Sunday, April 27, 2008

Disabled Vets Struggle For Benefit Claims

Here's an interesting email from my inbox this morning:

Dear Peter,

Thank you for writing about how the current administration is hiding
the escalating human and financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Best, Paul.

Paul Sullivan
Executive Director
Veterans for Common Sense
Post Office Box 15514
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 558-4553

Paul@VeteransForCommonSense.org
http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/

When I googled Mr. Sullivan's name, I came across some information about another deplorable situation going on in the VA. The group Veterans For Common Sense has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, James Peake, because, as they say, "the Department of Veterans' Affairs ("DVA") is failing to provide adequate and timely [disability]benefits and medical care."

This comes after the VA's Undersecretary for benefits, Daniel Cooper, resigned this month for "personal reasons," after Mr. Sullivan from Veterans For Common Sense demanded an investigation into Mr. Cooper's comments in an interview where he said that Bible study "is more important" than doing his job because "the job's going to be there, whether I'm there or not."

Naturally there is nothing wrong with Bible study, but when a person like Mr. Cooper is in charge of handling an ever-increasing number of more than 600,000 benefit claims, many from new veterans, the job has to be done.

Under Mr. Cooper's tenure, where Bible study was "more importan" than handling benefit applications, "the average number of days to process a claim grew by three weeks to 132 days." If a veteran is denied a claim and decides to appeal, the process often drags on for more than three years, during which many veterans become homeless, addicted, or simply die.

Even though we are now involved in two wars, "the number of soldiers approved for permanent disability retirement [by Mr. Cooper's office] has plunged by more than two-thirds," since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, there has been a large increase in the number of veterans put on "temporary disability" and "lump sum" severance pay, which, of course, places a far lighter burden on the government who reserves the right to arbitrarily lower payments as they see fit.

The total amount spent on disability and severance payments totaled less than $1.5 billion dollars in 2004. Apparently the government was starved for money that year to help out retired veterans, although our President found it necessary to sign over $22.5 billion dollars worth of pork barrel spending for more than 10,000 different projects, including $6.1 million dollars earmarked to research ways to use wood.

Ironically there was an editorial in Madison (SD) Daily Leader last week calling
every earmark proposed by Congress to "be compared to what that money could do for a wounded soldier. If the earmark is more important (and many of them are, like providing clean water for thousands or safer schools), then it gets funded. If it doesn't (a museum for the Woodstock music festival, or playground equipment for a small town, or landscaping for downtown Miami), then it shouldn't."

Many of the 2 million disabled vets receive served by the VA receive only a couple hundred dollars a month, if they're lucky to get anything at all. President Bush should be ashamed for spending tens of billions each year on useless pork while letting the vets fend for themselves.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

Could you link to your original article through this one?

Cathlete.net

foutsc said...

I urge any veteran having trouble getting benefits to contact the Disabled American Veterans: http://www.dav.org

They are effective advocates for veterans and they work hand in glove the the federal government to fight for the rights of disabled veterans. They are often critical of government efforts but keep it non-partisan and focused on helping veterans.

Veterans for Common Sense is a progressive, anti-war organization whose main mission appears to be to attack President Bush. They have every right to do what they are doing, by the way, but they haven't really accomplished much materially for our vets.

You made the following unsubstantiated, feel good assertion:
"President Bush should be ashamed for spending tens of billions each year on useless pork while letting the vets fend for themselves."

First of all, Congress approves all spending. The president cannot spend a dime without their approval. Secondly, saying the president lets vets fend for themselves is a smear.

This is a serious, complex subject that needs much more attention. Making inflammatory statements and taking your information from groups with political agendas does not further the cause of helping veterans. Please do your homework next time.

Once again, I urge anyone concerned about veterans' issues to contact the Disabled American Veterans: http://www.dav.org. They are a legitimate, non-political advocacy organization that pulls no punches when fighting for our vets.

Anonymous said...

Foutsc,
I'm afraid you are only half-right. Congress does approve all the spending, but it is the President who submits the budget. He must submit a budget for Congress' consideration and they have the right to alter it. President Bush continues to shortchange veterans.

I find it hard to have much of anything beside contempt for President Bush. He ran away from his military commmittment, he sends soldiers on immoral wars and then he shorts the funding for their recovery and rehabilitation. He's great at marketing (what businessman aren't?), but he's terrible at actually delivering.

He's the classic "chickenhawk" along with V.P. Cheney who ". . . had more important things to do than fight in Vietnam . . .".

The political mastermind, Hermann Goering, said:
Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.


Pres. Bush has done this in our country and then refuses to take care of the returning soldiers. It's like he needs them to be useful for a time and then he'd rather they just go away. Of course, none of his family is fighting in this misbegotten war. This is nothing new for this country however, we love the soldiers who go to fight, we honor those who have died, but we'd rather forget about those who return. It's a disgrace.

Peter said...

Hey foutsc, Congress doesn't hold a gun to Bush's head and force him to sign pork barrel spending bills.

Veterans for Common Sense is suing the VA secretary because benefits for disabled vets are going down and waiting time is going up, even as the federal budget is increasing.

If Bush really cared about vets, don't you think he could find it in his heart not to decrease their benefits even if he to cut pork barrel spending in order to do so?

Anonymous said...

Peter:

It is one thing to discuss problems, it is another to refuse solutions. We can debate whether Congress hold a gun to the President's head or vise versa, but that is not going to solve any problems for Veterans. Foutsc offered you a suggestion and it appears that you do not want to look into it. It is fine to score partisan points, but by doing so, you are not helping Veterans.

