From TomDispatch :
Judith Coburn, Caring for Veterans on the Cheap
Can anyone be surprised any longer when FEMA reneges on its promise of a year's free housing to Hurricane Katrina evacuees? Or that, in once can-do America, the devastated southeastern coast from which those residents fled in such confusion remains almost singularly unreconstructed as the next hurricane season approaches? Or that the only ones likely to receive relief at the gas pump this summer are the oil companies? Or that the Bush administration is incapable of running a new Medicare drug program as anything other than an experience in chaos? Or that so many functions that once mad! e civil government seem in any way civil are simply disappearing and others are being rebuilt on a military model?
Typically, a Senate report on dismantling FEMA suggests replacing it with "a new National Preparedness and Response Authority whose head would... serve as the president's top adviser for national emergency management, akin to the military role served by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It would reunify disaster preparedness and response activities that [Department of Homeland Security head Michael] Chertoff decoupled, and restore grant-making authority taken away by Congress in redefining a stronger national preparedness system with regional coordinators, a larger role for the National Guard and the Defense Department and more money for training, planning and exercises."
None of this should surprise anyone all these years into the Bush presidency. But if you really want a benchmark of where we're heading, consider the Veterans Administration as the gasping canary in the American mineshaft of civility. And think of the matter this way: While President Dwight Eisenhower warned of a "military-industrial complex" in his 1961 farewell address to the American people ("In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex..."), we have never had a president who was so determined to turn more of what once passed for civil government over to the Pentagon, an organization seemingly intent on proving in Iraq and elsewhere that reconstruction and civil governance are nowhere in its bag of tricks.
Yet from avian-flu defense to catastrophe relief, from civil reconstruction to global diplomacy and domestic intelligence-gathering, the Pentagon, whose budget dwarfs all else, is the preeminent institution in this country today, shouldering ever more of the burden ever more poorly.
So when what is most "civil" in the military starts to falter as well, all of us should take note. In this case, as Judith Coburn reports below, the health-care and disability system for American veterans -- the very men and women this administration so cavalierly sent off to its war of choice in Iraq -- is in a state of increasing disarray and faces a wounded administration that secretly likes to think of the medical care of veterans as another form of welfare to be slashed.
Coming Home from War on the Cheap
Shortchanging the Wounded
By Judith Coburn
On the eve of his Marine unit's assault on Falluja in November, 2004, Blake Miller read to his men from the Bible (John 14:2-3): "In my father's house, there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I leave this place and go there to prepare a place for you, so that where I may be, you may be also."
A photograph of Miller's blood smeared, filthy face, so reminiscent of David Douglas Duncan's photos of war weary Marines in Vietnam, is one of the Iraq War's iconic images. Over a hundred newspapers ran it. But as the San Francisco Chronicle reported recently, Miller, a decorated war hero, has been shattered psychologically by Iraq. Disabled by flashbacks and nightmares, he continues to pay daily and dearly for his service there.
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