Having sought medical care from the Miami Veterans Administration hospital for my PTSD, years after my return from the Iraq war, I know from personal experience how detrimental it can be for veterans to have to wait weeks, or months, for much needed medical attention. In the most tragic cases the wait turns to be too long, as it is no secret that veterans’ suicides claim more lives than actual combat. And yet, despite the grim reality of appalling care at VA facilities across the nation, I believe General Eric Shinseki’s resignation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs represents a tremendous loss to all veterans.
It is not that we should not be outraged about the secret wait lists or the inadequate treatment of veterans at VA facilities. No doubt the entire nation should be questioning America’s supposed love affair with its service men and women, and how that affair translates into actual commitment to enhancing the lives of veterans and their families. But the situation should not be used as a political tool to continue pushing an agenda that has nothing to do with said commitment, but with votes and corporate profit.
We can already see how candidates from within President Obama’s own party are distancing themselves from the Affordable Care Act as a historic change in the way this nation views universal healthcare, namely as human right rather than as a profit-driven industry. We can see Democratic hopefuls embracing only parts of the act that can turn into votes, when they should be embracing the entire law, while recognizing that mishaps are naturally expected, and that the law is a work in progress. Republican politicians and hopefuls have wasted no time in trashing the ACA, but this is hardly surprising to anyone who’s been awake for more than five minutes.
Likewise, the media-driven outrage about the VA is part of a game for political game. For democrats the game is about gaining votes; for republicans it is about attacking government-funded healthcare, which includes the VA, the ACA, and beyond.
The recent “revelation” about the VA secret lists and appalling care is not news to veterans at all. We have known about it because we have been the direct recipients of it. We also know that the situation is not a result of General Shinseki’s negligence, but the result of foreign policies that view war as a first resort to solving any situation in which the financial interests of corporate America are threatened… valuing dollars and wins over and above any cost to human life. It is the result of a policy of war-without-end that’s embraced across the power establishment.
We are beginning to hear calls for a “change in culture” in the VA; read “privatization.” What we are not hearing is how more than ten years of war are creating generation after generation of wounded veterans. The wounds are both physical and moral, and more are created each day. And they are overwhelming the system, regardless of whether or not there is responsible administration and proper funding.
We should be outraged about the culture of endless war that prevails without question not only among politicians, but with the general public as well.
Shinseki is actually an honest man. He’s the one who told Rumsfeld his little Iraq war scheme was never gonna work with the amount of troops they had allocated for the invasion/occupation, and that they would need a force of at least half a million ‘boots-on-the-ground’ to fight off an insurgency. This during a time they were selling the idea that we would be received as liberators by the Iraqi people, and when all the generals were happily reaffirming everything the Bush administration was claiming. However I feel about the Iraq war, Shinseki was honest and actually had the courage to stand his ground and speak truth to power.
My take-home message to everyone who cares about veterans is that this crisis, which is hardly new to any vet, is not about General Shinseki’s mismanagement of the VA, but about our voracious, profit-driven, corporate culture of militarism, disguised as (false) patriotism. What we really need is political representation that actually values life — the lives of not only veterans, but of everyone. Until we stop viewing war as matter of pride and glory, we will continue to deal with the devastating effects of it, regardless of who the shift manager happens to be.