Tax breaks for veterans? (3-13-14)
What Veterans Really Need
US veterans since 1954, when America took over the war in Vietnam after the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, may be tragic figures but we are not heroes needing tax breaks. It is not heroic to be the instrument of a government which illegally and immorally invades and occupies other countries, decimates its population and its culture, destroys its infrastructure, and leaves genetic destruction in its wake through defoliants and depleted uranium. That is not heroic, but it is tragic for all concerned.
Since 1954, the US has attacked or invaded countries or groups who originally were our allies, who we created or maintained, or who we aided and abetted in their wars against others. Our military excursions have exclusively been choices on our part. The freedom, safety, and sovereignty of this country have never been in question. And if you are going to tell me that 19 Saudi's and 1 Egyptian flying planes into US buildings was an act of war by Afghanistan and Iraq, then you need some serious remedial education.
Homeless veterans (some 500,000 every day) do not need tax breaks. Veterans in prisons and jails (Vietnam veterans made up the largest minority federal prison population in the 1970's and 80's - thanks for the help) do not need tax breaks. Veterans with drug, alcohol, and behavioral problems from combat do not need tax breaks. Their broken families and children do not need tax breaks. We need homes. We need help with our lifelong physical and mental health issues from days, months, and years of hunting and being hunted by other human beings. We need the VA to be abolished and we need to be given medical credit cards so that we can be cared for at home by people we know and trust, and where we can have the support of our families and friends (get a letter lately from your hospital saying you need to come in and be checked for HIV/AIDS because they were not sterilizing their equipment correctly, as hundreds of VA using veterans like me have?). We need education and job skills (killing people and blowing up buildings are not good on a resume). We have a host of needs, many of which will never be resolved for us, we know, because they can't be - we will always have to live with them, and "just suck it up" (grandpa never talked about the war) helps as little as "just say no."
Veterans certainly do not need mindless politicians falling all over themselves trying to one up each other being the best little fascist they can be by bestowing gifts on veterans. Sometimes I think I am in 1920's Italy where Mussolini and the Pope fashioned a militaristic fascist state - how'd that work out? Does your minister pray for God to be on our side and to protect our invaders? And veterans really don't need holier-than-thou people with their trite "thanks for your service" smugly looking down their noses while lecturing others about how invading soldiers are somehow keeping us safe and free.
What we veterans really need is for you to quit creating us.
(former combat Marine, disabled Vietnam veteran, and environmental activist who makes his living in the wastewater industry)
Advantages of Military Draft (8-23-13)
Dear Editor, (The Progressive Populist)
Besides weakening our democratic connection to the armed forces (David Sirota - The Military's 40 Year Experiment, 6-15-13), with the loss of the draft we have removed two of the last vestiges of shared American experience - the melting pot and working for your country - which helped make American what it was/is.
The melting pot and the draft forced us to live and work with others who were unfamiliar to us. We overcame initial misgivings and got things done. The "other" turned into the known.
Working for your country gave a sense of ownership of the country and that ownership promoted a responsibility towards that which is owned. The country and the government that runs the country are mine. I want the country and the government to run correctly.
Compare that to the body politic we find today, two generations after the loss of the draft. Segregated communities that never have to talk to each other, let alone live with each other. The government as "other" that should leave me alone. The country is "mine" but I don't want to pay for its upkeep.
Even though I argue with many of my liberal friends about this, a compulsory National Service with a "military draft component" would bring back the melting pot and working for your country, and solve many of the dysfunctional aspects we find in our society today.
Symbolic Idolatry - Letter to Editor 1-16-13
I wanted to write about the Pledge of Allegiance spat but I kind of put that behind me 59 years ago when I got kicked out of kindergarten for not saying the pledge. There are always consequences when you don't follow the herd's mentality. Provincial symbolic idolatry is very fastidious in its requirements.
But, it was such a gleefully bad day for the Branstad administration, provincial purveyors par excellence, that I just have to comment on it. Secretary of State Schultz is being hammered by the feds because: "State and federal auditors said Thursday they're reviewing whether it is appropriate for Iowa elections officials to use federal money meant to improve elections to fund a two-year criminal investigation into potential voter fraud." (Register 1-11-13) How narrow and mean is what Schultz has been doing?
Branstad's DOT is being hammered because they are saying that an executive order is not really law and that they don't have to give licenses to people who are here legally. Kind of a continuation of the Birther stuff mixed with racial ethnicity.
