Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Veterans and Political Partisanship Just Don't Mix

Political partisanship in this country has descended to a level reserved for those who insist they are right, even when the facts speak against them. The result is that political debate has become political shouting matches, and the gift of the Internet means that any yahoo with an opinion will voice it.

What is particularly disturbing is the venomous and vituperative tone such opinions have taken on. One envisions an editor or a writer pounding the keyboard, while foaming spittle flies onto the monitor screen. It is not really opinion any more, it is screed.

And both sides are extremely guilty.

Inference and innuendo has now been replaced by outright accusations that result from Internet hearsay. In other words, somebody made a WAG [Wild A**ed Guess] about someone, and sent it whispering down the lane of the Internet.

Albert Einstein wrote, "It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." He is correct. But the active word in play here is "validity". Owners and editors of Internet Sites are not News Reporters [though even that term has become something different these days], or News Editors. They write "opinion pieces" and make them out to be breaking news stories of terrible things done by members of the political opposition...and no argument is tolerated..."it's the truth about those hypocrites! It comes from reliable sources...inside sources!"

Actually the national news media does a fine job of sniffing out the foibles of our elected and appointed officials, thank you, further sliming is wholly unnecessary.

Besides, what is gained by such smearing on the part of the Internet writers? The reputation that they can dig deeper than the media can? To what end? A scandal is a scandal, and no matter what, the other party will get caught doing the same thing! Or worse!

But when this is done by an organization with the best interests of the Veteran supposedly at heart, something has gone horribly wrong.

The late, great American philosopher and humorist Will Rogers once called politics "applesauce." But he also wrote, "The more you read and observe about this politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that's out always looks the best." We think Rogers is dead on target. We also believe that when it comes to Veterans neither party stands on high ground. Indeed, both parties treatment of Veterans, and that is treatment by partisans of both parties in Presidential Administrations, Federal Court Appointees, and in Congress, is absolutely abysmal.

We have three Federal Holidays memorializing and Celebrating American Veterans and their accomplishments, yet not one single administration [with varied and few exceptions] has done anything to stop the degrading slide in governmental esteem toward the American Veteran. Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt made the Doughboys of WW I wait 18 years before they got their Veterans Bonus money, a hideously insulting tactic from which the current day "Delay, Deny until they die!" comes from. The Veterans waited fourteen years, marched on Washington DC and were brutalized by Army troops under the Command of General Douglas MacArthur. It took four more years before Franklin Roosevelt was given the opportunity to make things right, and give the men their bonuses. Despite please from his wife Eleanore, he still vetoed the legislation which Congress, then in an election year, overrode! For those keeping score that is three Republican Presidents, one Democratic President, and one Republican General.

Are you starting to get our drift here? On a more modern note, we note that President G. H. W. Bush advanced and signed the Agent Orange Act of 1991, one of the positive exceptions. It did not take a march on Washington to do this, but from the end of the Vietnam War era, to 1991, Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan were in office...three Republicans and one Democrat who over a twenty year period, ignored the Agent Orange issue.

Then in 1993, The Clinton administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs began dismantling the Agent Orange Act of 1991 by declaring, without a shred of scientific evidence, that the Air Force was not eligible for presumptive exposure to herbicides because, hey, they flew over it, and therefore did "...not serve in Vietnam." Clinton, a Democrat, was followed by G. W. Bush, a Republican who implemented a Clinton VA Legal precedent that did the exact same thing to the Navy: "You did not serve IN Vietnam." Bush's successor, Barack Obama has not changed the policies or mindset of the Department of Veterans Affairs one inch to the positive. Indeed, shortly after Obama took office in January two policy clarifications were issued further restricting the Blue Water Navy Veterans from possible benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, and currently that same Obama Department of veterans Affairs is fighting a disinformation war in Congress against HR 2254, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, which would undo the Clinton, Bush, and Obama changes and restore the benefits that were once paid to those Veterans.

