Stop overseas wars, United States veterans say


This 31 December 2016 Peace Report video from the USA is called EX-SOLDIER SPEAKS TRUTH.

By Warren Duzak in the USA:

Majority of US veterans back full withdrawal from Afghanistan, other overseas conflicts

30 April 2020

A new poll reveals that more than half of US military veterans surveyed believe that the US government should be less engaged in foreign wars, an increase of about nine percent compared to the same poll conducted last year. A large majority of military veterans and the families of troops and veterans also support a full withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Seventy-three percent of veterans and 69 percent of military families support a full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, while 57 percent of veterans polled expressed opposition to continued “military conflicts overseas”, the Military Times reported.

More than half of veterans backing full withdrawal “offered strong support for the idea”, the Military Times also reported, while only “7 percent said they think the country should be more involved”.

The results of this year’s poll, conducted by Concerned Veterans for America, shows an increase in antiwar sentiments compared to the 2019 survey, which showed 60 percent of veterans and families wanted a complete withdrawal.

National security ranked only fourth among survey participants’ top political priorities, well behind the first choice, health care.

Immigration and the US national debt ranked second and third. There was a margin of error of 3.5 percent, the Military Times noted.

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, marked the beginning of a nearly 19-year-long war, the longest in US history, as well as the onset of a so-called “global war on terrorism” that was used to justify the war of aggression against Iraq, as well as bombings, assassinations, renditions and torture in other parts of the globe. This was followed by the war on Libya and the bloody proxy war for regime change in Syria, both of which relied upon elements linked to Al Qaeda, the supposed target of the US war on terrorism.

Under both the Republican administrations of Bush and Trump, as well the Democratic one of Obama, the pretext of combating terrorism has been utilized to justify global militarism aimed at shoring up declining US hegemony.

Late last year, The Washington Post published “The Afghanistan Papers”, revealing the same pessimism in the military’s leadership now reflected in the military’s rank-and-file veterans and their families.

As the World Socialist Web Site noted in December:

“What emerges from the interviews, conducted with more than 400 US military officers, special forces operatives, officials from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and senior advisers to both US commanders in Afghanistan and the White House, is an overriding sense of failure tinged with bitterness and cynicism. Those who participated had no expectation that their words would be made public.”

The death, suffering and criminal waste of vast resources in Afghanistan boggles the mind. Of the 3,500 dead in coalition forces, the majority, 2,300, were American, the Watson Institute at Brown University reported as part of its “Cost of War” project.

The institute also reported 157,000 Afghan deaths resulting from the war, likely a significant underestimation.

Brown University also summed up the “costs” of wars and military action in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan at $5.9 trillion.

The price tag for all of the “Post-9/11 wars” was more than $6.4 trillion, and, according to the “Cost of War’s” conservative estimate, 801,000 fatalities were directly caused by the wars and “several times as many indirectly.”

Moreover, 21 million people, including millions of young children, have become refugees or “displaced” persons.

To put that in perspective, it is as if Norway, Sweden and Denmark were depopulated, or almost one-half the population of Spain or Argentina. In the United States it would mean the depopulation of all three states of Tennessee, Indiana and Missouri or the entire state of New York or almost all of Florida.

It is important, however, not to be fooled by the “concern” of the group “Concerned Veterans for America.” It was created by billionaire businessman Charles G. Koch and cut from the same cloth as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity.

“(M)aintaining our presence in these countries puts American lives at risk, wastes valuable taxpayer dollars, and saps valuable human and material resources from confronting more immediate and persistent threats to American security and prosperity (emphasis added),” Concerned Veterans for America explained.

It continued: “American security interests can be protected by strengthening the long-term economic stability of our country, maintaining a strong military able to deter adversaries’ actions before they happen, committing ourselves to the deliberate employment of Americans abroad, and a vigorous defense of our nation if attacked or threatened.”

