Thursday, August 09, 2007

Broken Promises and the Military Industrial Complex

A commentary by Clarence Page ran in my local paper today. The piece begins with the story of a marine who returned from Iraq in 2004 and committed suicide a few months later. His family is suing the Department of Veterans Affairs for denying him medical treatment:

The parents, who joined the antiwar group Military Families Speak Out after their son's death, do not seek money damages. They only hope their lawsuit will force the Bush administration to take swift action to overhaul the VA, they say."

The case of Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey is tragic, but hardly surprising. The same conservatives who call liberals "unpatriotic" for questioning the invasion of Iraq, and accuse us of "not supporting the troops," and claim that Democrats have "invested in failure" have been consistently underfunding the troops to a degree that can only be described as criminal. According to a related broadcast of Democracy Now:

"[In July] two major lawsuits were filed that could put the [Bush] administration's treatment of veterans on trial. A class-action suit on behalf of hundreds of thousands of soldiers accuses the Department of Veterans Affairs of ignoring veterans' mental health care needs and overzealously denying medical care and benefits. The plaintiffs are two veterans groups. Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth say returning soldiers are denied care through outright rejection or the long waiting process in a backlog of some 600,000 pending claims."

It's an injustice in the military-industrial complex that isn't discussed very often: The million-dollar ad campaigns that encourage young people to enlist in the military with promises of money for college, career training, and a way out of poverty. Taxpayer money is being thrown at advertising agencies and media markets - not to mention defense contractors - but when veterans need medical treatment there's no money to be found.

Up to 800,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are said to suffer or risk developing post-traumatic stress disorder - and the administration that promised them better lives and to make them "Army Strong" has nothing to offer them but empty words and yellow ribbon stickers.

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