Lacking so far in the exemplars is any discussion of Congress and the Courts. In the case of the Courts, the record is clear that they seldom rule against the government and for the Veterans. An exception is the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that for the past few years has been fighting a pro-Veteran battle with limited scope, as defined by Congressional law.

As for Congress, their absence in all of this is deafening. They have sat idly by while the Administrations of both parties, and courts, have abused and misused Veterans laws to the point of an extremely adversarial attitude toward Veterans.

In case anyone missed it, the point here is that party simply does not matter when it comes to Veterans Affairs. What matters is not even whether Democrats or Republicans are in office, but simply who holds the power...that is, which individuals are in the White House, the Speaker's chair, and the floor and caucus leaders in the House and Senate. That is all that matters. Why? Because there is absolutely nothing partisan about treating Veterans the way they should be treated by the Government. And, conversely, there is absolutely nothing partisan in the way the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the US Government currently treats its Veterans. It transcends partisan politics. Party affiliation is, and always has been irrelevant when it comes to Veterans Issues, no matter what your Congressional, Senatorial, or Presidential candidate says.

And if the elected officials of our country are not careful, [and their history shows them to be careless about this] continued mistreatment will cause enlistments to dry up when young people see that Veterans more often than not do not get treated the way they should by the Government. Who then will fight the nation's wars? Draftees? That worked in WW I, and WW II, and in Korea, but it failed miserably in Vietnam...so miserably that the Pentagon went to an all-volunteer Army for the post-Vietnam Wars and actions.

We have said here repeatedly, ”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield." Indeed, dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs is likely a cause and/or aggravating factor in Veterans PTSD illnesses. That is not a joke, it is a reality. The veteran faces a "hamster wheel" effect of denials, appeals, remands, denials, appeals and remands, etc. that can take as long as ten or more years to resolve. Imagine, a sick and dying Veteran being forced to go through the same arguments over and over while the DVA plays games with his claim. It is depressing, humiliating, frustrating, enraging, and when it happens repeatedly is a likely stressor for PTSD. And no, this is not an exception; it has become the norm, especially for cases that are not direct combat wounds. There are far too many "anecdotal stories" for the problem to be anecdotal.

The Department of Veterans Affairs mindset is a house built by both parties in a truly long term bi-partisan effort. Eschewing partisanship when talking Veterans Affairs is the honest thing to do, and raises the level of discourse above the level where we are now, which is wholly and totally ineffective. After all, do we not all pledge to leave no one behind? Then why ruin the reputation of an organization with constant partisan smearing and invective?

Do folks really think politicians don't read what the major Veterans websites say?

A friend once told me "The Veterans worst enemy is another Veteran." When we are sidetracked from the larger issues this comes into play. When egos are involved, this comes into play. When partisanship is involved, this comes into play. All Veterans should be focused on the issues, not the parties or even the individual shortcomings of those in office or, especially, those who are out of office.

Don't spit on the door step before you enter or you won't be welcomed.

Finally, a comment about general partisanship: partisan invective may not be intended to destroy a political party, but a consequence could be just that. Then guess what? The result is one party rule. Like German National Socialism in the 1930s to 1945. Like Soviet Communism almost all of the 20th Century, like we see now in Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, and China. That is one party rule. The destroyed party becomes simply, "the opposition," never getting voice in the government, or the press, never having a say in how the nation is governed. Are we really trying to change the President’s title to “Dear One”?

Anyone who favors that is not a Patriotic American. Any Veteran who desires that end shames not only his own service, but the service of all others who have gone before him.

There is no good reason for radical extremism in politics. Zealotry, and that is what it is, is self destructive to its own end. It is long past time to put away the invective and rhetoric and restore a semblance of decency to our national discourse. Let’s start with restoring civil discourse to Veterans affairs and issues. We can accomplish much more that way that is positive for Veterans, and therefore, for the nation.


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Bush Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."--President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2009: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Fifth Year of service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.


  1. Anonymous20:19

    "Owners and editors of Internet Sites are not News Reporters [though even that term has become something different these days], or News Editors. They write "opinion pieces" and make them out to be breaking news stories of terrible things done by members of the political opposition...and no argument is tolerated..."it's the truth about those hypocrites! It comes from reliable sources...inside sources!""