Please look into the idea given to you by Foutsc and then carry on your partisan contest if you must after the needs of Veterans are met.

OHIO JOE

Peter said...

Criticizing a failed Bush policy had nothing to do with being partisan. If a policy stinks, it doesn't make a difference whether it was started by a Dem or a Republican.

foutsc said...

Veterans affairs is one of the last areas where congress still crafts bi-partisan solutions. Let's not poison those waters as well.

There are a few hallmarks of a good veterans' advocacy organization. One is that they have both democratic and republican friends in government. They embrace anyone willing to help their cause. Another is that they assiduously avoid name-calling and stirring controversy. They stay focused on helping veterans.

This is an important issue that has many complexities. Disability payments on one hand, and care of vets with mental problems on the other are two completely separate issues. Reimbursement for prosthetics, classification of injuries, statutory demarcation between DoD and VA responsibilities ... The list is endless.

I appreciate your concern for our troops. Lay off the Bush-bashing and focus on concrete ways to improve their lot. It starts by getting the facts from impartial sources. Much work needs to be done for our wounded warriors. Let's drop the platitudes, stop the bad-mouthing, and get on with it. Here are a few links to get you started:

http://www.woundedwarriors.org/

http://www.rollingthunder1.com/

http://www.saluteheroes.org/

Peter said...

The Bush administration has failed veterans. Stop labeling everything critical of him to be "Bush-bashing."

And since when do veterans groups have to be loyal to Republicans in order to qualify as "good?"

Impuning the patriotism of the vets at Vets for Common Sense is highly un-American.

foutsc said...

You either didn't read what I wrote or you are purposely distorting what I said. I said nothing about anyone needing to be a loyal Republican (I sure aint one!). I also did not impugn anyone's patriotism. Ironically, you impugned mine in your response. I said they have an agenda that detracts from support for veterans. Saying Bush leaves vets to fend for themselves is a blatant distortion that qualifies as bashing.

Our government has a long history of failing our veterans that predates President Bush. Ever hear of the WWI veterans' march on Washing that had to be broken up by US Army troops let by MacArthur?

Our veterans need better care and support. Engaging in gratuitous criticism and partisanship won't get it done. Responsible people of all political stripes know that already. Why don't you drop the sophomoric rhetoric and join them?

You need to stick to topics you know something about and stop playing patsy to people with ulterior motives.

foutsc said...

Here's my side of the story:
http://foutsc.blogspot.com/

-Nietzsche is Dead

Anonymous said...

The point is that Bush-bashing (and Congress bashing) might make us feel good, but it does not solve the problem at hand. We cannot go through life being bitter; we need to pray to GOD and ask our countrymen daily for solutions in life.

Yesterday morning, I was under the impression that a certain local store had chicken on sale. It appeared not to be the case, so instead of trashing the store manager, the administration and Congress. I simply went to another store later in the day to buy chicken. I realize that not every solution may be that simple, but if we do not live this way, it could be a recipe for heart trouble later in life. Again, Foutsc has offered you a solution. As a matter of fact, several web-sites have been offered. Some of these organizations I am more familiar than others.

Yes Foutsc is opinionated like the rest of us, but Foutsc puts finding solutions ahead of partisanship.

OHIO JOE

Peter said...

You act as if Bush can do no wrong and any criticism of him is bad. No wonder you can't wake up to reality.

Finntann said...

The partisanship on both sides is a disgrace. I have no problem with people who are against the war, I have a problem with people who are against the war and tried to mask their position and agenda behind other real issues. Think I am wrong? Check out the Veterans for Commonsense website yourself. Follow their link to ploughshares...check their pressroom, and check out their blog while you are at it...
Gov. Richardson calls for full and immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Gallipoli or Stalingrad: Congress must end the lost Iraq War.

Interesting form 990 by the way, especially since you are spending as much (1 cent more) on your anti-torture campaign than your veterans outreach programs.

From review of your website and related content it appears that you are by far more of an anti-war organization than a veterans organization. I agree with Foutsc... anyone needing veterans support would be far better off going to the DAV.

Might I leave you with a quote from your supposed source of inspiration, Thomas Paine?

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.

~Finntann~ a 24-year veteran

Anonymous said...

Well said Finntann, our first concern should be helping the Veterans. Whether Mr. Bush is always right or always wrong is a side issue at this point.

OHIO JOE

Anonymous said...

How can you separate the war from the planner of the war?

If the war is wrong, doesn't supporting the troops mean that we don't send any more over and bring home the ones who are there?

If the war is wrong, then why should those who volunteer get lifetime benefits because they decided to align themselves with an immoral purpose? What about individual decision-making and the risks/rewards it entails?

If the war is wrong, why should my earnings be reduced by increased taxes or debt (inflation) or decreased services in order to support the bad decisions of those in Iraq?

Why should someone fight for soldier benefits when one knew all along that this was an unjust war?

Freedom isn't free because warmongers use up other people's blood and treasure that could be more productive in things other than aggressive war. Most people lose either family, friends or earnings and a few reap the financial rewards. Smedley Butler was right, he just isn't being listened to.

Why is it when a person is "digging a hole for themselves, the first thing to do is to stop digging", but when it comes to war the advice is to "dig more"? When do we stop "digging" and start being morally responsible?

Why don't you spend energies on getting bipartisan support to end this war and not start a war with Iran? Then without money being spent on war machinery, we can then spend it on those who gave of themselves? I think you need to stop war first and then you can concentrate on healing the soldiers. What do you think?

foutsc said...

