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From the National Office

By Joe Miller

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Welcome to the Spring/Summer 2003 issue of The Veteran!

First of all, we'd like to thank the hundreds of you who have newly joined or rejoined Vietnam Veterans Against the War in the past six months. This has been a tremendous show of support and a signal of the continued relevance of the veterans' peace and justice movement. This is also a sign that we are not about to be silenced in Bush's America. We "old soldiers" (and sailors and airmen/women) are not even going to "fade away"! This is something to be celebrated and something we must use to continue our long-term struggle for peace and social justice here and abroad. Articles in this issue will reflect the high degree of involvement of war veterans in the global opposition to Bush's war in Iraq, and we need to be prepared to continue and deepen our involvement in such efforts.

With every war, new veterans are recruited to our movement, as they come to recognize that the idealism that took them into military service had been betrayed by the political and economic elites who make policy. Most of us in VVAW were these idealistic young men or women who enlisted in the service. We were "educated" to believe that our country was always in the right, and each successive generation of veterans has had to learn the hard way that this is seldom, if ever, true. In this issue, we hear from "Buzz" Doyle, a combat veteran of the 1990-91 Gulf War, who joined VVAW soon after he returned home. He is only one of the many Gulf War vets who found us to be a welcoming place. How many will come to us from this latest war?

As the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld "axis of evil" sent young men and women to fight and die in an illegal war against Iraq, they were trumpeting the notion that "real" support for the troops meant to just shut up. At the very same time, the Republican-dominated House Budget Committee was "supporting" the troops by their attempt to cut veterans' benefits by some $25 billion over the next ten years. While this may have been temporarily pushed back, we know that they continue to make cuts and will always try to fight these wars on the cheap. To them, the troops are expendable, just another commodity.

And, make no mistake; there will be serious physical health issues coming out of this war, given the cavalier attitude of the Bush administration toward the use of weapons that contain depleted uranium. They even refuse to clean up the battlefield, arguing that depleted uranium poses no health risks to the GIs or to the local residents.

We should also be prepared for veterans of this war to come home with serious psychological problems derived from post-traumatic stress disorder. They shall join veterans from previous wars in this category. We have already witnessed increased stress levels among earlier generations of veterans. On April 11, the Chicago Tribune published a report which stated, "Across the country, visits to Veterans Affairs counseling centers have spiked over the past several weeks, as gulf war vets experience flashbacks, nightmares, waves of depression and panic attacks, officials report."

Pay close attention to the reports coming out of the war theater about troops feeling "anguish" or "remorse" concerning their involvement in Bush's war. What will these young people come home to? Will the planned "welcome home" parades with rivers of red, white and blue make them feel better? How ready will they be to talk about their experiences and the real feelings they have about participation in this popular, but illegal, war? Who will be there to listen to them?

As with the previous Gulf War, VVAW will be there to provide counsel and support and a place to get active for these men and women. While the government and many in the larger society will forget all about their "support" for the troops, once the war is "won" and "Johnny [and Jane] come marching home," we in the peace and social justice movement must embrace these unrecognized victims of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld policies.

All VVAW members and supporters should be prepared to continue our efforts for peace and social justice in whatever way we can. We should be involved in our local communities to deepen and strengthen the opposition to a new American Empire. We should look out for every opportunity to assist in "regime change" here at home in 2004.

Simply put, get involved! Celebrate our victories, no matter how small! Make a difference!

Joe Miller is a national coordinator of VVAW.

<< 1. On the Oil-Slicked Road to Empire: Are We Really Safer Now?3. Fraggin' >>