I was dumbfounded. It is of course true that during and even after the Viet Nam conflict, many war vets were treated terribly. A failure was made to separate the soldiers in that war from the national protest against the war itself. Tens of thousands of these vets ended up homeless in both a spiritual and literal sense.
But we all learned that lesson, and learned it well. From Hollywood portrayals (Forrest Gump, Platoon) to cultural reassessments across all political lines, America has become highly aware of the difference between policy (Bush's decision to invade Iraq, for instance) and the individual soldiers used to carry out that policy.
Let me illustrate by using Barack Obama's repeated statements regarding our military. I'm sure Hillary has also made them, but I chose Barack since he is the most consistently anti-Iraq War voice among the candidates today, and also is often called a liberal of liberals. He bluntly says:
"Keeping faith with those who serve must always be a core American value and a cornerstone of American patriotism. Because America's commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end." - Barack Obama, Speech in Kansas City, MO, August 21, 2007
Meanwhile, conservatives seem to be the ones who are deaf about war veterans' needs once those vets return to this country. Our community, Jesus People USA, runs homeless shelters. And we've always known that war veterans (Viet Nam in particular) made up a disproportionate number of homeless men. Yet when John Edwards, then campaigning for President, made the statement that 200,000 veterans in America were out there homeless, sleeping under bridges, here is how Fox News' Bill O'Reilley responded, "The only thing sleeping under a bridge is that guy's [John Edwards'] brain":
Bill O'Reilly is the same guy who said "If you don't support the troops then shut up." If only he'd take his own advice!
So what are the facts on homeless vets? According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness:
- In 2006, approximately 195,827 veterans were homeless on a given night—an increase of 0.8 percent from 194,254 in 2005. More veterans experience homeless over the course of the year. We estimate that 336,627 were homeless in 2006.
- Veterans make up a disproportionate share of homeless people. They represent roughly 26 percent of homeless people, but only 11 percent of the civilian population 18 years and older. This is true despite the fact that veterans are better educated, more likely to be employed, and have a lower poverty rate than the general population.
- A number of states, including Louisiana and California, had high rates of homeless veterans. In addition, the District of Columbia had a high rate of homelessness among veterans with approximately 7.5 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness.
- We estimate that in 2005 approximately 44,000 to 64,000 veterans were chronically homeless (i.e., homeless for long periods or repeatedly and with a disability).
These facts might not impact the O'Reillys, Limbaughs, and Coulters of the world, but hopefully they do impact those of us without a million-dollar job shoveling horse manure into a microphone.
Further, while President Bush was pouring billions of dollars into the war in Iraq, veterans returning home from Iraq were often not being cared for properly. This eventually began to be addressed after journalists exposed the deteriorating hospitals run by the Veterans Administration, Walter Reed in particular.
Barack Obama again offers a very strong reaction, addressing Veterans Affairs concerns specifically in a well-developed position paper:
Barack Obama believes America has a sacred trust with our veterans. He is committed to creating a 21st Century Department of Veterans' Affairs that provides the care and benefits our nation's veterans deserve.Nor does Barack Obama stop with veterans, but also he addresses soldiers in the field along with the overall set of issues dealing with America's military in the 21st Century.
* Allow All Veterans Back into the VA: One of Obama's first acts will be reversing the 2003 ban on enrolling modest-income veterans, which has denied care to a million veterans.
* Strengthen VA Care: Obama will make the VA a leader of national health care reform so that veterans get the best care possible. He will improve care for polytrauma vision impairment, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, aging, and women's health.
* Combat Homelessness among Our Nation's Veterans: Obama will establish a national "zero tolerance" policy for veterans falling into homelessness by expanding proven programs and launching innovative services to prevent veterans from falling into homelessness.
* Fight Veterans Employment Discrimination: Obama will crack down on employers who commit job discrimination against guardsmen and reservists.
Frankly, I advise anyone with the mistaken idea that Barack Obama or the Democratic Party is soft on the military to read the above links, as well as do a little digging on line of your own. (I may be a bit left of, or outside of, the Democrats on some issues dealing with what N. T. Wright calls "Empire." But that's another subject.)
Don't expect good information from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, or their lesser clones. These individuals (Limbaugh and O'Reilly in particular) have shown contempt for the homeless. Those homeless military men (and now, with Iraq, homeless women vets as well) get no helping hand from those who bray most loudly that we "should support our troops." Let that knowledge guide our further consumption of their "facts."
The above is not an appeal to join up with the Democratic Party or with Barack Obama. It is merely a plea to at least argue on reasonable grounds when discussing political differences. The idea that liberals hate our soldiers is an idea so completely without merit or logic it beggars the imagination. What liberals hate is sending our soldiers into a conflict we have no business fighting in and which only a series of lies ever allowed in the first place. Our soldiers today are in harm's way because our current administration insisted, against all evidence or reason, upon placing them there. Even a good conservative can admit as much. Some have.
And one more video, where a bunch of those non-existent homeless vets (men and women) go to pay a visit to Bill O'Reilly at FOXNews:
I shouldn't have. But I did.
tag: Barack Obama, barack obama 21st century military, Barack obama iraq, liberal soldier, liberals hate troops, liberals trashing troops, Rush Limbaugh