Anonymous: Your point is well taken. My only aim here is to point out legitimate veterans organizations for those who want to help in some way. Finntann pulled the covers back and what he found confirms what I have been saying. That organization has every right to do what they do, but their agenda gets in the way of helping vets.
If you want to end the war, God bless you! You are a well-spoken advocate for your cause. I just think veterans issues should not be politicized.

foutsc said...

Peter said: "You act as if Bush can do no wrong and any criticism of him is bad. No wonder you can't wake up to reality."
------------------
Another unproven assertion. Your criticism of the president was emotional and bereft of facts, just like your last response. I have plenty of criticism for this administration, but others express is so thoroughly I don't need to add my voice. That would just be piling on.

Peter said...

Do "legitimate" organizations count as those who don't criticize an administration who cuts benefits while increasing pork-barrel spending?

foutsc said...

Legitimate organizations stick to the mission of helping vets.

Outrageously irresponsible spending is a partnership between congress and the president. All parties have their snouts in the trough. It's still wrong, but congress must share the blame with the President.

Anonymous said...

Foutsc said, "If you want to end the war, God bless you."

Seems to me that we are in agreement then.

Blessings,
JASNA GORAK

Peter said...

Vets groups who point out that benefits for disabled veterans are being cut while pork barrel spending are only re-iterating what has been pointed out by John McCain and his supporter Sen. TOm Coburn.

foutsc said...

... and the good ones do it without name-calling.

You're a Catholic. Remember how gracious the Holy Father was when he visited? Despite his disapproval of our foreign policy, he had a good visit with Pres Bush, among others. He states his position politely, respectfully and with the full power of his logic behind it. Because of that, he is respected by many who may disagree with him or who may not be catholic. Maybe there's a lesson there somewhere...

Anonymous said...

Well said Foutsc, The Holy Father did indeed stated both his agreements and disagreements in a professional manner and is thus respected by many in our country. In away, he is almost the first American POPE. GOD Bless Him.

OHIO JOE

Finntann said...

Anonymous said "If the war is wrong, then why should those who volunteer get lifetime benefits because they decided to align themselves with an immoral purpose? What about individual decision-making and the risks/rewards it entails?"

I can not believe what I am reading, are you proposing that we live in such an idyllic world that we can do away with the military completely? Let me explain something to you, you join the military to support your country, where you go is a decision left to others. How many would volunteer to defend this great nation of ours if their future afterwards was left to the vagaries of opinion of the likes of you. Shame on you.

You also said "If the war is wrong, why should my earnings be reduced by increased taxes or debt (inflation) or decreased services in order to support the bad decisions of those in Iraq?"

Are we to pick and choose what are taxes support, individually, outside of the houses of congress? Are those who oppose abortion free to withhold that portion of his tax from the government? The list goes on... how many programs do you disagree with? Should my earnings be reduced by those who leech off of the welfare teat?

The concept seemingly so hard for you to grasp is that of the common good. The invasion of Iraq after years and years of one UN sanction after another was authorized by congress... after the fact, you may disagree, you may protest, and you may vote for whom you wish. The issue now is not whether or not we should invade Iraq, but under what circumstances we should withdraw, keeping in mind our assumed moral obligation to the Iraqi people for their current state of affairs. Or should we just withdraw and let them kill each other? Got problems with Darfur? If so, you need to seriously reexamine your ideas vis a vis Iraq.

Let me leave you with this thought:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

~John Stewart Mill

DR said...

Peter,

As a veteran I want to thank you for these last couple of posts. You are a credit to your parents.

Peter said...

Veterans groups exist for the purpose of advocating for vets, not remaining silent while benefits for disabled soldiers are cut.

Anonymous said...

Yes, John Stewart Mill was correct, those who will fight for nothing are miserable creatures. Whether one agree with the anti-war movement or not, it is clear that the most extreme among them (not the moderates) have brought bitterness and mal-contentment to this land and this is sad. It is such bitterness that bring disrespect to our troops. May GOD soften their hearts.

OHIO JOE

Anonymous said...

In the end, I must thank you, Ohio Joe and foutsc, for helping us to realize that we should articulate our concerns with this administration in a way that makes it clear that the principles we are defending are more important than attacking persons.

Sometimes the way in which we say something can obscure the essential truth behind our argument.

Let's give the President the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. I'm sure he's a good man who means well. Yet it must frankly and respectfully be said that perhaps we would all be a lot better off if he had listened to the advice that the Holy Father (and some of his own Generals) had offered.

In the end, I'm sure we can all agree that the question of how best to get out of Iraq in the quickest and most moral fashion is one that requires much wisdom and prayer.

Also, it really isn't all that radical to say that gov't shouldn't spend more than it takes in, and pork barrel spending is wrong, whether it occurs under republicans or democrats.

Lastly, to our brave veterans. God bless you for your sacrifice! Your physical, emotional and spiritual well being are so important to us that the decision to go to war should only be made when it is obvious that it is the only possible way out, and in this respect the Catholic/Christian just war teaching is very relevant and helpful to prevent us from making any more (however well intentioned) mistakes.

May our government fulfill its moral obligations to give you all the prompt and best care that America can offer you!

In Our Lady,

JASNA GORAK

Anonymous said...

