On this Memorial Day let us ponder a scandal which ought to drive war mongering, free market zealots on the Right and Pseudo Left to commit hari kari to salvage the little honor they have left.
In a stunning admission, top officials at the Veterans Health Administration confirmed that the agency’s own statistics show that an average of 126 veterans per week — 6,552 veterans per year — commit suicide, according to an internal email distributed to several VA officials.
Brig. Gen. Michael J. Kussman, the undersecretary for health at the VA, sent the email, dated Dec. 15, 2007. Kussman had inquired about the accuracy of a news report published that month claiming the suicide rate among veterans was 18 per day.
May God have mercy on these poor men and women.
I can't bring myself to utter the same prayer for those supposed leaders and pundits whose senseless jingoism and appalling abdication of their duty towards their fellow man (to say nothing of their violation of the sacred compact between society and those who risk their lives to defend it) contributed so powerfully to this grisly, ongoing and eminently predictable tragedy. This makes my blood boil.
Incidentally, if we can afford to dump billions of dollars into a war with such murky justifications, objectives and success criteria, we certainly can afford providing proper health benefits afterwards to those who serve. To borrow a metaphor from Pakistan's Zulfikar Ali Bhutto used for something else, we should "eat grass" before our veterans are neglected like this.
And if the expense of doing right by our veterans in the future is prohibitive, that'll be a great blessing in disguise if it finally forces American politicians to make war a last resort reserved for only the direst of circumstances. It's sad that the loss of life on both sides isn't enough to slake the thirst for war (witness the propaganda campaigns underway now to rationalize an attack on Iran).
While I'm at it, I'm tired of tough-talking "patriots" who shower tax our dollars on endless weapons and Pentagon contractors but who plead poverty when veterans need help, and whose Jacobin hatred of social spending by the State makes abominations like Walter Reed (and Enron, for that matter, since an essential prong of this assault is a rejection of any governmental oversight over corporations) not only possible, but inevitable.