And, the EPA says that the "Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy" document, mostly put together in secret with only IDALS and invited corporate agriculture officials, is inadequate. Imagine that.
The Pledge of Allegiance as a provincial straight jacket has tremendously insidious consequences. Even I was not completely immune to the herd mentality what with the Pledge being said and the National Anthem being played before so many children's events and daily routines.
Symbolic idolatry, or the placing of a symbols' value above a humans' value, can really confuse children; and when those children grow up, it can continue to confuse them as adults. It did me to the extent that I gave up my academic full ride to Iowa State and joined the Marine Corps. A year in combat, if you survive, will start you thinking at a very deep level. What is it to be human? What value humans? Is a human more important than those things that humans create or make up? Is the world larger than my provincial mindset? What does symbolic idolatry do to a human, or allow a human to do to others?
After I left the rice paddies, I turned my back on provincial and the herd. Not only do I not recite the Pledge, or any pledge, but I haven't stood up for the National Anthem since I left Vietnam.
Humans have value. Symbols are symbols.
Presentation to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy: Medical Marijuana Hearings.
Sept 2, 2009 Mason City, IA.
2736 Lannon Hill Rd.
Decorah, IA 52101
Dear Board Members,
My name is Bob Watson. I reside in rural Decorah. I am a disabled combat veteran. I was a radio operator with 2nd Battalion 5th Marines, a combat unit, in Vietnam 40 years ago. My disabilities are PTSD, the colloquial definition for me is too much combat before the age of 21 and plenty more after; and the cerebral form of p-falciparum malaria. This form of malaria destroys the insulation around synapses in the brain and allows short circuiting of electrical impulses which are a form of seizures. These disabilities are central to my testimony.
Since the 1960's the literature abounds with studies about marijuana trying to prove its dangers, it helpful uses, and it's chemical compounds. This has led to the understanding that many of the old, thousands of years old, uses for marijuana have a firm basis in science. Marijuana has been used to treat pain, convulsions, nausea, glaucoma, neuralgia, asthma, cramps, migraine, insomnia, and depression to name a few.
With the 1988 Allyn Howlett discovery of specific receptors for THC in the brain we begin to understand the ability of marijuana to affect humans. In 1992, Raphael Mechoulam, who originally discovered THC, discovered the brains own cannabinoid and he named it anadamide.
As Pollan tells us, "The cannabinoid receptors Howlett found showed up in vast numbers all over the brain (as well as in the immune and reproductive systems), though they were clustered in regions responsible for the mental processes that marijuana are known to alter: the cerebral cortex (the locus of higher-order thought), the hippocampus (memory), the basal ganglia (movement), and the amygdala (emotions). The one neurological address where cannabinoid receptors didn't show up was in the brain stem, which regulates involuntary functions such as circulation and respiration. This might explain the remarkably low toxicity of cannabis and the fact that no one is known to have ever died from an overdose.
Howlett suggests that the purpose of this network might be various direct and indirect effects of cannabinoids: pain relief, loss of short-term memory, sedation, and mild cognitive impairment. She noted that cannabinoid receptors had been found in the uterus and speculated that anandamide may not only dull the pain of childbirth but help women forget it later. The sensation of pain is one of the hardest to summon from memory. Howlett speculated that the human cannabinoid system evolved to help us endure and selectively forget the routine slings and arrows of life so that we can get up in the morning and do it all over again. It is the brain's own drug for coping with the human condition." After my year in the rice paddies and mountains of Vietnam, there is much to forget.
Humans have a coevolution relation with marijuana, much like pollinators and flowers, which has had evolutionary advantages to both species. Which gets me back to PTSD and malaria.
As I stated previously, one of the effects of malaria is the creation of seizures. These seizures lead to a number of problems including debilitating anxiety attacks, rages, etc. Smoking marijuana dampens the seizures and works as an anti-convulscent. Marijuana has none of the side effects, or in fact unintended actions on the brain, that the normal pharmaceutical drugs used for this purpose have.
The central symptom of PTSD from the jungle war in Vietnam for veterans is hyper-alertness. Because hyper-alertness saved my life throughout that whole year, my brain won't let me stop being hyper-alert. Hyper-alertness causes the brain to fill in voids with flashbacks, nightmares, and a perpetual state of alertness which can take on many forms of problematic behavior.