In creating a new veterans group, Koch is seeking to influence public opinion for the purpose of making the shift from wars on terrorism to “great power” conflicts with China and Russia, posing the threat of nuclear war. Just as ominously, “confronting … threats to American security” means for Koch and his fellow billionaires, the growing militarization of the police and the use of troops to control the working class.

Trump diverts veterans’ money to border wall


This 1 June 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

Vet rips Donald Trump: ‘He’s only interested in himself

Army veteran Perry O’Brien says Donald Trump has been using veterans groups as “political props” and says the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s comments will make the U.S. less safe.

From Vote Vets in the USA today:

As if plunging the U.S. into a national security crisis at home and abroad wasn’t enough, this week Trump announced his plan to divert an additional seven billion dollars in Pentagon funds toward his racist and ineffective wall.

Time and again Trump made campaign promises about “Mexico paying for the wall” but all he’s done since taking office is force military families to foot the bill.

His monument to racism has come at the cost of military families and veterans every single time. …

The Team at VoteVets

So, not only Puerto Rican survivors of the Hurricane Maria disaster get money diverted by Trump for building his border wall.

SEGMENT OF BORDER WALL BLOWS OVER A segment of Trump’s signature border wall fell over in California and onto some trees on the Mexican side amid high winds. No one was injured in the incident at Calexico, California, about 100 miles east of San Diego. [HuffPost]

‘Trump’s Iraq-Iran war, Big Business war’


This 5 January 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Vietnam Veteran on Why Corporate America is Pulling the Strings Behind War With Iran

Status Coup’s Jordan Chariton spoke with Vietnam War veteran John at an Iran War protest in New York City on January 4th, 2020.

Battle of Arnhem veterans stopped from commemorating


This 8 April 2018 video says about itself:

Arnhem: A Bridge Too Far (WWII Documentary)

In December, 1944, 400 men of the 1rst British Airborne Division paraded at Buckingham Palace to receive their grateful thanks from their king and countrymen. Although they paraded as heroes, victors they were not. They were some of the survivors of a whole airborne division of over 10,000 men lost during the … battles of Operation Market Garden; Arnhem.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Arnhem sends very old veterans away at commemoration

The municipality of Arnhem sent four British war veterans away last night at the commemoration on Airborneplein square. There was no more space in the VIP room.

“With great sorrow we turned around and returned to our hotel,” says 96-year-old naval veteran Simeon Mayou to Omroep Gelderland broadcasting organisation.

Arnhem mayor Ahmed Marcouch says he wants to find out what went wrong. “If we missed veterans, then I want to make up for this as quickly as possible.”

This year it is exactly 75 years ago that Operation Market Garden started. The commemoration is set up in a grand way and visitors to special ceremonies (such as the memorial last night) must show an admission ticket. The four denied British war veterans of the 1944 Alliance Normandy-Market Garden did not have these tickets.

“We have been around here since the early 1980s and have never needed a pass. We thought our medals served as entry tickets”, said 95-year-old veteran Leslie Reeds.

Reeds fought in Nijmegen and Arnhem. When he crossed the Rhine, he was seriously injured. He was the only survivor of his tank unit. Today, Reeds still has a metal plate in its head. “It is downright embarrassing that they sent us away. I will never experience such a special occasion again”, said Reeds.

Our hearts broke

In their wheelchairs, the four veterans went to the special VIP room for veterans, wreath-layers and other guests last night. Upon arrival they were told that they were not allowed to continue. “Every year we look forward to the celebration. We save the whole year to gather the money for the trip to the Netherlands,” said marine veteran Simeon Mayou (96), who was also sent back.

He added bitterly: “There were people let in who were not even born during the war. But we were not allowed in. Our hearts broke.”

So, it looks like governmental, Big Bureaucracy and Big Business sponsors, mostly born after the 1944 battle, were considered to be ‘more important’ than veterans.

