Monday, November 05, 2007

Funding the Wounded, Funding the War

A reporter's query suggested a different way of looking at the classic “support the troops – support the war” dichotomy that scares and scars politicians. In an age of 15 second sound bites, all that need be said is “senator (or representative) X voted against funding our troops in the field,” letting the silence of the syllogistic “therefore” be completed by the voter that the congressional incumbent doesn’t care about either the dead or the living.

Regardless of the precipitating event, once the armed forces are “on the ground,” the president is in the enviable position to blackmail the Congress and the public into providing funds for the troops fighting for “God, country, and the American way.” It doesn’t seem to make any difference which party controls Congress or occupies the presidency. The worst political sin is to be susceptible to the charge of “not supporting the troops.”

Ironically, presidents are able to blackmail the American people the same way – and they get away with it for the same reason: no one wants to be accused of not standing up for the troops or appear to be unwilling to give them the best of everything. This stems from the belief that the Unitd States is always justified in going to war, that God is on “our side” (or at the very least, is not on the “other side). But in accepting the demise of the conscript army and the emergence of the modern military professional, the American public assigned the responsibility for military defense to a class of people – the Warriors – and in typical fashion, turned their attention elsewhere. This left the main advocates for the military, outside of the formal institutions of government , the traditional veterans’ groups.

Until recently, that is, when the real state of affairs became apparent.

It’s what might be called the “Walter Reed effect.” The revelations of the bureaucratic hoops through which wounded veterans had to jump, compounded by the seeming indifference of the general officers and the administrative personnel toward even those with psychological trauma or more evident brain injuries rekindled empathy among large segments of the population.
egments of the population.

Initially, this concern for the warriors and the questioning of why care for those injured in the wars was so remiss did not cross into questioning the war itself. This left the field of effort to the traditional veterans groups – VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Gold Star Wives – most of whom are pro-war oR neutral on the war.

As the extent of the problems became clearer, as more and more Members of Congress became acquainted with the nature of the injuries and the woeful underfunding of veteran’s health and rehabilitation costs, and as veterans of the Bush wars became more vocal about the war, the public re-engaged.And since the wounded remain distinctive personalities, they are less susceptible to being treated as a class – unlike those who are killed and become, other than for their loved ones who remain, more of a statistic than a memory.

This is the inevitable battle between the collective – how we cope with the flood of sensations and information – and our culture of individualism – the philosophical bedrock of modern democratic theory that our Constitution embodies and on which our national myth rests.


Blogger M. Simon said...

You might find this of interest re: returning troops:

PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System

12:55 AM  

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