Finntann,

My point is that our military no longer is a defensive force, but merely a tool for the imperialistic mindset that controls our country. Anyone with an eye toward history can see that. We have troops stationed in over 130 countries in over 700 bases. The warfare state has become the new welfare program. Oh sure, the propaganda of "serving you country" sounds good, but they aren't really protecting us. We spend 50% of the military spending throughout the world. Are you saying that if we concentrated our forces at our borders instead of all over the world we would be vulnerable? Wake up to reality. This Empire, like all those before it, will go broke in the name of patriotism and flag-waving----just like every other "empire". The only question is how much time will elapse.

I liked it better when the USA was a Republic and the people who served were those who were protecting our own land, not somebody else's. I liked it better when it was the War Department, not the Department of Defense.

It's in our best interest to not intervene in the affairs of others, but to interact with others in free trade. Peace and free trade have done more to advance the hopes and dreams of men than any war ever has.

Catholics have always known that to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one must show by his actions that he is sincere. Jesus preached a love that transcends man's view of the world. Man has been warlike forever. It takes true courage to advocate peace, especially in these times.

The original, wordier full quotation from John Stuart Mill is:

“ But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.

When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people.

A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Now that quote, with the one sentence isolated, is what is going on in our country. I, and others like me, would fight against any enemy from a foreign land who dared attack my country. Unfortunately, the current war is one in which our country is playing the attackers and trying to take over someone else's land. The Iraqis are the ones fightin tyrannical injustice---just like our patriots did in 1776. Remember that cause? Now we are playing the role of England! That's a disgrace and shame on those who can't see that.

All of your premises are based on this being a "glorious war". I respectfully disagree with you. If a war is not just---as I stated with every question---your whole argument falls flat.

Now with regard to what we should do now---leave or stay? See the post about "digging a hole". Also here are some analogies that may be able to penetrate:

1) The country of Iraq has essentially been demolished. The right-wingers keep saying the answer is continued large-scale military action. That’s like if someone got into a car accident, went into a coma, and the doctors believed the patient could be healed by more car accidents. So they just keep putting him into cars and sending him off cliffs.

2) At the Petraeus hearings, he refused to give any sort of definition for “victory” in Iraq. That’s like running a foot race, you’ve gone 30 miles, you’re exhausted, and when you ask your coach driving along next to you how much farther, he just keeps saying “You’ll know it when you get there.” He keeps saying that until you collapse and die.

3) We claim to be “fighting the terrorists” in Iraq, but in fact our presence is helping to create more terrorists. The disaster in Iraq serves as a great training and recruiting tool for an entire generation of terrorists. It’s like trying to kill a gremlin by dousing him in water.


Guardian

foutsc said...

JASNA GORAK: Amen!

Gambit said...

I like this blog but this particular blog post, I disagree with in a few ways. I mean, it's nice that the author brought up the fact that our wounded vets aren't getting the care they deserve, but blaming everything on Bush isn't the answer.

The fact is, BOTH President Bush and Congress, BOTH Republicans and Democrats are at fault here. Our entire government has failed our soldiers in many ways. We need to be looking for solutions and we need to kick all the inadequate members of Congress out of office this year and in 2 years. Bush won't be here much longer, so blaming him won't do much. Sadly, none of the 3 remaining Senators still running to become our next President will do anything about this either. Nope, not even the POW vet John McCain.

Finntann said...

Guardian-

So, you do not believe this war is in a good cause. Do you fall for the propaganda line that it is for oil? Cause if you do, have you checked the price of gas lately?

I am glad you posted the entire Mill quote, for I believe that it defends my position. For this use of force was authorized by both houses of congress. The reason, usually bandied about is WMD's, yet this was one of only many reasons given for the House resolution, which was passed into law as Public Law 107-243. Other reasons given, which you don't hear the anti-war crowd rallying around were:
Non-compliance with the 1991 ceasefire.
Iraq's brutal repression of its civilian population.
It's capability and readiness to use WMDs not only against it's own population but other nations as well (Kurds, Iran)
and so on and so forth.

Was this not a war of liberation? Are the Iraqi people not better off without Saddam? Is our role not more like that of the French in the American revolution than the British? We have toppled a repressive dictatorial regime and instituted an Iraqi elected government in its place. Having eliminated the Saddam regime, do we not have a moral obligation to see things out until the end?

We spent 7 years in Japan and 10 year in Germany following WWII... the obligation to the civilians of Iraq is clear under international law...to abandon them would be a war crime in and of itself.

Motivation for carrying out the invasion is at this point, irrelevant, we can not withdraw without leaving a stable and capable government in charge.

As taught repeatedly by history, isolationism and appeasement have never prevailed, sure we could build 'Fortress America' and we would be okay for awhile... until some whack job smuggled a primitive nuclear weapon into NY, LA, or Baltimore. While that is an extreme example, how far is it from flying planes in concert into buildings. A stable and democratic middle east is the key to reducing the terrorist threat. The link between Saddam and terrorist organizations is and was weak, the argument for getting rid of him was not, and really WMDs were not the reason for going in, it was only one small aspect of the argument behind the use of force. Without WMDs and a terrorist connection, the use of force to topple a despot is still valid. He was a threat to America, the region, and the entire world, as was Hitler in 1930's. Should we have waited until 2010 and after he invaded Saudi Arabia?

The middle east is the key to world peace. We would be far better served standing by our principles of liberty and freedom, as we are in Iraq in instituting a democratic government, than propping up petty two-bit dictators and kings for convenience.

