Thomas D. Segel
In America it Still Seems to be “Tommy this, and Tommy that”
Harlingen, Texas, October 24, 2009: “You talk of better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all: We’ll wait for extra rations if you treat us rational. Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face. The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace. For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ Chuck him out, the brute!
But it’s “Savior of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot; An it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please; An Tommy ain’t a bloomin fool - - you bet that Tommy sees!”
These are but a few lines of the Rudyard Kipling poem “Tommy”, written in 1890 as an expression of how the public views those who serve the nation during times of war…and after. “Tommy”, as the British soldier was called, was not wanted inside the public houses, the theatres, on the trains or anywhere in polite society. ,still, as the poem continues “But it’s ‘Thin red line of ‘eroes’ when the drums begin to roll, …” and toward the end of the tale, after telling Tommy to step to the rear of the line during times of peace, it is “Please walk in front , sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind, O it’s “Please walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.”
Veterans of our nation’s wars feel the words of “Tommy” are a strong reflection of how many in America view their service to the country. We are quick to pay great lip service …lauding our armed forces and those who have served in uniform. It is almost a joke to hear politicians hurriedly tack on “We support our troops” to the end of their constant political blabber. But, then we next hear these same political hacks has stolen away almost $3 billion from combat appropriations to fund special interest pork projects in their home districts.
While such despicable acts are being perpetrated almost a million and a half veterans returning from combat have been identified as having serious mental illnesses. Many of these heroes have been denied needed care.
It is estimated that more than 170,000 veterans, a number equal to the total troop strength of our military in both Iraq and Afghanistan, now find themselves unable to obtain meaningful employment in the civilian world. Theirs should be a place at the very front of the employment line, not bringing up the rear.
There are between 135,000 and 200,000 veterans homeless in America on any given night. These veterans make up 26% of the total homeless population, but less than 10% of Americans ever step forward to wear the uniform.
There is no accurate total of veterans who have combat related illnesses or wounds that are not receiving adequate treatment. A survey has found that 63% of the people in the United States believe these veterans are not receiving good medical care.
Much of the blame for lack of veteran’s services can be laid at the feet of bumbling and mismanaged Department of Veterans Affairs. If a veteran files a claim, it takes almost 200 days to receive a written reply giving him or her a decision. If that decision is not favorable, the veteran may appeal. However from the time they file a Notice of Disagreement until they receive and answer an average of another 971 days have passed. There can be further appeals but some claims take up to seven years to resolve.
At this time there are 450,000 unresolved claims resting on desks in VA offices. One veteran reported his claim took eleven years to be answered in his favor. Many of our veterans who were the subjects of atomic and chemical testing have not had their cases resolved in more than 50 years. No business, school district, or municipality would tolerate such abysmal performance, but when it comes to veterans issues, Americans just yawn, say “we support our troops” and return to their cell phone chatter or TV soap.
If we had more than a handful of veterans serving in Congress this situation would rapidly improve. As things stand now, few in that elite body of 535 people, and even fewer of their children have ever served a day in uniform. In a Congress where those of that special club get offended if they are asked to wait in any line, making veterans wait years for claim resolution is never a matter of concern.
As it was in Great Britain in 1890, in the United States it still seems to be “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ Chuck him out, the brute! But, it’s “Savior of ‘is country”, when the guns begin to shoot.”
Thomas D. Segel
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Thomas D. Segel
Friday, October 23, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Michelle Obama thanks Veterans Affairs employees
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE (AP) – 9 hours ago
WASHINGTON — As her husband debates whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, first lady Michelle Obama told Department of Veterans Affairs employees Tuesday they are doing vital work.
"So often federal employees feel underappreciated," she said. "You often get a lot of the blame but sometimes none of the thanks. My simple job is to say 'thank you' because the job that you do is a big one."
Millions of veterans and their families rely on the department for health care, or help in pursuing an education or buying a home.
"Your work is vital. It really is," said Mrs. Obama, who has become an advocate for military families. She talked about some of the things men and women in uniform give up to serve their country, and said their families and communities sacrifice, too.
Mrs. Obama said President Barack Obama is mindful of the fact that his efforts are only as strong as the people on his team.
"So it's just important for you to know that the president and I are proud of you, just as proud as we are of the men and women who serve this country, the people that you serve," she said. "And we just urge you to keep it up."
Obama is reviewing the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. A decision on a new strategy, including the question of whether to send more U.S. troops into battle, is expected in the coming weeks
First Lady: Veterans Deserve Care They Were Promised, Benefits They Earned
ABC News' Karen Travers reports:
First Lady Michelle Obama dropped by the Department of Veterans Affairs today to thank the employees for their service and highlight the work her husband's administration has done for the nation's veterans.
"Day in and day out the folks here at the VA are working to uphold America's sacred trust with those who defend our freedom, because it's a commitment that doesn't end when our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, or Coast Guards men and women take off the uniform," the first lady said.
The visit was part of the First Lady's agency tour, a series of meet and greets at the federal departments in Washington.
The purpose is to thank staff and highlight the work that they are doing but the visits have also served as a useful platform for Mrs. Obama to tout the work her husband's administration is doing on a range of policy issues.
