Last Friday, Charles P. Pierce posted a column at Esquire’s Politics Blog about the resignation of General Eric Shinseki and the “unfolding scandal” at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
And thus ends the honorable career of a soldier who was correct about the lies behind the greatest policy disaster of our times, about the essential criminality of the people who launched the invasion of Iraq, but whose primary failures as an administrator were his inability to oversee the people in his department who were directly trying to cope with the flood of casualties that resulted from all of those soldiers that most of official Washington told Eric Shinseki they would never need to create a democratic paradise in Iraq. Irony is the rail on which Shinseki now has been ridden out of town.
In his Esquire article titled The Problem Isn’t the VA or Eric Shinseki, Pierce tells about one of his first jobs in his profession. He said it “was covering the Vietnam veterans movement as they tried to get the various veterans organizations, including the VA, to pay attention to things like PTSD and the longterm effects of Agent Orange.” He said the Vietnam vets “spoke with contempt of the World War II veterans who staffed those organizations, scoffing at what they called ‘the Class of ’45’ for the way those veterans looked down on them because they had ‘lost’ their war.” He added that the people who were “most willing to help were the scattered remnants of the antiwar movement — like the people who ran the GI coffeehouses and, I guess, people like us in the alternative press.” Pierce said that he recalled “vivdly” the Vietnam vets’ “anger at the Reagan Administration when it proposed to close down the psychiatric outreach centers that they had fought so hard to include under the VA system.” Pierce claims that that was his introduction “to the vast gap between the political rhetoric about America’s veterans and how they actually are treated.” Pierce’s best source in the Vietnam vet community told him one day, “I got a hundred stories. Which one do you want?” Pierce said that two years later his source “took his M-1 into a closet and only the rifle came out.”
Pierce provides his view on the main cause for the problems that the VA is experiencing today:
The problem with the VA system right now is that, for an entire decade, we sent people into the meat grinder of a war the architects of which conducted completely off the books. They kept it off the books used to keep the federal budget, and they did all they could to keep it off the books of the nation’s moral conscience as well. They lied and they cooked their estimates on everything far worse than did the likely criminals who fudged the documentation at the hospital in Phoenix. The whole country was awash in the moral equivalent of a Ponzi scheme, all glistening and shiny and bedecked in bunting. Meanwhile, the physical, financial, and moral cost of it all built up and built up until the scheme got bigger and more complicated and, ultimately, it became untenable. And now, the people who launched it in the first place are tut-tutting about what happened when the whole thing finally collapsed. The one thing to remember about a Ponzi scheme is that the people who get in first get paid off. They got their war. They profited from the double-entry bookkeeping they kept on the national conscience and, now, there’s a Democratic president, and a whole lot of injured veterans, who end up holding the bag.
The Problem Isn’t The VA Or Eric Shinseki by Charles P. Pierce (Esquire)
Senate Republicans Kill a Bill to Expand Veterans’ Benefits by Charles P. Pierce (Esquire)