You can argue what individuals motivations are until you are blue in the face, you can never know them. Sure, you can compare Bush with Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot...but that doesn't make it so. You can label the Iraq war a 'Imperial war of aggression' fought for profit and the corporate good, yet I think your sentiment far, far misplaced. Taking any argument to extremes, vilifying your opposition, does this serve to further the principles of our American Republic? I think in the long run you will discover that America has neither Imperial or Colonial ambitions in Iraq, the question is will that be with a rationale and logical withdrawal? or after tens or hundreds of thousands die in sectarian genoncide?

We are there.... fait accompli, and since we are there, we are responsible for what happens there, now and in the future, however we choose to withdraw. Should we be responsible for peace and stability, or should we be responsible for another Darfur?

Ask yourself, Is Iraq better off now than under Saddam and what is the best way for us to extricate ourselves from this position. For I believe a complete and unilateral withdrawal of US troops is foolish and will result in much more death and suffering than our presence.

I do not support 'War in Iraq', I do however, support America taking responsibility for it's actions and acting in the best interest of the Iraqi people.

What, other than a democratically elected Iraqi goverment, has America gotten out of this war? Aside from the loss of some billions of dollars and some 4000 American soldiers, who if their deaths result in a free and stable Iraq will have been for a noble and just cause. Their deaths are on your hands and mine, through the actions of our elected representatives. Shall we unilaterally withdraw, let Iraq descend into sectarian anarchy and violence, and let their deaths have been in vain? Or should we leave Iraq a better place than we found it?

My response was specifically to the statement that "If the war is wrong, then why should those who volunteer get lifetime benefits because they decided to align themselves with an immoral purpose?"

The problem with the anti-war movement, although in all reality it ought to be called 'the anti-occupation' movement, is that they haven't convinced me, nor seemingly the American public that 'this war is wrong and immoral'. You make the nonsensical arguments that Bush=Hitler, and that the war is fought for the advancement of Halliburton, none of which you can back up with cold hard facts. The cold hard fact is this... the world is down one petty and tyrannical dictator, up one popularly elected democratic government. I would go so far as to say that the blind adherence to a pacifist ideology is worse than immoral, it is evil. Your arguments of 'peace at any cost' falls upon deaf ears, and I believe in that from a long term historical purpose you will go down in history with the likes of Neville Chamberlain. America needs to do more to foster democracy and the rights of man in this world, not less.

The argument is not an argument of In or Out...for that is the argument of fools. The argument and discussion is how, having toppled a dictator, do we now withdraw doing the minimum amount of harm to the Iraqi populace. For it is their blood that shall be on our hands if things go awry after we leave.

Don't oversimplify things

And to get back to the original point, if you wish to support vets do so through a legitimate apolitical veterans organization. The DAV spends millions to assist disabled vets, Veterans for Common Sense, according to their own IRS disclosures have spent some sixteen thousand, while they spend thousands more on their anti-torture campaign (A noble cause) and even more on their 'anti-war' educational programs. All noble actions in and of themselves, and unworthy of the shell game they play with them. While I welcome whatever assistance they may provide to disabled veterans, as a veteran I find their use of 'veterans causes' to further their own political agenda offensive, and despite that, will defend to the death their right to do so.

If you do not wish to support veterans, by all means don't, although I will personally consider you the most despicable of beasts (no great loss there, my opinion of you, eh?).


~Finntann~

Dominique said...

I am one of the Vets that this article refers two. It took me three years and lots of help to get my claim approved. I had to appeal it twice. I was told halfway through the process by a doctor that the VA sent me to that he was stunned that I hadn't been compensated for several items because they could be directly linked all the way back to my time in the military.

Additionally, the VA does not provide good health care for us. I often joke with my friends and tell them if they want to see what Obama or Clinton health care will look like, look no further than the VA!

Thanks for the article and the good work. I will vote for your article at real clear politics.com.

Anonymous said...

Fintann,

I see you have fallen for all of the propaganda talking points that the neo-conservatives have been shouting all these many years. I don't have several 24 hour "news" channels to help sway you to the side of reason and logic. The New American Century . org gang went into office specifically to "take on the world". Go read for yourself the "global master plan".

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI both spoke out against this war/occupation before it started and after it occurred. I will follow my shepherd when I hear his voice and though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil.

Over 1 million Iraqi deaths, destroyed cities, homes and lives disrupted have been the result and you have the audacity to think Iraq is better off. I guess that is your privelege to make pronouncements about a people being better off with us there? Typical Imperialist attitude that the children can't really run their own show. I wonder what would happen if they had a vote for ending U.S. occupation? Or if we had one for ending this war? Is that even allowed? Oh, Democracy--such a useful tool of the masses for running the government.

Ok, now a question that needs to be answered---Are you in favor of war with Iran?

Principles---Jesus' non-violent way, Just War theory, Rule of Law---Geneva & Nuremberg---need to be analyzed. Will you speak on the side of reason or will you go mad with war?

Guardian

Anonymous said...

Guardian:

I would truly like to know where you get your figure of 1 million dead Iraqis. I have heard all kinds of wild figures from the Left, but this take the cake. If fear it is neo-liberal propaganda. Yes the war is painful, but pulling numbers out of the sky is not the answer. No wonder you think Iraq is worse off, you appear very selective as to which facts to believe. What Finntann said went over your head.

Yes this war is painful, but do you really think things would be pain free if we decided not to go to war? The price of war is high in deed, but sometimes that price needs to be paid. I have no problem giving either my some of tax dollar or some of my personal funds to help veterans.