The other two refused war veterans have a similar story. By the way, they could eventually attend the commemoration in the VIP room. A Dutch couple who saw up close how the British were being refused gave the two their admission tickets. Those cards were personal, but the security turned a blind eye and let them through.

The municipality of Arnhem regrets the course of events. But spokesman Carlo van der Borgt says: the maximum number of places was already filled. “This year the commemoration was of course bigger than usual. We had to deal with a limited number of places in the Berenkuil (Airborneplein, ed.). Only for invited guests.”

According to him, all Arnhem veterans were invited and placed on a special list. Veterans without an invitation could use an extra space, right next to the Berenkuil. “That place was well filled,” says Van der Borgt.

The veterans indicate that they have been referred to that location, but that it was also full. “We really couldn’t reach it anymore,” says Kees de Vries, spokesperson for the veterans. “That is very unfortunate,” says Van der Borgt. “But if you have so many people, it becomes difficult. … ”

Beloved veterans honor dead friends

Arnhem mayor Marcouch is shocked on Facebook. “How bad. Our commemoration is all about our beloved veterans who come to honour their deceased friends with us. I do everything to get them all in, safely and with all respect. So now I will find out if we have missed some veterans and if so, then of course I want to make up for this as quickly as possible.”

Dutch war veterans are homeless


This video from the USA says about itself:

Homeless Veteran Dying of Cancer on the Streets of Denver

Yes, Marvin has been drinking. If you were homeless on the streets of Denver dying of cancer, you’d be drinking too to cope with the trauma of reality. In the middle of this interview, Marvin lifted his shirt to show me his back where he had three skin grafts. I didn’t pan the camera down because it just didn’t feel right to do so but what I saw was disturbing. Marvin has a giant hole in his back, unlike anything I have ever seen.

Marvin is a kind man. I stopped to talk to him every time I saw Marvin out panhandling. This evening, he told me he has cancer. We started to talk more. Marvin has many health issues! He needs to be in housing but sadly, there is little housing available for those who need it most!

Marvin spent eight years in the military. He says he now receives $230 a month in disability. No one can afford to live, much less rent an apartment, on that amount of money!

Marvin is vulnerable and fragile. He is an easy target for people who steal from elderly homeless people. The night before, Marvin had everything he owned ripped off. I helped him get some things including a duffle bag to carry his belongings, but Marvin needs housing!

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Dozens of Dutch veterans with psychological complaints roam the streets or sleep at the homeless shelter, the Volkskrant daily reports. The former soldiers suffered permanent psychological damage during their foreign missions, for which they receive no adequate care, according to conversations with veterans, care providers and the Salvation Army.

Based on an inventory among employees, the Salvation Army says that it concerns dozens of veterans who make use of the shelter. But there is a suspicion that their actual number is “in the hundreds”, says a member of the management in the newspaper.

In many cases, they are former soldiers with PTSD syndrome (post-traumatic stress syndrome), who also encountered other problems after their return to the Netherlands …

The Ministry of Defense has set up the Veterans Counter for veterans with health problems. There the former soldiers are assisted in choosing the right care, but also in applying for provisions and benefits. “But the serious cases are not reached there”, says a lawyer who assists veterans with PTSD, in the Volkskrant. Only the self-reliant people turn to the defense department, the others are put off by the bureaucracy or want to be left alone, he adds.

A study involving military veterans with PTSD and cirrhosis of the liver points to an abnormal mix of bacteria in the intestines as a possible driver of poor cognitive performance — and as a potential target for therapy. The study appeared Aug. 28, 2019, in the American Journal of Physiology: here.

United States veterans denounce Pentagon wars


This 27 May 2019 video from Iraq war veteran, United States Democratic party congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard says about itself:

Honor Fallen Heroes: No More Unnecessary Wars

Memorial Day is a time to remember: war must only be waged as a very last resort to keep the American people safe. As Commander-in-Chief, I will honor our troops who’ve sacrificed their lives for our country by working to prevent unnecessary costly wars.

