the cameras are gone. American Legion Magazine (not exactly a bunch of treehugging pinkos) has been carrying the ball on this.

Last summer, when Congress was debating the tax cuts, somebody figured out that if they reduced the tax cut by a fraction of a percent, the money they saved could fund some veterans' programs that were in jeopardy. Congress trounced the idea with practically no debate. And the whole story was buried in a tiny paragraph on page 27.

Hopefully that "liberal media" (which I still haven't been able to find) will start giving more publicity and priority to these stories.

Donald: Sorry to let you down, but I "untagged" myself. (I left a comment at your site.) I'm not much of a team player or bandwagon jumper-on (and I'm guessing you aren't either, judging by your blog). If this means I'm dropping the ball or breaking a chain letter, well, sorry. If I get ostracized from the blogosphere, I'll understand :)

May 30, 2005 at 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it, but the Veterens budget has been dropping as long as I can remember worse under our most hawkish presidents like Reagan and Bush, then Clinton.

Anyone remember in the 80's when troops pay was so low - Troops in Germany had to go on Welfare? Reagan finally raised it was procalimed a hero. Late in his second term.

It made me mad when Bob Dole and others were celebrating the 50th anniverssary of the GI bill, a program that built the middle class in America, a program they prospered on, that they have been cutting left and right to a fraction of the program which they had when they got out of the service - Dole himself helped cut those programs.

More important to attack the New Deal I guess

A friend of mine who's a disabled Vietnam vet and watched in anger as our country denied benefits to those who were (like him) exposed to Agent Orange while finding out that the US was paying disability payments to Austrialian Solders who were exposed.

Because of cuts, he has to take a Van almost a 100 miles away to the nearest hospital in Texas and if they can do a certain procedure, he has to go to the next hospital that can - in Phoenix.

Hawks were livid in the 90's when Liberal Congressman Ron Dellums of Oakland became the chair of the Armed Forces committee - with a Liberal in charge - our defense in going to hell in a handbasket!

Well never mind that he was the first chair of the Armed Forces committee that actually SERVED in the military. He was instrumental in getting reforms and plugging loopholes to protect the reservist's jobs and benefits while serving in desert storm - OVER right wing hawk objections!

I've been watching it for years where it seems showing your patriotism meant voting for a fighter plane but not to increase the solders pay and veterens benefits. I still don't get it!


May 30, 2005 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger landismom said...

Great post, thanks for all that info on economic devastation of veterans--I knew about the health care cuts, but not the payday loans & loss of bankruptcy protection.

May 30, 2005 at 12:49 PM  
Anonymous pia said...

Tried commenting at BIO--great post.

Sometimes I think that our country does everything backwards.

A recent Pew poll said more Republicans are patriotic than Democrats. What were the variables? Such things as displaying the flag

May 30, 2005 at 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Tom Harper said...

Erik: Yeah, this has been an ongoing pattern for a long time. There's probably an exact formula that the more shrill they are about declaring war and yelling "America is Number One!!" the less willing they are to do anything for soldiers and veterans.

And the screaming irony, that some of those flaming liberals (both Kerrys, Bob and John; Dellums; Max Cleland) turn out to be military veterans. I hope this fact gnaws away at those sheltered trustfunded chicken hawks (in case those assholes are even capable of shame or embarrassment).

I didn't know that Dole played a part in cutting veterans' programs. Him of all people; that's a new low.

Landismom: Thanks. Yeah, banks and payday lenders prey on veterans while our pro-war lawmakers look the other way.

Pia: Thanks. Of course, patriotism is measured in how many yellow ribbons and flag decals you display, and how many pro-war demonstrations you attend.

May 30, 2005 at 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now you got me started but Harpers magazine once pointed out that the biggest Hawks never served.

Generally in the Senate: Democrats served more then Repubilicans Liberals more then the Hard Right


May 30, 2005 at 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Tom Harper said...

Erik: That sounds about right, based on everything else I've heard. Military adventurism seems to be part of the rightwing mindset; and their mindset also includes the idea that rich people are "better" and shouldn't have to get their hands dirty or endanger themselves. So from their point of view I guess it seems perfectly natural for a conservative president to declare war and Liberals to send their children off to fight and die to enrich the conservatives' campaign donors.