I pray that we do not have to go to war with Iran, Syria or Venezuela and so forth. I am not looking forward to paying the price, I am not looking forward to helping young men of my parish and my community killed in battle. I hope that there will come peaceful solutions to such conflicts. While we need to continue to fast and pray, we also need to prepare for battle while we pray that the battle will not have to come.

OHIO JOE

Anonymous said...

Ohio Joe,

The Lancet (British Journal of Medicine) has the study, methods, conclusions at their website. They are the ones who have also done the mortality rates in Darfur and are called upon to do those studies around the world.

http://www.thelancet.com/webfiles/images/journals/lancet/s0140673606694919.pdf

You label me as neo-liberal (btw, what does that term mean?). The only label I will accept is Catholic--follower of Christ and his Church. These politics of war and destruction go against our Church's teachings.

Trade and friendship has brought about more change in Vietnam than 15 years of war. Must we learn this lesson again. I tend to agree with those who believe that America is strongest when we engage in trade and communication with others (show them by actions the morality of America). America should not be isolationist or shrink from threats, but it also should not be going overseas seeking monsters to destroy. People in their own country have the right and duty to change their own government---look at Eastern European nations. Those citizens were under dictatorships, the U.S. didn't liberate them, and they overthrew and made new.

Guardian

foutsc said...

Anonymous: Here is some more data, please read my blog post on the March 2008 survey by BBC, ARD,and other respected news organizations. I have a link there to the actual study results at the ABC News website:

http://foutsc.blogspot.com/2008/03/iraqi-opinion-poll-march-2008.html

“From two-thirds to 80 percent of Iraqis support future U.S. efforts conducting security operations..."

“Fifty-five percent of Iraqis say things in their own lives are going well"

(sarcasm) Of course, things were better under Saddam. 100% of the people were satisfied with their lives, just look at Iraqi election results: He always got 100% of the vote. Hard to improve on that! (sarcasm)

Whether the invasion was right or wrong is a moot point. We have to bring this to a good end. We owe it to our troops and their families, and we owe it to the Iraqis.

For the record, I pray for peace. I do not support invading Iran, Syria, Venezuela or any other country.

foutsc said...

Here's the link:
You'll have to paste it in in two pieces, or just go to the site and click on March Archives and scroll down to the article entitled: Iraqi Opinion Poll.
http://foutsc.blogspot.com/2008/03/
iraqi-opinion-poll-march-2008.html

And no, I don't just cheer lead. There is some serious analysis there.

NY Catholic Mom said...

To all of you commenters:

I have been reading your comments very closely and just want to applaud all of you for your serious and earnest dialogue.

I have to agree with Guardian on his arguments against the war and the present occupation of Iraq. (Your analogies are priceless!)

However, Finntan, you have made the most thoughtful rationale I have seen yet in defense of the war and the present course of action.

I don't agree with you, but I believe that you have the best of intentions in promoting the idea that America should export democracy in places where it has never existed before.

It's just too bad that more people can't engage in this kind of respectful dialogue on this issue.

It is a very painful subject, but I believe it would be best for our country if we could reach some kind of consensus on it soon.

Anonymous said...

NY Catholic Mom:

For the record and for what it is worth, while we have disagreements on this issue, I just want to be clear that I believe that both you and JASNA GORAK have no ill will. I further believe that you hold no bitterness; I am concerned that a small portion of our country does have bitterness.

I also have no regret for my position with regards to the Iraq war. While we can debate the actually cost of the war both in terms of money and lives, there is no question the cost is high and I for one am not suprised that the cost is high. I happen to believe the alternative (putting off the war)would be a higher cost.

At this particular point in history, I am against war with Iran or any other country. However, war takes two sides and a future is not going too be avoided just because we wanted avoided. Most wars have a very high price, but at times the price of peace is higher. With regards to Iraq, the price of peace would have been higher for both countries. I do not believe this is the case with any other country (including Iran) yet and I truly pray that we do no see another war. I am not ashamed to be Pro-war, but I do not favor war just for the sake of it. Fortunately, Iranians are in a better position than the Iraqis to overthrow their government should the need arise.

Finally, I would like to thank Foutsc for truly helping the Veterans.

OHIO JOE

foutsc said...

NY Catholic Mom is right on (although we disagree on Guardian's analogies :)).

Here's where I think the Bush administration comes in for criticism: It has failed to adequately define and explain the larger war on terror /democratization effort. How can people get on board when they don't even know what they are signing on to? This is a failure of vision and a failure of communication.

Another criticism I have is that there are other components besides military to an undertaking like Iraq. Our military is carrying the entire burden, and doing a stellar job. The Bush administration has failed to get the diplomatic, financial and economic components of this operation working.

Having said that, I don't think President Bush is a criminal. I think he is a sincere man who has not executed his plans well and who has done a poor job picking his staff. Let's not be too quick to chalk up to malfeasance what can more easily be explained by incompetence.

This is a shame, because freeing people from tyranny and ignorance is always a noble effort. Unfortunately his botching it has actually hurt that cause.

Finntann said...

-Guardian, let me try and make this simpler by bring it down to 1 of 2 choices.

1. Unilateral withdrawal: We start pulling troops out immediately and completely.

2. Planned withdrawal: Set goals, determine criteria, evaluate the situation, withdraw troops as the situation on the ground allows transferring responsibility to American trained Iraqi forces.

Which of these two choices is the 'moral' choice?

The issue of whether or not to invade Iraq has passed, that decision has already been made and can not be undone. Now we are there, a fact that can not be disputed, and are ethically, morally, and legally responsible for what happens there. The question now is how we can morally and ethically withdraw, causing the minimum harm to the Iraqi people.