    Sounds a great deal like the person who runs this site. Heaven forbid someone should ever challenge the "gospel" according to William.

    When all it takes is a few dollars to set yourself up in a website it's no wonder there is so much BS floating around.

    Look in your mirror, William, for a prime example.

  2. No, actually it was about you, Gordon. The whole post was about you and your absolute loss of contact with reality.

    You are, indeed, no patriot. You shame all Veterans.

  3. Anonymous09:57

    Unfortunately everything you said is true. When Vets or any group of people are unhappy and feel abandoned they strike out by any means available to them. It is not a matter of quotes from long ago people that existed in another time. It is about denial of benefits by an organization that exist for the protection and support of our VETS who defends this great country. VA has managed to back these VETS in a corner through their inability to function whether it be lack of manpower, lack of funding or lack of caring the results are all the same. Denial of benefits.

  4. Anonymous10:49

    Hmmm. My name is George and I think the BS being spouted here is really ripe.

    Here's a question for all of you - Just how much money would satisfy you? Or is there even enough in the treasury to make that happen. I truly doubt you would be happy even if you got everything you think you should get.

    And I don't think you deserve anything. You sat out in the south china sea and ate ice cream while the real fighters were doing the job.

  5. LOL!!

    Is that what you "think?"

    Are you Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal?

    Go back to your cave and read some history.

    Ice Cream. Yeah, that's all we did was sit out there and eat ice cream.

    You are a perfect example of why the persons posting on the Internet should require a license.


  6. Anonymous11:23

    "And I don't think you deserve anything. You sat out in the south china sea and ate ice cream while the real fighters were doing the job."

    Well 'George', this parrots the sorry attitude of some vets who think only THEY did their job; what you have to remember is that we, like you, went where we were sent and did the job we were sent to do. Also, you chose your service and we chose ours...sort of late to complain about your choice isn't it? That's assuming you DID 'choose' and weren't a vet because of the draft.

    You ask how much money would satisfy us? It's really more than money but since you asked; just the amount the LAW says we are entitiled to...no more, no less.

    Have to wonder what brings YOU to this site?

  7. Anonymous11:45

    "I don't think you deserve anything. You sat out in the south china sea and ate ice cream while the real fighters were doing the job." I'll bet you were a real WAR fighter Mr. I Got Mine. I don't know anything about eating ice cream....I didn't have time; I was too busy firing 3569 rounds of 5'54HE to save your ass to worry about ice cream.

  8. Anonymous12:56

    Unfortunately, probably too many people and land based veterans of the VN war feel the same way about the Navy Vets. That we "had it easy" during the war--eating ice cream--having cookouts, etc. while the troops on the ground spent their time dodging bullets and avoding land mines, etc. I don't believe that any sensible Blue Water Navy Vet. wants to steal away the bravery,and honor due the troops on the ground or deny that the horror of war we may have faced equaled or came close to the horrors others faced. But we were there--and in our own way fought and some faced bullets and bombs and died as a result of our battles. We were all in a position
    to die and would not have refused to do so had our duty ask for it. Perhaps the esteem of the Navy Veteran is an issue here and needs to be defended. The Vietnam War
    really began because of war action against our naval forces. But not enough attention has been given to naval casualies of war--expecially during Vietnam. We did sometimes get to enjoy ice cream. But the Okie City shared it with troops on the ground too. I have deck logs to prove it.

  9. You are quite correct. Actually, though, this is a fight for another day. The larger issue here is the fact that we were exposed to Agent Orange and the other Rainbow Herbicides probably as much, though by different vectors than the guys on the ground. And that difference is proven in the fact that their mortality rate peaked in the mid to late 1990s, while ours is peaking now.

    In that sende, then, where we served is meaningless. We were all hit by "friendly fire".