By George Marlowe in the USA:

“It’s been hell for the world”

US Army tweet provokes outpouring of antiwar sentiment

28 May 2019

The United States Army did not get the response it intended when it asked in a tweet last week, “How has serving impacted you?” Instead of paeans to the military, the horrific reality of war on a world scale broke through the annual celebration of American militarism over the Memorial Day weekend.

By Monday night, there were over 11,000 comments in response to the US Army’s question. The official lies and platitudes employed by the ruling elite and the media to exalt war were shattered by stories detailing the living hell that has been imposed on millions of lives.

So massive was the outpouring of sentiment on social media that the response was covered by the mainstream news Monday night, a singular rarity on a day usually devoted to mindless jingoism. The incident even made headlines around the world, an expression of the vast global impact of US militarism.

Veteran suicides, depression, violence, recurring nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, addiction, alcoholism, rape and sexual assault by commanding officers, inadequate health care, generational trauma, exposure to chemical agents, war crimes. These were just some of the nightmarish tales that emerged.

Heartbreaking stories of veteran suicides were all too common. Shane Burley’s story was repeated in various forms by numerous people. “My best friend from high school was denied his mental health treatment and forced to return to a third tour in Iraq, despite having such deep trauma that he could barely function,” Shane wrote. “He took a handful of sleeping pills and shot himself in the head two weeks before deploying.”

Sean described what he called “the ‘Combat Cocktail’: PTSD, severe depression, anxiety. Isolation. Suicide attempts. Never ending rage. It cost me my relationship with my eldest son and my grandson. It cost some of my men so much more. How did serving impact me? Ask my family.”

Lies used to manufacture public consent for war were also opposed. “Don’t fabricate enemies and shove innocent Americans into wars that kill innocent civilians,” wrote one person. “You’ve gained nothing from all the wars combined. It’s been hell for the world.”

For all the nauseating glorification of the military by the media and the political establishment, those that serve in the military as cannon fodder are generally economic conscripts looking for a way out of poverty and at the chance of a college degree. The reality is they end up maimed, broken and scarred, with generations of families and friends affected by the trauma.

More than 5,500 veterans killed themselves last year, and active-duty military suicides were at an all-time high in 2018. More than 321 of those in active duty in the military killed themselves in 2018, with 138 in the US Army alone.

A 2018 study by the Council on Foreign Relations found that recruits from families with annual incomes less than $38,400 a year made up 19 percent of soldiers. Over 60 percent of recruits come from families with annual incomes less than $61,403, and over 80 percent come from families who make less than $80,912. The study did not show the levels in which the top 5 percent or the top 1 percent participated in the wars, but they no doubt constitute a tiny minority.

Numerous commenters on the US Army Twitter thread referred to the statements of Major-General Smedley Butler, who famously confessed in 1933, “War is just a racket. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”

There is deep opposition to war in the working class in the United States and internationally. As with every other political issue, however, the real interests of the vast majority of the population are excluded from official political life.

In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, this sentiment found expression in mass demonstrations of millions of people throughout the world. Opposition to the Iraq war was channeled behind the Democratic Party, culminating in the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Extending the Bush administration’s “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama attacked more than seven countries, including Libya and Syria, and killed thousands of innocent civilians through drone warfare.

The Trump administration now plans to dispatch 1,500 new troops to the Middle East and has threatened to “end” Iran. His administration also announced the doctrine of “great power” conflict, preparing even bigger military conflagrations against Russia and China that hurtle the world towards a third world war.

In 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Trump administration proposed to close more than 1,100 facilities in an effort to privatize health care. While only $220 billion was allotted to Veterans Affairs for the 2020 budget, more than $718 billion was requested by the Pentagon, a five percent increase over the previous year. If the trend continues, more than $7 trillion will be spent on war over the next decade.

With the support of the Democratic Party, moreover, the Trump administration is intensifying its campaign against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for exposing the crimes of American imperialism.

