From the July-August 2012 issue of News & Letters:
Vets used and abused
Memphis, Tenn.—When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, the military did find weapons of mass destruction in the form of chemical weapons. This was not made public, because the weapons had been a gift to Saddam Hussein from the U.S. Since the canisters still showed they were U.S. government property, they were destroyed, by the cheapest method, in open burn pits.
The chemical weapons manufactured by the U.S. are not designed only to kill instantly, but also cause long-term damage, even genetic damage to children born later. Soldiers serving in Iraq during the first five rotations guarding the burn pits or downwind of them now all have cancer or precancerous conditions.
KBR, the firm overseeing the burning, and other corporations that provided contracting work during the Iraq war were so greatly enriched that many believe this was the real reason the U.S. invaded Iraq and why the war lasted so long. Many U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq have stories of witnessing generals taking orders from corporate bosses, of battles being stopped to prolong the war, and of a new disregard for soldiers’ lives in the military.
When veterans return home, they fight a new war with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA), for medical care and disability benefits. While some VA doctors are helpful, others tell veterans they don’t really have physical and emotional injuries, even the obvious ones.
Bureaucrats handling disability benefits do the same thing, because every combat-related injury or illness represents a disability percentage. The VA prolongs for months or years the awarding of disability benefits. This is partly due to massive understaffing, but also done deliberately in hopes that veterans will die before the government has to provide money or services.
Today, more veterans die from suicide than from combat. When veterans cannot be employed and the government refuses pensions and disability, suicide will provide their spouses with survivor benefits, which cost the government less. Providing for their families is a major reason people join the military. All of this has contributed to the fact that, in the U.S., 23% of the homeless are veterans.
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a volunteer organization that exists to help veterans fight the VA. But since DAV only helps individuals, veterans and those who care about them need to form a mass movement. It can start with veterans and their families telling their stories. Like any oppressed workers under capitalism, veterans must still fight to be treated as valuable human beings rather than expendable, usedup objects whose sole function was to make money for others.
—Spouse of a disabled veteran