Set aside the propaganda, labels, hatred, bias, and political agendas. Set aside the moral argument of whether we should have gone in there or not, for we are there, and ask yourself. What is the right thing to do now, and how do we execute it.

We can dispute reasons, numbers, and motives all day... but we will be discussing the past. I'm not saying that these should not be discussed, but that they are not relevant to how and when we withdraw. Even if you think the invasion of Iraq to be the most heinous thing ever to have occurred in the history of mankind...you can not wash your hands of the matter and throwing off any responsibility, simply leave.

The moral rightness of the war has nothing to do with our assumed obligation to the Iraqi people. The moral rightness of the war also has nothing to do with our assumed obligation to those who have fought it in our name. Do not let us forget our obligation to those like Dominique, and in God's name...do not turn your backs on them.

Dia Dhuit

~Finntann~

foutsc said...

Well stated, Finntann.
I agree completely. You've logically and clearly laid out the decision at hand. I particularly like how you show that even if invasion was morally wrong, we nonetheless now have a moral obligation to the Iraqi people.

I agree with you that a precipitous withdrawal right now spell disaster for that country, and our enemies would perceive it as a surrender and defeat on our part. That would in turn teach others not to trust the US, thus reinforcing a miserable status quo.

Two key facts that provide a ray of hope: 1) The Iraqi army is better today than it was a year ago. 2) The Iraqi government is more effective than it was a year ago.

If we can continue to support these two efforts, keeping the trend line going up, we can take a much lower profile. Please don't anyone be fooled: Regardless of who is in the White House, we will have forces in the Middle East until doomsday. It really is about the oil. Try running a global economy without it.

Anonymous said...

Then why is gas $4.00 a gallon?

reggie said...

If the Iraqi Army is so good, why did the USAF have to bail them out just last month when they attacked Basra? And if the government is so great, why did we scold it for attacking Basra on its own? Seems to me like an independent government is what Bush has said he wants, right?

How can they independent if they have to be told what to do by the US and their army has to always be bailed out by Americans?

foutsc said...

Anonymous: gas is $4.00 a gallon because it is a mainly dollar denominated commodity and the dollar is down. Another factor is increased demand due to growth in the developing world. My point is that we wouldn't give a hoot in hell for that part of the world if it weren't for the oil. That does not make our cause any less noble: The world needs a free flow of this resource.

Reggie: I did not say things were perfect. I said that things have improved. You just made my point that leaving now would be disastrous for the Iraqis. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of getting further off topic, Gas in Ohio has not reached $4.00; we are not quite as socialistic as New York, Canada and Europe and thus have a much lower rate of gas tax.

Whether is was due to good luck, good Management on our side or good Management on the Iraqi side, Basra was a succuss story and a disaster that was prevented. An illustration of how the peace movement should be careful about what is wishes for.

OHIO JOE

reggie said...

Basra would have turned into a bloodbath for the Iraqi army if the US hadn't saved it. Btw, don't worry, gas will get to $4.00 in your state soon.

The dollar is crashing because of the great strain the war is putting on our finances. We must borrow more than we can afford and as a result the once-strong dollar is now becoming worthless as we speak.

foutsc said...

Our finances were strained before this war, Reggie. Both parties (the Demicans and the Republicrats) have conspired to put us on a fiscally unsustainable course. You think the war costs a lot? Go look at entitlement spending projections (medicare, medicaid and social security alone will consume the entire budget in 20 years or so.) Right now entitlements are over 50%, I think. These are untouchable expenditures that must be paid. Yes, we have budget problems, and the war is but one factor.

foutsc said...

Another thing... I share your concerns, but what bothers me is the almost gleeful manner Bush haters catalog our woes. We had budget deficits before President Bush, we had veterans problems, but nobody seemed to care back then. All I can say is welcome to the club.

Also, anytime anyone hears a politician make a promise, the first question to him or her should be, how are you going to pay for it? We love goodies and politicians love playing the candyman. Until this vicious cycle is broken, we will continue on this path.

Finally, hanging all our problems on one man promotes the false hope that all will be better when he's gone and shields other malefactors from being blamed. All politicians should be scrutinized

Also, don't hug one politician or one party too closely. You're sure to be disappointed. I look forward to the day I can vote for a sensible, middle of the road, pro-life democrat. But maybe I'm dreaming...

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head Foutsc, listening to some of these characters, one would think that there was no such thing as social security before the war. It is also interesting that the same character that are now complaining that the Iraq war created high gas prices were the same ones who cried "No blood for oil." They have missed the whole point.

They are also missing out on a good economy. I guess they figure if we raise the gas tax an extra 20 cents we can solve the social security problems and make our dollar strong. It would be truly hilarious if it were not so sad.

OHIO JOE

Anonymous said...

Cutting spending and borrowing and eliminating the national debt would make the dollar strong.

Anonymous said...

Yes cutting spending would make the dollar stronger, but let's not forget, a weak dollar is not the problem in and of itself, it is the symptom. Over spending on both the government level and the consumer level is putting pressure on the dollar, low interest rates are also putting pressure on the dollar.

Too many non economists get themselves worked up and worry about the strength of the dollar. A strong dollar is a double edge sword, while it give us more buying power, it makes it difficult for us to sell manufacturing goods to the world market. The dollar will take care of itself when other issues are addressed.