The Democrats have waged their opposition to Trump largely on the demand that the administration adopt a more aggressive position against Russia and expand the war in Syria and the Middle East. The Democrats have sought to position themselves as the party of the military and the intelligence agencies, hailing as heroes such arch warmongers as the late Republican Senator John McCain.

And the organizations of the complacent and privileged upper middle class that surround the Democratic Party have become the most adamant supporters of American imperialism.

The sentiments expressed in the response the US Army tweet must and will find more organized form. The mass opposition to war must be connected to the growing struggles of workers, in the United States and internationally, against inequality and exploitation. The growing support for socialism must be connected to a conscious political movement of the international working class against capitalism and imperialism.

This 26 May 2019 video from Iraq war veteran, United States Democratic party congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard says about itself:

It’s Time To Bring Our Troops Home #MemorialDay

While the politicians make empty, hollow, phony speeches on Memorial Day, they continue to send my brothers and sisters into wars that are impossible to win, because there is yet no definition of what “victory” would be. These aren’t just “troops”. They’re PEOPLE—friends and comrades, again separated from loved ones. Just another unnoticed cost of war.

US BEGINS NEW ARMS RACE! – as Senate agrees to spend £1.37 trillion next year: here.

The massive Pentagon spending bill President Donald Trump signed into law Friday night includes a new round of provocative and punishing sanctions against Syria based on the hypocritical invocation of “human rights”: here.

Bezos, world’s richest man, smears Iraq war critic


Bezos and Saudi crown prince, SPA photo

This 31 March 2018 SPA photo shows Jeff Bezos being chummy with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman. Bezos is the boss of Amazon.com, notorious for its shabby treatment of workers, especially injured workers. Bezos is also the owner of the Washington Post daily.

At the time of this photo, Bezos could not know yet that, very probably on the orders of his princely buddy, his Washington Post employee Jamal Khashoggi would be murdered most cruelly. Since that murder, Bezos has been remarkably very silent on it, CNBC in the USA says.

Bezos did know at the time of the chummy photo that His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Salman was responsible for killing ten thousands of Yemeni civilians and threatening the lives of millions more by his famine warfare.

Bezos seems to quite like wars, and making money from wars.

So, apparently, he hates critics of, eg, George W Bush’s Iraq war.

From VoteVets in the USA today:

Jeff Bezos — the world’s richest person — is funding a massive Super PAC that claims to be non-ideological in their support of veteran candidates.

Sounds noble.

Big problem with that, though.

Right now that Bezos-backed Super PAC is running ads attacking Lauren Baer, a former State Department appointee and Democratic candidate running for Congress in Florida, outrageously questioning her love of country, after 9/11.

And it uses all the same images and stereotypes the neoconservatives used to smear anyone who opposed the Iraq War. It is an absolutely dishonorable and shameful attack that has already resulted in one member of the Super PAC’s board resigning.

But today, we need to stand up for Lauren. Because these attacks are not only shameful, they could cost us a swing race we need to win in order to elect a Congress willing to stand up to Trump. …

The Super PAC’s name is With Honor. We want you to remember that. They are supporting more than a dozen Republican House candidates. With Trump in office, now is the time to pick sides. And using veterans to elect just enough Republicans to protect the Trump-led status quo is something we must reject.

All our best,

The team at VoteVets

POST WRITERS HAD TIES TO RIYADH Before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post [ownerd by Bezos] was fine with having two of the newspaper’s regular opinion writers connected to lobbying firms with contracts with the Saudis. [HuffPost]

Fight Trump’s militarism and veterans’ homelessness


This November 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Shelter: America’s Homeless Veterans – Featured Documentary

Roger Schultz served as a cannoneer sergeant in the US Marine Corps. …

Eventually he quit the army to be back with his family, but his wife left him the following year and his life spiralled out of control. Schultz ended up living out of his truck, barely getting by.

