I wrote a post in January of 2007 with the title, "I Knew It Was Coming." What I knew was coming was the Vietnam backlash against veterans. While the country "learned its lessons" from Vietnam, one of which being, "Even if you don't support the war, support the troops," there has always been an element that doesn't support the troops. That faction is increasing in boldness. That's why I have objected to the objectification of veterans, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly as in the case of Alvarez. It is a slippery slope that once trod can easily slide into the very same problems that Vietnam veterans have been subjected to.
It's well underway.
More, plus some good comments, after the jump.
It's funny that in the United States, particular problems that are most often manifested among a particular demographic cannot be directly referred to as such. It's just not politically correct. We have a lot of sensitivity to issues that occur mainly among minorities, or among lifestyle groups. We don't wish to offend, and we go to great lengths to avoid stating obvious relationships between cause and effect for the sake of the feelings or sensibilities of a particular group, be it racial or lifestyle oriented. In the beginning of this war, it was not cool to go after veterans or military members, but that has been inexorably changing.
Phase I starts with stories told by reporters like Alvarez, objectifying veterans of this country's wars as either victims or as potentially dangerous near-criminals. The ultimate expression of such objectification has been demonstrated in the publication of an "Intelligence and Analysis Assessment" by the Department of Homeland Security or "Geheimstaats Polizei" dated April 7th, 2009, which labels veterans as potentially dangerous to homeland security. This is Phase II.
(U//FOUO) The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.
Holy freakin' cow. Now there is a government agency, nay; a department, that publishes the words, "the return of military veterans... could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks." Lizette Alvarez must be jumping up and down with self-righteous justification.
This Soldier gasps in disbelief, shakes his head and sadly looks towards Washington in utter dismay. I saw it coming, and I've spoken against it. I've called the warning and pointed... and there is no stopping the slide towards a great evil which has now taken hold to the point of poisoning the relationship of my government and my brothers in arms. We are now, "them." We are now that minority. We are the Jews of 1930's Germany. We are McCarthy's Communists. We are the ones who are being moved to the back of the bus and who are losing our seats at the national lunch counter. Our honor is slipping away as we become the new insidious threat.
Our own government has declared us suspect.
(U//FOUO) Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.
Uh-huh. We also possess combat skills and experience that should be attractive to both DHS and law enforcement of all levels. I don't see that noted anywhere. I don't see a recommendation for harnessing the abilities of veterans to somehow be of use, or a recommendation to reach out to veterans to brief them on the existence of such recruiting efforts, if they exist. There does not seem to be any substantial evidence of such recruiting, merely the conjecture that our dangerous abilities and tendencies would be attractive to such groups.
There is the unspoken; veterans may have a tendency to be politically opposed to the current administration. Veterans may have had a tendency to have voted for the other guy. So, without any evidence of a groundswell in returning veterans joining such "rightwing" organizations or practicing or preparing to practice any "rightwing extremism," we are identified as being potential threats. We, who answered the call to defend our country, are now to be carefully watched. We, who have fought in the "War on Terror" are, without any evidence whatsoever, potentially violent terrorists ourselves?
The faction who in the early days of this war found themselves having to mute their cries against the warriors themselves is finding its voice, and with the lack of social backlash began to raise its voice from a low murmur to a conversational tone. That faction does tend to reside on the left end of the spectrum, and the left has taken power in the last election, bringing all causes on the left a new feeling of empowerment. In the first 60 days of the new administration the President of the United States, who insisted that he was stronger on veterans' issues than his opponent, himself brought forth a policy to cause veterans with service-related wounds and injuries to have to pay for medical care for such injuries from their private insurance.
It does not matter that he had to back away from this policy. It does not matter that it became less than politically expedient to continue through to implementation and, for now, the policy had to be abandoned. It matters that it was raised in the first place. It does not matter that a candidate speaks of "sacred trust." It matters what he tries to do once in power. Deeds, not words, are what show the real spirit and the real intent.
Now, under a new Secretary of Homeland Security, there is an "Intelligence and Analysis Assessment" that paints veterans, not as a casual aside but prominently among their main points, as a potential threat to domestic tranquility.
This is not a political blog. This is a military blog. This is an Afghanistan military blog. I try to stay in my lane, but when my brothers and sisters and I are being assaulted, I will not stay silent. This is not just a blog about Afghanistan and the military. It is written by a combat veteran of Afghanistan and a believer that we can make a positive difference in the world with what we do. I believe that we can make ourselves more secure by doing the right things on the opposite side of the world, and that sometimes that means going in harm's way. I believe that when you go in harm's way, sometimes you are harmed, and sometimes you have to harm in return. I believe that is regrettable, but that when it is necessary it should be done with focus, restraint, and with surgical violence at the personal level. I believe that there is a time and a place for such violence and that on our shores is not that time or place. I am finding myself being abandoned by my country in small but growing ways and I don't like it, because I have borne true allegiance to this country and do not deserve, nor do my compatriots, to be treated as a dog who has bitten a child would be.
The President of the United States, during his campaign, spoke of a "sacred trust." He has since made an action that I consider to be in direct contravention of that trust, and now a department of his administration has declared us, veterans, as a group, to be a potential danger. Now is the time for the President to renew his commitment to the sacred trust that he spoke of, because he sets the tone. He sets the tone for his administration and he sets the tone for all of those who feel that growing sense of empowerment to speak against this nation's veterans in derisive or objectifying language.
Being the first president to duck the Medal of Honor recipients on the day of his inauguration is not the way to set the tone. Being the first president to call for wounded veterans to pay for battle-related wounds from their private insurance is not the way to do it, either. Being the president who allows a department of his administration to label veterans as one of the likely suspects, without any evidence, in future domestic terrorism, is not the way to set this tone.
As a candidate, Barack Obama spoke of leadership and its importance. Now is the time for this President to be the President and set the tone for his administration relating to veterans issues. I'm a little worried at this point that this is not the president that the President cares to be.
I hope he proves my concerns to be unfounded. One way to do that would be to ruthlessly go after the unprofessional staff who published a report declaring, without evidence and based on nothing more than conjecture, that veterans are some kind of threat to this nation that we have but our lives on the line for.
I'll wrap this up with a quote from the cover of the report:
Federal efforts to influence domestic public opinion must be conducted in an overt and transparent manner, clearly identifying United States Government sponsorship.
Propaganda needs to be done clearly and in the government's name... isn't that what that means? I notice that the word "responsibly" is not to be found there.