Carter's Discharge Scheme: Not Even Peanuts, Only Shells
The latest act concerning veterans in the "Let's Smile, Close Our Eyes to the Past, Present and Future, and All Get Together" road show, is talk about upgrading discharges. The good ol' boy's plan is to give a blanket upgrading to the category of "General under Honorable Conditions" for vets who got bad paper for certain specific reasons such as drug abuse and desertion. The rest would still be subject to case by case review.
As with the rest of the promises Carter has made to the American people (at least the ones he hasn't already broken), his discharge plan comes up short for two reasons--what it is and what it doesn't cover. What it is, is nothing but better bad paper. General under Honorable Conditions is still less than honorable, and that means a helluva lot when you are trying to find a decent job in a society where unemployment is somewhere around 11% and threatening to go higher.
This plan also falls short because it doesn't dover everyone's bad paper. It subjects everyone not in the small category to case by case review which takes years to get and is only about 15-20% successful (if the vet has the bucks and can afford to have his own lawyer as well as make an appearance before the board, the chances are better). Hundreds of thousands of vets have had their lives ruined or put in disarray because of that lousy DD-214. And most of them, about 19 out of 20, never even got their say in court. Some commander just gave us the bad paper because some lifer called us "boy" and we hit him upside the head, or we got tired of the hassle and didn't shine our boots or we got to talking in the barracks against the war or against the oppression and discrimination in the military. Hell, Richard Nixon conducted an illegal war for for years, invaded a neutral country (Cambodia), held back funds for social programs like the poverty program and transportation, and sent his thugs out to break and enter and beat up people. For that he got pardoned to a $100,000 a year retirement on the beach in Southern California.
How come vets have been suffering with bad paper for 3,5 and 10 years or longer and Nixon gets off? How come families like the Rockefellers build their fortunes off the sweat and blood of working people including gunning down 13 members of the families of striking miners in Ludlow Colorado in 1914? It's because this is a class society, and the rich class runs things in their interests, not ours. Whether it's fighting a war for profit in Vietnam or saving bucks by keeping the veterans who fought that war down, the Presidents and policy makers do what serves the interests of the rich.
That's where smilin' Jimmy comes in. Workers, vets, minorities, have always fought back against the abuses we face. Jimmy says he wants to heal the wounds of the country. What he means is that people are fighting against a trainload of abuses made worse by a failing economy. Smilin' Jimmy wants to throw out a few crumbs and expects us to squeeze our cheeks, turn down the heat, and be happy. In fact the only reason Carter even came up with this limited discharge plan was because we put the heat on him and his rich friends in the first place. VVAW and the overall movement for amnesty has been pointing to bad paper for years, to the point where Carter was forced to do something.
An amnesty struggle began five years ago; VVAW and others fought to include bad paper vets among those in need of amnesty. There were demonstrations and petitions and conferences, and now tens of millions of Americans want amnesty for war resisters and the elimination of the less than honorable discharge. Smilin' Jimmy's trying to throw us a bone, but we ain't similin'. We demand:
UNIVERSAL, UNCONDITIONAL AMNESTY!
SINGLE-TYPE DISCHARGE FOR ALL VETS!