In search of a place to stay, he finally checked into a Veterans Resource Center (VRC) in California, which provides housing and group therapy for former members of the military.

Scarred by war, many returning soldiers struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Their inability to adjust from combat life to civilian life often leads to substance abuse and addiction, thus, finding support for healing and recovery is a constant challenge.

The VRC and its counselors help returning veterans find jobs and sort out supplemental government income, healthcare needs and their housing situation.

From the United States military veterans organisation VoteVets today:

As you know, one of the ways we tried to stop Trump’s military parade was by applying for permits with the DC government to host a 5K

A 5K is a road running competition over a distance of five kilometres.

on Veterans Day — one K for each of Trump’s draft deferments during the Vietnam War.

It was a good effort, but we were denied. But now that Trump canceled his parade, we are re-applying to host the event. And the good news is this:

On September 24, we are presenting our plan to the DC government for the inaugural VoteVets’ 5K to Fight Veterans’ Homelessness on Veterans Day of THIS YEAR.

And what the DC government will want to know is this: can we pull it off? The answer to that is yes. And is there interest and will people participate? That’s where you come into play.

Sign our petition to the D.C. government saying that you support the VoteVets’ 5K to Fight Veterans’ Homelessness on Veterans Day. And while you’re there, please let us know if you’d be interested in participating.

No matter where you live, we want to know if you’ll participate. We’ll fly a few folks out for the big day.

But here’s the most important reason we want to do this: We’re going to donate the profits directly to good causes fighting veterans’ homelessness. And by planting a flag for this event, we make it more likely we can stop Trump’s parade next year.

Thanks for adding your name,

Will Fischer
Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Relations
VoteVets

United States: Veterans’ Administration’s Mental Health Care Crisis Draws Private Firms Pitching Dubious PTSD Treatments: here.

SANDERS: TRUMP WORKING FOR RICH Bernie Sanders used a Labor Day speech to blast Trump for working “night and dayon behalf of his fellow billionaires.” [HuffPost]

British World War II veteran on today


This video from Britain says about itself:

Harry Leslie Smith – I don’t want my past to become Britain’s future

5 July 2016

When Harry Leslie Smith left to serve in World War II “no health care was the norm”. When he returned after extended service, the Labour Party had created a health service ‘free at the point of use’ – the NHS.

Harry warns us, “I don’t want my past to become Britain’s future”. His history is our history.

On its 68th birthday and on a day when our junior doctors voted against a contract being imposed upon them which they say is not safe for patients and not sustainable – we must resolve to protect the National Health Service.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Do not despair, have hope and determination

Tuesday 26th September 2017

In part one of a two part Q&A, HARRY LESLIE SMITH talks to the Star about the deeply troubling times we find ourselves in

THE title of your book has a rather ominous warning for today’s Labour Party members. Why did you decide to write this now?

One of the main motivating factors that I had for writing Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future over the last year, is time. I am 94 and my dance on this earth is coming to a close. I am one of the last few people that can remember Britain in the 1920s and early 1930s when life for working-class citizens was beyond atrocious, it was shameful.

It essential for me that I spend whatever moments I have left on this earth warning people that the horrors my generation endured are only a heartbeat away for our youngest generation because of austerity, neoliberalism and a growing indifference to the suffering of those less fortunate than us.

What are the main lessons you would like today’s Labour members to gain from your life?

The main lessons I think Labour members can get from my life is not to despair, to have hope, determination and to target one’s anger at those entitled few who believe that the good life should only be for the 1 per cent.

Labour members should never forget that there can be no compromise when it comes to a public NHS, and affordable education or affordable housing. We can make this nation a green and promised land once again, if we return to the grit and determination of my generation who wouldn’t settle for second best when it comes to workers’ rights or their right to a Britain for and by the people.

Moreover, I hope Labour members will learn that my life only had purpose in it because I was able to love and be loved. Without love we cannot build a proper society, without compassion, empathy and a sense of joy, life isn’t worth living.

