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(This commentary piece also appears in THE VETERAN, Spring 2014 (Volume 44, Number 1).)

From the National Office

By Bill Branson

[Printer-Friendly Version]

Welcome to the Spring 2014 issue of The Veteran!

Brian Matarrese, Ben Chitty, and Mike Gold
at NYC Veterans Day, November 11, 2013.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) is reminded yet again of the US's tendency to unnecessarily and inappropriately intervene in other countries' affairs.

As tensions arise in Crimea between Russia and the US/NATO, we might remember other "regime changes," for the good of "democracy," both current and now enshrined in history and our nightmares. How about Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Panama, Iraq, Libya, Honduras, and Syria as just a few? The US and now international Rich have historically been less than respectful of other countries' democratic process when "they" don't like the results. The result of the CIA orchestrated regime change in Kiev is a very dangerous situation, which seems to be resolving as a win for the Russians (Putin). When the majority of Crimeans voted to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia, that "democracy" was backed by Russian guns. The US (and NATO) has to acknowledge that vote and respect that decision. Are the people in Crimea better off? What is in store for the now broken and chaotic north of the Ukraine?

The coup in Ukraine was most likely orchestrated by the CIA and NATO. There seem to be two converging lines of force that led to the "crisis." First, Kerry, Obama, and countless current State Department mavens have been pushing for a "pivot" against Russia, one that strangely enough mirrors the Cold War. Remember the ongoing fiasco of NATO attempting to place anti-missile missiles in the "Stans?" There is a good argument for Afghanistan being yet another (failed) brick in the wall around Russia, why not the Ukraine as well?

Secondly, there is obviously another huge economic wheel turning. Ukraine is located in a pathway for some very lucrative oil/gas pipelines to Europe. There are some interesting rumors about plans for huge fracking operations. Also, had the Crimea fallen to NATO, Russia would have been without a cold weather Naval Base. Perhaps someone can better explain the deal with the huge Ukrainian debt, but I'm sure that the Bankers played a role as well.

The people of the US and the EU only stand to lose by this NATO adventure. Whatever benefits the Rich resolve from the chaos they started will not trickle down. Whatever pain, suffering and debt that ensues will be born on working people's backs, not by the Banks, the rabid TeaBaggers, or the State Department geniuses that thought this up.

At home, we continue to witness the tragic aftereffects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Most recently, we were shocked by the second shooting at Fort Hood in less than five years. Ivan Lopez shot and killed three people, wounding sixteen more. He took his own life in the gun battle. The Army higher-ups were quick to dismiss PTSD and combat-related causes for what happened. Yet, we know Lopez served overseas in Iraq. We also know he had been given psychiatric medication for sleeping issues and was been examined for PTSD. The higher-ups ruled out that Lopez had seen "combat" during his tour in Iraq. These vapid denials reek of a coverup. There were no front lines or clear-cut combat zones in Vietnam, much less so in Iraq. Somehow, the brass has forgotten about IEDs, rockets, etc. Even if we accept their claims about Lopez's experience, we know that simply being in a war zone can provide a breaking load of stress. In addition, the US military is quite capable of making any GI's life hell. We can't allow the Brass to use PTSD, or its absence, as an excuse for an intolerable disregard of soldier's mental health needs.

While Lopez's actions were clearly horrendous, he was also a victim, like the victims he created. He had been used. And when he needed help, he was like many soldiers who are given a "quick-fix" of prescriptions without the support system to help him through his PTSD. And after Lopez opened fire at Ft. Hood, eleven of the sixteen soldiers were back to work within a week of the rampage. Are they getting the support they need?

In preparation for officially withdrawing from Afghanistan (and unofficially losing the longest war in US history) the military is pursuing a rabid program of Punitive Downsizing. Finding itself with an embarrassing excess of Grunts, the Military Brass are seeking a cheap solution. Veterans who can claim benefits cost money. Vets with bad discharges don't. After all, room has to be made for new, sexy, technically advanced surveillance and expanding the use of drones. If it means a systematic tossing of GI's to the curb, so be it! If they can't trip you up and kick you out, they use the endless chickenshit to drive you out. As part of its harassment campaign, the Army has introduced AR 670-1 regulations for women's hairstyles. Female soldiers, mainly African American soldiers, are being treated punitively for basically wearing their hair naturally, regardless that these now outlawed styles are actually the easiest to maintain and interfere the least with helmets and other gear. The new slogan seems to be "Any Way but the Honorable Way," for discharging these inconvenient troops without benefits. It's up to us to renew our call for A Single Type Discharge for All Troops!

We hope you enjoy this issue of The Veteran!

Bill Branson is a VVAW board member and longtime member.

Thanks to Jeff Danziger, Billy Curmano for their cartoons. Thanks to Bill Branson, Brian Matarrese, Jen Tayabji, Ben Chitty, Ellen Davidson, Per Olaf, Jeff Machota, Susan Schnall, Annie Bailey, Dave Kettenhofen, Jim Willingham, Mike Hastie, Dan Lavery, Charles Philp, Robert Halgash and others for contributing photos.

Charlie Branson
Bill Branson
Jeff Machota
Ellie Shunas
Jen Tayabji

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