May 31, 2005 at 12:31 AM  
Blogger ~jay said...

My cousin is in the Marines and is somewhere over there.

I don't even know how to feel anymore.
On the one hand, most of my family are a bit more rightwing and think that it would be not-good for him to come home now, that he put himself in harms way and tried so hard all for naught.
On the other hand, every single time I hear a bulletin where "4 more Marines and [x ridiculous exponential number of] civilians and Iraqi soldiers were killed by yet another car bomb in Baghdad today," my heart hurts and I have to wait for them to stop talking about it and sedate me with another update on the Non vote in France and America's favorite marionette talking to a carefully-screened crowd of zombies about the New Un-Deal before I can relax again.

And then I wonder what it's going to be like when (I can't say "if") he finally gets home again.

BTW, Tom, a shortlist of the liberal media (non-blog) source I pay attention to:
The Daily Show.

NPR's pretty "dangerous" to all those important policies Bush wants to pass.... it's a pity no one knows what I'm talking about and have to explain that I'm talking about National Public Radio...

yeah. REAL dangerous. *sigh.*

and yet it feels like everyone can parrot the propaganda off Fox News but me... Well, in these here parts anyhow.
I've heard there are other liberals out there, and that they're "trying to tear down the fundamental values of this country."

(I hope I'm there to see that one through to completion! I've got a hammer.)


May 31, 2005 at 2:01 AM  
Blogger Brian Duffy said...

I have to first say that I am not a fan of your weblog. I only read it because of BlogExplosion. However, as retired veteran of 20 years I appreciate your article on the plight of veterans. Thanks for keeping focused on the issue. Too many liberal weblogs I have read through BlogExplosion used the holiday to slam the administration. Thanks for putting politics to the side.

May 31, 2005 at 2:51 AM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

These men are dishonorable. They proved that when they had their own chance to show their patriotism-they either got deferment after deferment, or got themselves installed in Guard jobs that they didn't even bother to show up for.

Given the contempt that they have shown for the very concept of service in the military (generally a profession for "them," not for the trust-funders) can anyone really be surprised at what El Shrubbo is doing to VA funding? This is just more Bushco Orwellian doublespeak-take anything Bush says, turn it on its head, and get the true meaning.

It is despicable-what we have done to Vietnam vets is abhorrent, and now here we fucking go again. Do the magnet-wearers even think about it? I think we all know the answer.

May 31, 2005 at 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Tom Harper said...

~jay: Sorry your cousin is over there. I hope he gets home safely.

Yeah, the Daily Show is great. I like NPR, but I usually want music instead of talk when I listen to the radio. But I used to have a coworker who always had NPR on; they're definitely right on it. I surf around to lots of different news sites: mainstream ones, plus Think Progress, Raw Story, Tom Paine.com; plus some right wing sites for contrast. I check out lots of views before I form my own.

Oh yeah, gotta watch out for those dang liberals who are "trying to tear down the fundamental values of this country."

Brian: Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you liked the post.

Jolly Roger: Yeah, they're pretty despicable. Cheney with his "I had other priorities," Bush serving 2 years of his 3-year Guard hitch (and his family connections got him to the top of the Guard's 3-year waiting list).

I like Jon Stewart's line: "Unlike Iraq, Bush had an exit strategy for Viet Nam."

As much as I'm against bringing back the draft, that lottery system they came up with toward the end of the Viet Nam war would have changed a lot of things. If Republicans' sons started getting drafted, politicians would be much more careful about invading other countries, and they'd be falling all over the returning veterans to make sure they had everything they needed. Well, in theory anyway.

May 31, 2005 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger chrisbilal said...

Is it just me, or does everyone use Memorial Day as an excuse to begin the grilling season. While they stuff their faces, some kid my age is dodging bullets.

June 3, 2005 at 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Tom Harper said...

Chris Bilal: Dodging bullets on Memorial Day? That sure sucks the big one.

As far as the grilling season goes, where I live (Northern Washington) it's not warm enough for barbecuing until sometime in July (and it doesn't last long either).

June 4, 2005 at 12:10 AM  
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