“The politics of obfuscation have outpaced the politics of interrogation.” Eugene Williams
It is for this astute observation about the sociology of current political trends that I intentionally waited until the eve of this Presidential election to weigh in on the issues and policies that impact America’s veterans. Sorting and seeking the raw truth takes longer these days.
The nascent cottage industry of, “fact checkers,” have now replaced the purity and objectivity of old school journalism. When the obfuscated truth and fictions of advocacy journalism impact the lives of our nations veterans one wonders if the soldiers oath to uphold the Constitution and protect us against enemies foreign and domestic is the only remaining bastion of integrity.
Demographics show that veterans are twice as likely to vote as the rest of the citizenry. It would follow that both candidate Romney and President Obama would make appeals to their votes.
With the most silent, yet longest running war in modern history in progress in Afghanistan, you would think their appeals to veterans would embody some beef. In this wearisome election cycle, or social engineering project disguised as a campaign, we have seen appeals devolve into appearances, with stilted groups of veterans standing erect with flat affects behind their candidate, logos and all, mute, while the pablum of neutrality flows. No talk of war. No request for sacrifice or support. And certainly no talk of the actuarial projections of the astronomical costs of the benefits for the permanent disabilities for the survivors of war. The irony being that our medical technology and emergency medicine is so advanced, (much of the innovation coming from the U.S. Army), that our soldiers and Marines are surviving at nearly 4-5 times the ratio of previous wars. The living disability factor and its impact on the National budget is curiously a muted topic. I wonder why? Is it because the total cost on both ends of war, could break the bank? Remember this is what Afghanistan did to Russia.
The disability process and the future of the Veterans Administration is a core issue with American veterans. Romney and McCain before him hinted at privatizing the VA. This will not float with the veteran population.
In past elections veterans have favored the Republicans. Yet the polls had no specificity of job description. The margin switches places when you only poll combat veterans who remain in a statistical minority. The ratio of support troops to combat troops hovers around 10:1. Historically combatants have leaned left.
Clinton and Gore were popular with many Vietnam Veterans for reasons of policy not ideology. They aggressively took on the lingering problems with Agent Orange, as has this VA Administration. They promoted and promulgated legislation that struck and emotional and survival cord for many of the families of Vietnam Veterans. Karl Rove had not yet mastered the wedge issue game. And, I am not so sure that retired four-star-general, Eric Shinseki, the highest ranking Secretary of VA in history, would play those games. He has also proclaimed by way of expanding the list of illnesses and populations that were exposed to Agent Orange to finish this issue and take care of every legitimate applicant. This research benefits every soldier with chemical exposure to this day. The legislation spills backward and forward in time. Veterans know this.
There are 2 million troops who have rotated home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a million more to come. Their party loyalty is somewhat vacant with nearly 40% registering Independent. Few elect to affiliate with the mainline fraternal organizations like the VFW, American Legion, or Marine Corps League. The reasons for ghosting from the traditional organizations is glaringly obvious, evidenced by an observation from a young former Navy sniper, Jonathan Andrews, who stated, “why would I join those guys? I will walk in a VFW for a beer and have a Blue State guy on one side and a Red State guy on the other…hurting my ears! I can get this cacophony in Baghdad or Kabul!”
Jonathan’s next observation about the state of nation is more penetrating.
“So the Republicans and Democrats pick the candidates, but us Independents pick the winners!”
Even though Dante warned us that, “the hottest places in hell our reserved for the neutral,” it is no wonder that the candidates neuter themselves in all discussions of war. Neither one wants to be tagged as a Dove or a Hawk. The resultant zeitgeist is that we have never in history been so disconnected from the conduct of war. On this issue, I declare both cowards.
While the topic is avoided, it is proper to acknowledge that this Administration did dust Bin Laden, continue the surge, and implement the use of Drones without much controversy.
The jury is out on Benghazi. There are way to many moving parts in the Middle East to pretend this is the NFL Channel. Ergo, the reason Condi Rice said to, “back off.”
The evacuation of Saigon did not work out so well either, did it? In Vietnam we had daily acts of terror. Be assured we were not always granted support. This “need to know,” from the common citizen who never served is a bit ludicrous. General Petraeus knows his shit. Let him be. Sometimes the few are sacrificed for the many. It is war folks…wake up. Imagine helicopters coming to the rescue….just like all the Facebook Generals suggest. Then imagine Black Hawk Down. Go play war on your computer.
Back to the veteran table and the issues and policies that could tip tomorrows election.
The core issues of homelessness, joblessness amongst veterans, post-traumatic-stress-disorder, the disability claim process and the GI Bill have the laser attention of this Veteran Administration. There has never been a VA Secretary as aggressive and so respected as General Shinseki. He has gained advance funding for the VA in the last two budget cycles—unprecedented for the previous 26 years. He increased the budget by 25%, and increased medical coverage for the National Guard and Reservists. By example GW Bush knocked them off the docket, and John McCain did not even show for the vote on the GI Bill.
Veterans are hyper-vigilant about these issues and they have a huge impact on election decisions that transcend the arranged duopoly of party politics.
The Defense Budget is a crap shoot when it comes to veterans. As an issue, this a bit more dependent upon the voters depth and fund of knowledge about the very subterranean planning process of the Pentagon. Remenber, it was Donald Rumsfeld who wanted to drastically cut the boots on the ground in favor of aviation and nuclear submarines. War is morphing itself as warp speed. We are entering areas that not even Star Ship Enterprise ventured. Cyber-war is dead serious and it is not fought with guns. Our power grids are vulnerable. Our VA Hospitals were on alert a few years back and most likely still are.
Do not let the pundits fool you or engage in red herring tactics when it comes to elections. For every soldier we cut back, they are replaced with a private contractor or mercenary. It is still your tax tab. The whole world of the proverbial, “shadow government,” has little to do with Presidential elections, but the armchair State Department mavens think it does. So, this issue is a near tie for both candidates, with a small edge going to POTUS, since he actually knows who runs the shadow government.
With the total veteran population at 23,067,000. 7,653, ooo from the Vietnam era. 5,507,000 from the Gulf War era. Korean conflict, 2,261,000. and World War ll at ,2,272,000 and peacetime veterans at 5,892.000. Female veterans representing 7.9% of all veterans at 1,824,00 and one-in-five males over 18 years of age being veterans, it can be said that this is one of the most diverse and amorphous body politics in America.
My prediction is that the combination of the Vietnam Veterans and women veterans who are somewhat concerned about Mitt Romney’s bellicosity without grounding, combined with the 40% Independent OEF/OIF veterans, will tip the election to the return of Obama.
Respect the process and our most amazing system of checks and balances. Read Article One of the Constitution, pray unceasingly, and know that America will always prevail with dignity.