Do you think that younger generations will be able to avoid the mistakes of those that have gone before?

This is such a watershed moment in our country’s destiny as well as the world’s that I am afraid the younger generation won’t be afforded the luxury of making mistakes like mine was. Unfortunately, the younger generations who will come to power will be like a bomb disposal unit where one false move, one wrong wire cut, means annihilation.

Those that come to power or come to influence power over the next five years has to get it right on the first crack or else I fear there will be civil unrest or world war. Britain has to get it right, Russia has to get it right, Europe, America and Asia all have to get their acts together or else we going to propelled into something far worse than first or second world war.

It’s often said that as people get older they become more conservative. Do you think that’s true and, if so, how can people avoid becoming closed-minded as they get older?

There is some truth to that and I think people becoming more conservative as they get older comes from fear and uncertainty. I think the greatest problem with old age is you start to feel your mortality and that can cause panic in some people which makes them become more conservative in their thinking. Also if you become disconnect from society from age that leaves you infirm, you can feel resentment that life has somehow cheated you, which can also make you become more conservative.

However, my experience is that those who are the most conservative in old age were more than likely pretty miserable bastards in their youth. From the simple fact that I was born into a desperately poor family, who were destroyed by economic forces beyond their control, guaranteed me that as long as I live I will fight for the underdog.

I think what would prevent older people from being closed-minded is not to cut yourself off from the world as you age. I have always been curious about people and the world which helped me through the death of my wife and middle son. Moreover, I think the most important thing you must ask yourself at any age is what I will leave behind when I am no more.

State healthcare has gone through a lot of changes in your lifetime. What are your thoughts on the current state of the NHS?

The NHS is in crisis today because of chronic underfunding, the demoralisation of staff through wage caps as well as the gradual erosion of access to healthcare through the creep of privatisation within our public healthcare system.

I am under no illusions that if the Tories remain in power for another two years, the NHS won’t be fit for purpose.

We cannot forget that to a Tory MP the NHS is just a concept because their life as well as their family and peer group is well protected by wealth and power. They know they will never need to rely upon the NHS because they have the luxury to be able to afford private health insurance. It always baffles me how the voter can trust a Tory politician to do the right thing for the country because their lifestyle precludes them from understanding the horror that the daily grind has inflicted on the average citizen.

The NHS can only recover and become the great institution it once was when Labour returns to government under a banner of social democracy where the burden of society is also the responsibility of wealthy corporations, not just ordinary workers.

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, an RAF veteran, activist for the welfare state, author of Harry’s Last Stand, Love Among the Ruins, 1923 and The Empress of Australia. His latest book Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future, published by Little Brown, is available now for £14.99 in hardback.

Pentagon wars come home to New York City


This video from the USA says about itself:

Many Vietnam veterans still struggle with PTSD

22 July 2015

New research shows more than a quarter-million Vietnam veterans are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, 40 years after the war ended. Kenneth Craig reports from New York.

By Eric London in the USA:

Veteran drives through crowd in Times Square: The war comes home

20 May 2017

On Thursday, a 26-year-old military veteran named Richard Rojas drove his Honda Accord through a crowded sidewalk in New York City’s Times Square, killing an 18-year-old Michigan woman and wounding 22. Rojas says he was on Phenycylidine (PCP) and that he intended to kill passers-by.

After crashing through the crowd, Rojas ran around screaming and waving his arms. He evidently told police that god told him to commit this horrible act. He had previously reported hearing voices in his head. He allegedly told police, “You were supposed to shoot me!”

At a press conference following the incident, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced, “There is no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”

By this, de Blasio meant that Rojas had no association with an organized terrorist group. But, in a larger sense, this tragedy is the product of the terror wreaked by US imperialism across the world, poisoning social relations domestically and breaking the minds of countless young enlisted people.

