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Ann Jones: "I Didn't Serve, I Was Used"
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America has been committed to supporting the veterans of its wars since long before it had “United States of” in front of it. “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire… horrible was the stink and scent thereof,” William Bradford wrote after soldiers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony massacred a village of native Pequots. Later, the Pilgrims gave thanks to their veterans by passing a law to support wounded soldiers of the campaign. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) traces its spiritual roots to this ur-moment in 1636.

Today, citizens of the United States directly bear the burden of more than 150 years of warfare. As of May 2016, the VA was still paying benefits to one dependent of a Civil War (1861-1865) veteran, 88 dependents of Spanish-American War (1898-1902) veterans, nine dependents of veterans of the military campaign along the Mexican border early in the twentieth century, thousands of dependents of World War I (1917-1918) veterans, hundreds of thousands of World War II (1941-1945) veterans and dependents, hundreds of thousands of Korean War (1950-1953) veterans and dependents, around 1.8 million Vietnam War-era (1964-1975) veterans and dependents, and millions of veterans and dependents of the Gulf War (1990-1991) and of the ongoing War on Terror campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere (2001 to the present).

When President Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861, there were an estimated 80,000 veterans living in the United States. By 1865, the final year of the Civil War, there were so many more veterans in need of assistance that Lincoln called on Congress “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.” Lincoln didn’t live to see the end of that war and probably couldn’t have imagined we’d still be paying the direct costs of his request in 2016. Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t live to see the end of the war he presided over either, but according to VA projections, 13,000 World War II veterans — to say nothing of their dependents — will be receiving benefits as late as 2034.

Given that the U.S. was still paying benefits to a dependent of an American Revolutionary veteran in the 1910s and to a Civil War widow as late as the 2000s, it’s anyone’s guess how long Americans will be paying the price of the dependents of all the veterans whose hearts were touched by fire in post-9/11 wars. In 150 years, will some writer be tallying up the number of widows and children still collecting on the wars, interventions, attacks, and raids in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere? Will these conflicts be as dimly remembered as the campaign against Pancho Villa along the Mexican border in the 1910s? Or will they still be fresh in the minds of Americans as a never-ending intergenerational campaign sees grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren fighting for elusive victories in the greater Middle East?

Today, TomDispatch regular Ann Jones, author of the highly praised They Were Soldiers: How The Wounded Return from America’s Wars — The Untold Story, takes up the questions of what and how we will pay (in every sense of the word) for the veterans of our current wars. In an adapted version of the keynote address she recently gave to the annual convention of Veterans for Peace, Jones takes aim at schemes seeking to use veterans for corporate interests and dismantle the VA system in the name of privatized profits. Caring for veterans is a burden whose long-term costs have rarely been considered in the context of America’s penchant for ceaseless warfare, but the costs of not properly caring for them, as Jones makes perfectly clear, may be even more dire.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military 
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  1. Don’t bother clicking thru to the Ann Jones piece.

    The intro that Nick Turse provided for it, the cookie trail, is inaccurate.

    The Jones article is a hit-piece (should say, another hit-piece) on the Koch brothers, war profiteers par excellence: in Jones’ myopic view; after all, their company sold toilet paper to US military in Middle East wars.

    then it gets worse.

    Another Engelhardt FAIL.

    • Replies: @John Jeremiah Smith
  2. America has been committed to supporting the veterans of its wars since long before it had “United States of” in front of it.

    I almost stopped reading right there since it’s apparent that the author has never heard of Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion or the Bonus Army for starters, but my curiosity got the best of me and I must admit that I did read the Jones article and thought it was a good exposure of some of the ways big money operates.

    Besides, any article that damns the hideous creep, John McCain can’t be too bad!

    • Replies: @John Jeremiah Smith
  3. “I didn’t serve, I was used.”

    Yeah, I was used too, but I vaguely recall volunteering for it, so I was somewhat complicit in it.

    “… it’s anyone’s guess how long Americans will be paying the price of the dependents of all the veterans whose hearts were touched by fire in post-9/11 wars.”

