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The Struggle Continues
By Joe Miller
From the National Office
2018 - Another year of terrible anniversaries.
Fifty years since the Tet Offensive, the My Lai massacre, the assassinations of King and Kennedy, a 'police riot' at the Democratic National Convention, and the election of Nixon who continued 'our war' for another seven years.
Fifteen years since George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, a war that spawned even greater conflicts and continuous casualties to troops and civilians in places many of us could not find on a map. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost! Trillions of dollars blown! And the wars go on.
We in VVAW never thought that 50 years after events that shook the world and made us who we are, we'd still be around. Sixteen years ago we actually began discussions about shutting down.
With the new wars in Southwest Asia, old VVAW members came out of the woodwork, looking to re-up and voice their opposition. Veterans from these new wars began to organize as early as 2004, with the establishment of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), now renamed About Face - Veterans Against the War (see page 20).
Today, as the US is engaged in multiple wars and bombing campaigns, the anti-war movement is in a very different place. A whole generation has been raised to expect permanent war as a state of being. Generations of Afghanis, Iraqis and others have grown up in a constant state of war. The war profiteers are in charge. We have a so-called President who is an idiot and a chickenhawk coward. Rabid generals, fools, tools of the transnational rich, and right-wing ideologues like John Bolton are stumbling on global tripwires. Are we approaching another world war?
VVAW's "War on the VA" that we began in the 1970s has now morphed into a battle to SAVE the VA. Members are organizing to combat the obvious efforts at privatization and make the VA a shining example of what health care in the US could be. We need to forge a united front to keep the VA. VA workers, patients and other veterans' organizations must unite to stop the privatization already in progress. VVAW is supporting the "Right to Heal" campaign. We should actively support the group "Fighting for Veterans Healthcare" (ffvhc.org). The traditional veterans' organizations are vacillating and buying into some of the lies about the current efforts at "reform."
We are a bit older, but still not in our dotage. There are things we can do, especially in concert with younger veterans who are and will be victims of the disappearance of a REAL VA.
The suicide epidemic is not going away. The VA is vastly understaffed and unable to handle the load of terribly stressed vets from the Forever War. If veterans do not organize and stand up for themselves, they/we will be flushed into an inadequate, civilian, for-profit series of stop-gap clinics. Big Medical will cash in.
It should certainly be clear to most folks that the economy sucks for us. Profits are through the roof for the rich and powerful, even when their stocks dip a bit. They always find a way to come out on top—on top of us.
And so, the struggles that VVAW has been fighting since 1967 continue. While we are older (and perhaps a little tired), we are still angry. We hope we are also a little wiser. While President Chickenhawk and the Republicans collude to attack all that is decent, we must not let that wear us down. We still have hope; we still have an important role to play in these battles.
We have hope that the new generation of American youth that have grown up under continuous war and increasing gun violence can help lead a new generation into power and more just policies can ensue. We hope that we can impart the wisdom we learned when we were the new kids on the block and are not the old guys on the corner.
We still find inspiration from the struggles of those who have fought back and won. We find hope in the Vietnamese youth who have grown up in the war-ravaged and bombing-infected country we almost destroyed. We have hope that donations we make to these youth can help a new generation.
We are tired, but we have hope for the future.
End the permanent wars! Fully staff the VA! Increase the number of VA facilities!
Joe Miller is a Navy veteran, 1961-68. Naval Security Group, 1961-64. USS Ticonderoga (CVA14), 1964-66. HELTRARON 8, 1966-68. He is a VVAW National Board Member.
Thanks to Jeff Danziger, Billy Curmano, and Eric Garcia for their cartoons. Thanks to the Poor People's Campaign artists: Aaron Hughes, Yvette M. Pino, Eric Garcia, Sandro Abate, and Eli Wright. Thanks to Chuck Theusch, Joe Miller, Mike Hastie, AFGE, Aaron Hughes, John Crandell, Ben Chitty, Brian Matarrese, and others for contributing photos.