In an interview with the New York Times, Rojas’ childhood friend, Hansel Guerrero, explained that Rojas joined the Navy as “a journey out of the New York life.” Guerrero and Rojas lived in the same apartment building on Walton Avenue in the working-class neighborhood of Mount Eden, in New York’s Bronx borough.

Guerrero told the Times: “People go and they serve their country and they come back crazy and nobody helps them.”

Rojas, whose mother is Dominican, worked in auto shops and dreamed of graduating from college. He joined the Navy in 2011, working as an electrician’s mate until he was dishonorably discharged in 2014. It is not clear whether he served in a combat zone. While stationed at a Naval base in Jacksonville, Florida, Rojas was arrested in 2012 for threatening violence against police. In 2013, the Navy locked him up for two months in a military jail, though it has not been reported why.

Rojas’ friends explained that he wasn’t the same upon returning from the Navy. On April 15, 2015, he was convicted for driving while intoxicated.

Reuters spoke with another of Rojas’ friends, Harrison Ramos: “Rojas returned from his Navy service with a drinking problem and had posted ‘crazy stuff’ on social media,” the news service reported.

Ramos told Reuters: “Don’t make him out to be a terrorist or something. He served his country and when he came back, nobody helped him. He went through a real rough time. That’s my friend, and it hurts.”

“He finally came home, and it was hard for him to find a job,” Ramos added. “He was having a lot of bad nightmares. He was talking crazy. He was acting strange.”

The Times reported: “His mind was clouded with conspiracy theories. His dreams of opening his own clothing business had wilted. He lashed out at friends who challenged him; some thought his grasp of reality slipped and that he needed psychiatric help.

“During a string of arrests in recent years, Mr. Rojas once threatened to kill police officers, and last week accused a notary of trying to steal his identity and grabbed his neck, the authorities said.”

The sentiments expressed by Rojas’ friends are commonplace in a country where hundreds of thousands of veterans have been broken by the weight of a quarter century of war. There are many young people in the US who know a veteran who “came back crazy” with “nobody to help them,” as Rojas’ friends put it. Some counties have even set up special court programs for veterans convicted of crimes.

Last month, a 23-year-old Army veteran in North Carolina strapped her service dog to a tree and shot it five times before posting a video of the execution to Facebook. The dog was intended to help her with her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the episode calls to mind the first line of Phil Klay’s Redeployment, a series of short stories about returning veterans and the ongoing wars: “We shot dogs.”

On May 16, 24-year-old Edwin Fuentes was shot to death by police following a stand-off in Tustin, California. Fuentes was an Afghanistan veteran who suffered from PTSD. His neighbor, another veteran, told the OC Register that Fuentes “was having problems and he wanted other vets to talk to.”

A 2016 study from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revealed that 20 veterans kill themselves every day—over 116,000 since 2001, roughly the size of the population of Michigan’s state capital, Lansing.

A survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans also revealed that a majority of veterans have contemplated suicide. A 2017 VA report found that female veterans are two to five times more likely to kill themselves than civilian women, in part due to the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse within the military.

The reactionary climate of nationalism and brutality engendered by the US military has transformed the social composition of the country.

The US Defense Department is the country’s largest employer, with 3.2 million employees, military and civilian. As the strike force of corporate America, the military exerts an immense power over all of the “official” institutions of American capitalism.

It’s reactionary culture, of idealizing violence and justifying its crimes in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan through hyper-nationalism, permeates into broader sections of society, altering not only the personal lives of millions of veterans, but also the social psychology of the country as a whole. No American is unfamiliar with the nauseating displays of militarism in everyday life: the bomber fly-overs before sporting events, Marine Corps recruiters in high schools, the use of tanks and assault rifles by local police.

In the words of Shakespeare’s Edward IV: “They shall have wars and pay for their presumption.” The personal breakdown of individuals like Richard Rojas exemplifies the breakdown of American society under the weight of US imperialism and capitalism.