This is not the only time in history that the American dollar is low. The dollar was not exactly high in the early 1990s. In fact, when the Euro first became an unofficial currency, it was higher than the American dollar. The American dollar was actually lower than the Canadian dollar in the 1970s and if one wants to go back to the Civil War, the American dollar was worth only 50 cents Canadian. Finally, the Canadian dollar was the main currency in Southeast Michigan in 1907. So economic history tells me not to get excited about the dollar. It is not that I do not care about the economy at all, but the value of the dollar is frankly, the least of my worries.

The dollar is not a worthless as Reggie is trying to tell us. The only thing that the war might have to do with the weak dollar is that our administration may have not been defending our dollar in order to punish the manufacturers and the tourist industry of Old Europe. This probably was not needed. A local Catholic Tour operator told me a few years ago that while his overall business was OK, he could no longer convince Catholics to go on pilgrimages to countries that opposed the War.

OHIO JOE

Peter said...

This war has caused us to borrow massive amounts of money that we can't afford. No wonder our currency is sinking when the euro is not

Anonymous said...

Currencies move in cycles, this week the dollar is in an upswing again. We spend more money on social security than we do on the military. If it is the strength of the dollar which is of concern (which it should not be anyways) let's cut and run from social security. Let's not cut anymore social security checks if we are so desperate to cut spending and thus strengthen the dollar.

In reality, the dollar is down, but it is not tanking. Nobody worried about the low dollar during the Civil War. Now that the value of the dollar is greater several years later, we should not worry about the dollar now either. Cutting spending is fine and good, but cutting spending for the only purpose of lifting the value of the dollar is pure follishness.

OHIO JOE

reggie said...

Wasteful spending and massive debt is the reason for the dollar's decline. It's damn well impossible to blame it on anything else. You don't see UK borrowing through the bloody noose now do you?

Anonymous said...

Yes you do see the UK and other European countries borrowing money like crazy. Furthermore, Although Canada is not borrowing money right now, its debt is still higher per capita than ours.

I agree the main reason (not all) that we are borrowing money is due to wasteful spending, but such spending does not all come from one (or even a few) categories. Furthermore, not all wasteful spending is done at the Federal level.

OHIO JOE

Anonymous said...

It's been a few days---Baseball season you know.

To wrap up Finntann's question:

I think that an orderly withdrawal in as little time as possible is our best alternative. Our soldiers have to be able to leave asap, but without being targeted. I believe that our staying there only delays the inevitable withdrawal. While we are there, as all facts show, there has been death and destruction. When we leave there will be death and destruction. We need to leave and leave now. Our moral duty would be to support whatever government takes over and help them to rebuild their country through aid and trade.

But I don't think Bush and Co. or any of the new contenders will consider withdrawal. I believe that the current parties (as Foutsc termed them Republicrats and Demicans) are both Imperialistic. I believe they disregard history and think they are the ones who can finally "take over the world" and run it according to their designs. In fact, they've built the largest military base in the world in the middle of the desert---they will not abandon it. Any talk of withdrawal is merely a figurative game of "maybe in the future".

That's why I bring up Iran. Looking at all the buildup over attacking Iraq and how many twists and turns and spin and propaganda and falsifications occurred, the argument was "well, we're there now and we can't just leave." (It sounds like you may believe that as well and I would agree if there weren't so many falsehoods associated with this fiasco.) We need to be able to clearly see through all the "stuff" that we will be hearing over the next few weeks/months about Iran. We need to stop the next war NOW. All of the signs are there---old commander Fallon gone, new commander Petraeus in, a second aircraft carrier group dispatched to the Persian Gulf, U.S. troops in every country surrounding Iran, resolutions declaring Iran's army a terrorist organization, military sources saying that Iranian weapons are in Iraq, rumors of a Syria/N. Korea connection, fallacies about Iran's nuclear weapons program (Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty whereas Israel, Pakistan and India are not), misrepresentation of Iran's President claiming to want to wipe Israel off the map (his real speech--not the White House version---is not what we've been led to believe), etc. etc.

I hope I'm wrong, but I see us following the same path to a War in Iran. If you think things are messed up now, just wait.


I believe we deserve better than this. I believe that our government needs to scale down like they were supposed to when we elected the Republicans into office in 1994 (Congress) and 2000. Instead, we've seen an exponential growth in what I call the welfare/warfare state. We see, especially with Bush's Medicaid bill--doubling within moments of signing and now looking at quadrupling---and the Dept. of Education (Reagan wanted it gone) and the Dept. of Homeland Security---that neither party really believes in a smaller government.

I guess that's why I believe in the Catholic Church so strongly. They teach about the evils of both welfare and warfare, yet they believe so strongly in charity and love of neighbor. I know that I can't influence the "big picture", but I certainly can try to influence those around me and let them know what the Church teaches about mankind, society and the individual. When we walk a path guided by the "roadmap" that the Church has taught over the centuries, we can be assured that salvation will result. Though we are all sinners, the Church can heal our very soul and keep it from harm. Avail yourselves of the sacraments, as Ohio Joe states--fast and pray--and have faith that the Good Lord gives us a reason to Hope.

Guardian

Anonymous said...

Guardian:

Yes I agree that we should fast and pray that war with Iran is avoided. You are correct that there are signs that we could have a war with Iran, but I still hope it can be avoided. As of now, I would be opposed to a war with Iran, but I do not believe that the Administration has some plan to take over the world.

I doubt that they would attack Iran just for fun, but nevertheless now is not the time for war with Iran and I pray that the time never comes. If the time does come I hope we are ready.

OHIO JOE