  10. Anonymous15:54

    Isn't it just as likely that the "mortality peak" for the navy personnel is due to age? After all I would expect most are at least in their mid-to-late 60's by now. Even with the increasing longevity number it is quite common for males in the US to die at that age. How has this been factored into your thought process?

  11. It isn't "my" thought processes, it is statistics. And no, the mortality rate of Vietnam Veterans right now, primarily Navy Veterans is very high. Not as high as its been, but there aren't that many Vietnam Veterans left. In less than ten years we'll be gone.

    Why do you think the DVA is fighting us so hard. Hold us off until 2015 and there won't be enough of us to statistically matter. Those Vietnam Veterans still alive in 2015 will be the ones who never got sick from herbicides. Many WW II and Korean War Veterans will outlive us.

    No, the mortality rate is extremely high. Vietnam Veterans are dying between the ages of 58 and 66. Watch your newpaper obits for a month.


  12. Anonymous19:28

    I don't dwell on the obituaries much. And it has been stated by many, including the navy folks here, that statistics can be made to show whatever you want.

    So I ask if you can cite any specific, validated research that shows the navy folks who served in the area of vietnam are suffering a higher mortality rate than the general population? And do you have any specific, verifiable data that shows the causes of any such deaths?

    Without something that can be verified as true and valid, your statements will be met with the same responses from the legislature as in the past.

    Rhetoric and emotion aside, you have to be able to prove, without doubt, that what you contend is true.

  13. Sure, you can look at any census data from the 200o census, and other census data published since then. You can also dig into past posts on this blog to see much of what you ask for.

    Also, visit the VASVW site.


  14. Anonymous20:41

    "Rhetoric and emotion aside, you have to be able to prove, without doubt, that what you contend is true."

    Most feel this HAS been proven, at least as much as for those who served ashore. Can every vet prove 'without doubt' that his case of prostate cancer or diabetes is a result of exposure to Agent Orange? Not really, but the statistics have shown that it is 'presumptive' enough to make the case. The point here isn't if Agent Orange should be considered probable cause of the presumptive conditions but rather, did Agent Orange, by some miracle, stop at the shore line and not drift, airborne out to sea. Did Agent Orange chemicals pass through the ships distilling plants in a concentration that makes them as high or higher than that experienced by those ashore?

    And, really, we aren't talking about 'proving' anything to anyone; the people who need to be convinced aren't allowing themselves to be confused by facts.

    For years now the DVA, has refused to recognize blue water Navy vets who spent years at sea off Vietnam, even making port visits, while approving someone who can prove he or she set foot off a plane in Saigon for an hour or two layover.

    BTW, a lot of the 'ice cream' you are talking about was made from a mix....using a powdered mix and water distilled by the same evaps that concentrate the dioxin.

    Also BTW, a large number of the VFW Vietnam 'in-country' vets I've run across spent most of their time at a desk somewhere.....they seem to be the one's who talk the loudest anyway.

  15. Anonymous21:14

    "No, the mortality rate is extremely high. Vietnam Veterans are dying between the ages of 58 and 66. Watch your newpaper obits for a month."

    Far too general a statement to make any impact.

    This is may very well be true. However it does nothing to promote the claim that navy personnel who may have served around the area are suffering an elevated mortality rate. How do you propose to prove your point? Do you have a source for data that can be used? If so it would certainly serve your purpose to provide that data to support your contention.

  16. You say. I answered you question earlier.

    Now, if you have any other questions or comments use the email link.


  17. Anonymous23:57

    I'm afraid that you Blue Water Vets are arguing with a character who calls himself UC-123 and goes by several other aliases. He has even spewed his swill for the DVA's rigged public response purposes. Don't waste your time. Don't get caught up in his 'straw man' argument. No matter what data, no matter how much data, no matter what kind of data you furnish it will never be sufficient. He is much like the VA: he has nothing but contempt for those who can take facts and data and come to a reasonable conclusion.

  18. Anonymous:

    Your comments are being moderated for inappropriatness and bad language.

    I would remind you that this is ablog, and these are comments...it is NOT a discussion board.