Viewpoint: Extolling sacrifice on Memorial Day; Paying lip-service to veterans

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Viewpoint: Extolling sacrifice on Memorial Day; Paying lip-service to veterans

May is a month of presidential proclamations that are outright LOL coming from this occupant of the White House, starting with May 1, Law Day, and finishing with Memorial Day, with Mothers Day in the middle.

Trump will no doubt pull out one of the proclamations expressing appreciation for the heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve America’s liberty and freedoms –one million have died in all America’s wars since the Revolution (which took 4,435 lives), including 1,000 in the Indian Wars (1817-1898), 561,557 in the Civil War; 53,402 in World War I, 291,557 in World War II, 33,739 in the Korean War, 47,434 in Vietnam and 6,915 in the Global War on Terror (2001 to present).

Millions more have returned home, some with lifelong injuries both physical and mental. Trump’s answer to these veterans isn’t the same as during Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces campaign, or the efforts taken to improve access to health care and other services including a new GI Bill. Trump is moving forward with plans to privatize the Veterans Administration which is opposed by most veterans.

It seems that on Veterans Day we honor those who died, and on Memorial Day we spotlight veterans, it seems urgent to reflect on how Trump’s foreign policy is designed to force the US into military conflict – and make Trump the War President he craves to be.
In a move that surprised even the nominee but timed for Memorial Day, Trump declared he will appoint acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to replace David Shulkin, fired for opposing Trump’s moves to aggressively privatize the Veterans Administration.

Wilkie certainly has the qualifications to head Veterans Affairs, but the most significant one to Trump is that he is on board with the privatization plan, which passed the House this week.

VFW National Commander Keith Harman explained his group’s opposition to the VA Mission Act (that just passed the House) that veterans already have access to “the best integrated health care system in the world” through the VA, but the act would shift more of the burden of healthcare costs onto veterans through a new copayment system, the Carolina Public Press reported.

“’Shifting finite resources to the private sector will only signal the beginning of the end of a federal department that was created for the sole purpose of caring for America’s veterans,’ Harman said. ‘The private sector can augment the VA but never replace it’.”

There is a case to be made for some measure of “choice,” especially for veterans who do not have a VA medical facility nearby – but this is the case for health care, generally. The problem is in the execution, and based on the Trump Administration’s prior actions, there will be little focus on actually improving veterans’ care, but only to abdicate responsibility (taking care off the federal budget books) in favor of for-profit services, that increasingly have more ability to operate negligently with no accountability (a further consequence of the Supreme Court’s overturn of class-action lawsuits).

For the most part, veterans laud the health care they are receiving through the VA (the only actual socialized medicine in the US contrary to those who seek to destroy Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare), especially for injuries that are a consequence of military service which civilian doctors would be less skilled to address.

Moreover, there is no support on the other side of the equation – instead, the consequence of Trump and the Republicans’ attack on health care, on college costs that put medicine out of range of otherwise worthy individuals so there is a shortage of health professionals and clinics, on the high cost of drugs, on continuing to strengthen the power of free-market capitalistic health-care industry, as opposed to ensuring access to affordable care for everyone – means that veterans will be thrown into the same unnecessary waterloo.

Meanwhile, Trump is doing everything possible to assure more American soldiers are sent into battle.

Despite his protestations during the campaign and just a few months ago that he wanted to reduce America’s expensive military footprint around the world – pulling out of Syria, making South Korea, Japan and Germany, Saudi Arabia take on more of the fight (with nuclear weapons, even!), he has surrounded himself with “uber-war hawks”, Mike Pompeo in the ironic role of Secretary of State and John Bolton as National Security Advisor, who has advocated for bombing Iran and North Korea, and was a cheerleader for the unprovoked invasion of Iraq that set the stage for the current conflicts with Iran, Syria and ISIS.

They were the ones pushing to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, with no way to negotiate a new, let alone better, deal – not Defense Secretary Mattis nor U.S. allies. Pompeo this week promised “unprecedented” sanctions designed to cripple the country and force regime change, except the regime that will change is moderate and will be replaced by hardliners who never wanted the deal anyway. Meanwhile, Israel has been emboldened – bombing Iranian bases in Syria.

At some point, Iran will retaliate and Israel will escalate, and the US will be forced into military action by Netanyahu, one of Trump’s puppet masters, to support its ally.

In North Korea, John Bolton has unsettled Kim Jong-Un by announcing a “Libya model” while Trump has been duped into a situation where he is now more desperate for a “win” than Kim (who already has achieved the legitimacy he craved).

Will Trump be so desperate for that Nobel Peace Prize he covets as to give in to demands to pull out American troops from South Korea, leaving the Peninsula open to invasion, which will necessitate American military support?

And then there are the provocations of China’s hostile acts in the South China Sea, and Russia emboldened to move in on former Soviet states.

So yes, the Veterans Administration needs to be bolstered, and health facilities in place.

But it bears noting on this Memorial Day, that more high school students have died in gun massacres so far this year, than soldiers who have died in battle.

Except that the battle, the war on terror, is at home. One million soldiers dead in all America’s wars over the last 242 years? That’s only the number killed in the past 30 years by wanton gun violence.

And if you are looking for heroes who put themselves on the line, that is increasingly the teachers and administrators.

Millions of veterans needing continued care? What about the millions of survivors of gun violence who need ongoing care and rehabilitation, who found themselves in the same sort of war zone?

Maybe the solution is not to force veterans into the same inadequate for-profit health care system but to make everyone’s health care as good as the veterans get – that is, single-payer.

Each Memorial Day, we are extolled about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom and liberty.

But each day, we have less and less of it, as we are forced to live in prisons of “security”; each day, that “beacon” of liberty that we have shown to the world, grows dimmer, and the U.S. has less credence, less authority and less ability to spread democracy and human rights abroad.

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