Supporting Our Troops – The Tragedy of Building 18


In today’s political vocabulary, to support our troops is to support the war and the present administration’s efforts in Iraq. Any discussion of ending the war is met with cries that such critics are seeking to abandon our troops. What then are we to think of an administration, or any administration, that cuts the budget for the Veteran’s Administration and the care of our wounded soldiers?

The problem is that we have transformed war into some sort of non-human endeavor. Our weapons are smart weapons, able to distinguish between people and targets. Many years ago, war was terrible because there was the human factor, the wounded soldiers and, unfortunately, civilians. Now, anyone wounded or injured in the consequence of a battle is listed as collateral damage.

From Viet Nam on, we have sought to somehow dehumanize the enemy, so as to remove the human factor from the equation of war. Calling the enemy by any number of derogatory names makes it easier to make them seem less human and thus easier to fight and kill.

As I have written before, we have forgotten Robert E. Lee’s comment about that it is fortunate that war is so deadly and costly because we could easily grow quite fond of it. By making war seem so easy to fight, we make it quite easy.

But we began this adventure in Iraq by sending in troops that were not equipped for what would transpire. We began this adventure in Iraq by thinking that we would be welcomed with roses, not bullets. And we are paying the price for this lack of forward thinking.

It has been admitted that the military medical services here at home have been overwhelmed by the number and types of injuries encountered by our service personnel in Iraq. The lack of foresight and concern is not new. Over the past fifty years, our support for the Veterans’ Administration has decreased over the years. Each year, as we spend more and more money on weapons systems and defense spending, we cut the spending for our veterans.

We teach young people to kill without thinking and then we cast them aside. It is so much easier to think of a young soldier, sailor, or marine as a cog in a machine which is thrown away when it is broken than it is as a human whose service and sacrifice demand our support long after their service has ended.

The tragedy of Building 18 at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington is not that it happened now but that it has been happening for a long, long time. It is just that someone found out about and the “powers that be” could not cover it up. The tragedy is also that we have allowed our support for the Veterans’ Administration to decline over the years. We thank our soldiers, sailors, and marines for their service and their sacrifice and then tell them to go away and leave us alone.

If we support our troops, then we have to recognize that this support goes beyond simple service. If someone is willing to give up their youth for our freedom, then we must be willing to support long after their youth is gone and sacrificed.

8 thoughts on “Supporting Our Troops – The Tragedy of Building 18

  1. This is ridiculous – my only hope is that Walter-gate has opened the door for other injustices against vets to be exposed. With 400,000 veterans waiting for their disability compensation , is it any wonder that over 1000 iraq war veterans are now HOMELESS?

    If you havent watched it yet, check out this trailer for a new documentary about homeless Iraq war veterans, called WHEN I CAME HOME.

    http://www.whenicamehome.com

    Support The Vets!

  2. I am currently a resident in a Veteran’s Home after having undergone treatment through the VA for PTSD and Depression, long overdue some 40 years after the Tet Offensive that cap stoned my military 2nd tour in Vietnam with a lifetime of illness.

    My blog has attracted the stories of many veterans such as myself and other sufferers from PTSD who were victimized by elements of society other than the VA system of medical and mental treatment. I, for one, became trapped in the Military Industrial Complex for 36 years working on weapons systems that are saving lives today but with such high security clearances that I dared not get treated for fear of losing my career:

    http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/odyssey-of-armaments.html

    When my disorders became life threatening I was entered into the VA System for treatment in Minneapolis. It saved my life and I am now in complete recovery and functioning as a volunteer for SCORE, as well as authoring books and blogging the world.

    When I was in the VA system I was amazed at how well it functioned and how state of the art it is for its massive mission. Below is a feature article from Time Magazine which does a good job of explaining why it is a class act:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1376238,00.html

    I had state of the art medical and mental care, met some of the most dedicated professionals I have ever seen and was cared for by a handful of very special nurses among the 60,000 + nursing population that make up that mammoth system. While I was resident at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis I observed many returnees from Iraq getting excellent care.

    I do not say the VA system is perfect but it is certainly being run better on a $39B budget than the Pentagon is running on $494B.

    Politicians make no difference.

    We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read about how this has happened, please see:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/03/spyagency200703

    Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.

    There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.

    The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.

    So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.

    This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.

    The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.

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