    Back in the days when people might live to 42, it was too easy to make promises with a tail that might then unfold over 150 years. The promises are far less open-ended these days.

    • Replies: @John Jeremiah Smith
  4. How do those payments to dependants of the civil war and other pre-WW1 conflicts work and what possible definition of “dependant” is being applied? I know a lot of those spry old duffers from the civil war and the Spanish-american war later married sweet young things, but still. How old must that civil war widow now be, and how long since her veteran husband died? The age difference must have been colossal.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  5. @random observer

    Wives were usually the issue … you might have a Civil War vet who married a sweet young thing in the 1930s and she might still be going. A lot of modern pension schemes have therefore incorporated rules that deal with remarriage to spouses who are more than a certain age younger, e.g. 20 years, to deal with this sort of thing.

  6. @SolontoCroesus

    The Jones article is a hit-piece (should say, another hit-piece) on the Koch brothers, war profiteers par excellence

    Good!!! We need more hit pieces on war profiteering!

    Which war are you a veteran of? I signed-up for the Vietnam War, and I take my benefits with a clear conscience.

    But, it’s always good to hear other loyal veterans complain of how the contracts they signed in good faith should not be honored by the government.

    • Replies: @SolontoCroesus
  7. @The Alarmist

    Yeah, I was used too, but I vaguely recall volunteering for it, so I was somewhat complicit in it.

    Yeah, I was used too, and I volunteered as well. Lesson learned, sure, but the deal was made in good faith, and the contract signed by both parties. Honor the contract or be damned.

  8. Rich says:

    Unfortunately, once you sign on the dotted line, you have willingly subjected yourself to being used. I’m sure the enlistees in the Roman Legions were cursing their time in Gaul or Britannia, it’s the way of the soldier, but as a former enlistee, I’d say only draftees can honestly complain about being “used.”

  9. @Jacques Sheete

    Besides, any article that damns the hideous creep, John McCain can’t be too bad!

    I’ve got no problem with how McCain behaved as a POW, because I never walked a mile in those shoes. But AFTER the war, McCain sold his soul to war-profiteering and Big Money. That’s when he graduated to “Soulless Scumbag”, imo.

  10. @John Jeremiah Smith

    you clipped the last part of what I wrote — Mayer complained that the Koch Brothers were war profiteers and citing for her damning example that they sold toilet paper to the DoD.

    Your argument is confusing — Maybe you were not pleased to have toilet paper in Viet Nam?

    Nevertheless, as I read further into Mayer’s book I am re-calibrating my response:

    My knee-jerk reaction against criticism of Kochs is based on the fact that at least they are Americans; have businesses firmly planted on US soil and they employ & serve USAians and they don’t seem to finance/conduct operations that spy on Americans and provide backdoor links to Israelis, like Palantir does, for example.

    But Mayer also reports on the Olins, the Bradleys, Richard Mellon Scaife, and their linkages, apparently, with the Kochs. Some of their activities are downright repugnant — an Olin operation sponsored John Yew, author of legal defense of torture, for example.

    It’s also interesting that Mayer reports on how CIA financed and worked closely with not only these “right wing” organizations, but also died-in-the-wool neoconservatives — Jews and zionists are deeply embedded in the same organizations that the Olins, Bradleys, Mellon Scaife, etc. finance and promote. Paul Singer attends the “secret” meetings that the Kochs conduct each year. Mayer complains that it’s the “secrecy” that is an affront to the American public; the demos should have full information as to who is invited to the Koch’s private parties in remote, luxurious locales.

    • Replies: @John Jeremiah Smith
  11. @SolontoCroesus

    you clipped the last part of what I wrote — Mayer complained that the Koch Brothers were war profiteers and citing for her damning example that they sold toilet paper to the DoD.

    Oh, one example that you find … what? … petty? … means that war-profiteering is all good? Your argument is confusing — Maybe you don’t use toilet paper?

    Feel free to defend the Kochs in any “knee jerk” manner you see fit. In my opinion, corruption is corruption, and defrauding the American people is … wait for it … a bad thing.

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