Today she listed steps taken by the Obama Administration to on behalf of the nation's veterans including expanding VA health coverage to more veterans, increasing in VA funding, expanding access to health care in rural areas and putting greater focus on post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.
Calling the work of the VA "vital," Mrs. Obama said that the nation's veterans "deserve our unwavering support."
"It seems so simple," she said to applause. "They deserve the care that they were promised, and they deserve the benefits that they earned. "
Mrs. Obama noted that on Thursday the president will sign the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act at the White House.
"This legislation guarantees a timely and predictable flow of funding for VA medical care because that's what's required to guarantee better care to the men and women who serve this country," she said.
This is the First Lady's 12th visit to a federal agency. She dropped by the Department of Health and Human Services last week to promote healthy eating and exercise for children and families.
MKULTRA Legacy: The Stain of Dishonor and the Prerequisites for Redemption
Sunday 18 October 2009
by: Gordon P. Erspamer, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
(Photo: reegmo / flickr)
Despite the passage of four decades, America and its military have never come to grips with its own ghastly programs of using soldiers as guinea pigs to test chemical or biological weapons such as LSD, sarin, nerve gases, plague, mescaline, anthrax and hundreds of others. At the same time, they also conducted mind-control experiments, as soldiers and others were administered drugs, and septal implants were inserted in the sinus cavities a la "The Manchurian Candidate." The secret research programs, originally code-named MKULTRA but continued under a long succession of other code names, were conducted mainly by the US Army from 1943 until at least 1975. However, the CIA provided planning, financial support and field testing. Participants in the experiments were recruited by the Army and lured by promises of no KP duty, a four-day workweek, the promise of medals and special recognition. At the same time, they were sworn to secrecy and forced to sign a general consent form without informed consent or even knowing the nature of the toxic substances that were sprayed in their faces, applied to their skin or injected into their veins. And the government continues to try to hide the fact that Nazi members were recruited to help devise these experiments as part of Operation Paperclip, and that many of the biological experiments were modeled after those conducted by the notorious Col. Shiro Ishi in Manchuria and Japan.
When word of these programs leaked out in the mid-1970's, the CIA director, Adm. Stansfield Turner, promised Congress that the affected veterans would be notified and provided medical treatment. See Final Report of the Senate Select Committee (Church) on Intelligence Activities, 94th Cong. (1976), Book I: XVII ("Foreign and Military Intelligence: Testing and Use of Chemical and Biological Agents by the Intelligence Communities"), at http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book1/html/ChurchB1_0197a.htm. See also Project MKULTRA, The CIA's Program of Research in Behavioral Modification: Joint Hearing Before the Senate Select Committees on Intelligence and Human Resources, 95th Cong. (1977), Testimony of CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner at http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/e1950/mkultra/Hearing03.htm.
However, that promise was more observed in the breach, as the process of notifying and treating the victims of human experimentation has barely scratched the surface of their acts of treachery. And now we learn that the DoD will not even compile an initial roster of affected veterans until 2012. Unlike Britain, which long ago compensated its veteran participants in a parallel group of tests at Porton Down, America is waiting patiently for these veterans to die, and it is one of the greatest injustices of our time.
Yet, despite the long passage of time, the agents responsible for this program continue to offer rationalizations to justify their own acts or those of their predecessors. They cite the fears engendered by the Cold War, real or imagined, and raise the chance that our enemies might beat us to the punch. You hear a lot of denial or outright lies, and the trail of documents suddenly disappeared in a purging ordered by the CIA director, Richard Helms. And they speak of sacrifices for the common good (not their own, but of those men exposed). The doctors among them don't like to talk about the Hippocratic Oath or basic principles of morality. Rather, they talk a lot about science, advances in learning and the thrills of discovery. They forget that "Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession" (Julia Ward Howe). And you hear nothing or very little about the long-term health effects of their programs, and their failure to notify, monitor or treat the victims, who have experienced a panoply of adverse health effects such as PTSD, breathing and lung problems, problems with internal organs and countless others.
Walter Lippman once said that a man has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable or dangerous to do so. The perpetrators of these programs have stained their honor. In a time of admitted polarization and confrontation, they sacrificed their scruples, and victimized their fellow man. Their honor will never be restored unless they candidly admit their complicity and fault, and do everything in their power to help restore the health and well-being of their victims. With each death, their debt swells and the possibilities of redemption become more distant and unlikely. And a miasma of shame, as toxic as the clouds created by biological weapons, continues to hang over this great nation.
And when the last man standing succumbs, a pall of infamy and shame will become indelible, and choke the last glimmer of redemption, and history will justly record another chapter in the annals of infamy.
Note: The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of any institution or person with whom he is affiliated.
Gordon P. Erspamer is the lead counsel in the class action complaint which is pending in San Francisco Federal District Court, Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. Central Intelligence Agency, et al., Case No. 09-0037 CW (ND Cal. 2009). More information regarding this lawsuit can be found at www.edgewoodtestvets.org.
See the following links for the complaint in this action and its exhibits.
VVA, et al. v. CIA, et al. First Amended Complaint.
First Amended Complaint Exhibit A.
First Amended Complaint Exhibit B.
First Amended Complaint Exhibit C.