One tends to forget that not only did combat veterans hunt other humans; they were also hunted by other humans. This brings in a whole set of PTSD problems normally not thought of when thinking of combat veterans. Mine is not an easy life. I must always be aware of and manage my PTSD and malaria symptoms and try to separate them from what might be called normal life.
Smoking marijuana can reduce hyper-alertness. Reducing hyper-alertness can reduce the symptoms that combat veterans must live with. Smoking marijuana acts as an anti-convulscent thus relieving symptoms caused by seizures that veterans with cerebral malaria must live with. Smoking marijuana allows the veteran to selectively forget many of the horrible memories of combat.
When we have understood for the last 50 years the pharmacological reasons why marijuana works as it does on the human brain, when we have understood the positive cultural uses this plant has been used for for thousands of years by humans, when we understand that other states in this United States understand and legally allow those medical uses that marijuana has been shown to have, as a combat veteran who has spent the last 40 years dealing daily with the effects fighting for this county has had on my life, I find it morally reprehensible that a doctor at the VA, or any other doctor, is not allowed to write me a prescription for marijuana when that doctor knows that marijuana is the best medicine I could have for my combat related disabilities.
Do me, and the thousands of other veterans with PTSD and malarial disabilities, a favor: understand the real history this plant has had with humans, understand the positive medical outcomes this plant has shown, and recommend the use of medical marijuana in Iowa. Thank you.
It is with a sense of dismay, sadness and creeping foreboding, that I see the continued militarisation of our holidays and our larger society. Our society has been trending towards that end, but with the Bush Administration's invasion of two sovereign nations, it has accelerated at an alarming rate these last eight years.
The July 4th holiday is supposed to be about our country's celebration of our independence from England. In all of the media that I encountered that day, television, radio, and newspapers, the main message was to support our troops that were fighting overseas. It was the same for Christmas, New Years, Easter, etc.
Holidays have been turned into military shows of protecting the "Homeland". We are to honor active military personnel. But, that is hard to do when what they are doing is not honorable. How can we honor what is being done by our military in illegal and immoral invasions and occupations of nations we have destroyed?
What is happening to individual military members may be tragic; it may even be criminal. But, it is not honorable and should not be honored. Bush and Cheney, along with Johnson, Nixon and Reagan should all be prosecuted for war crimes. And, we as a nation should hang our collective heads in shame at having let this happen.
In our efforts to separate ourselves from military service, we have enabled this malaise to overtake us. Without the draft, without the shared burden and responsibility of making war on others, we have let our politicians enter into wars of choice since 1954. And if we question why our leaders would invade other countries "just because", we are labeled as non-patriots.
Because of this, the military no longer has a sense of what it is for and where it stands in our society and in the larger scheme of things. The military and its members have an overblown sense of their importance. As an example, at the Fair last week the Marine recruiters were placed right next to the "Music Tent". Their vehicle, which was constantly running, was six feet from the back of the tent. What little breeze there was, and it was a hot day, was blowing both the exhaust and the engine heat into the tent. When they were asked by people, and Fair representatives, to turn that engine off while people were sitting in the tent and listening to music, their answer was a resounding "NO". They couldn't turn off the engine because it was running a TV and that TV was part of their recruiting. That Marines can't recruit without a TV for an hour is a ludicrous notion on its own. The second reason given was that they paid for that spot and they could, and would, do as they pleased whether or not it inconvenienced those 50-60 people who had come to listen to music.
Many people had to leave the tent as a result of the exhaust and heat from the Marine recruiter's vehicle. I had the senior Marine call his superior so that I could explain the situation and ask him to have the vehicle turned off while people six feet away were listening to music. The Staff Sergeant I talked to on the phone said that they paid for that spot and they weren't going to turn that vehicle off!
It is very disappointing to me as a former combat Marine to see what is happening to Marines, and other service members, in their understanding of what their place in the larger society is because of this supposed constant war footing. As I mentioned to the Marines that day, as a Marine 40 years ago I was more considerate of villagers in Vietnam than they were being towards Winneshiek County residents who were simply trying to listen to their kids and friends play music at the fair.
Dismaying, sad, and foreboding.
Impeach Bush and Cheney (9-08)
I am really glad that Dale Olson's letter last week on the brotherhood of Vietnam Veterans was in the paper. For a while there I was worried it was only actual combat veterans like me, and not the whole brotherhood of veterans, that understood that George Bush and Dick Cheney should be immediately impeached for an immoral and illegal invasion, and continued occupation, of a sovereign nation; that the whole brotherhood also thinks that after impeachment Bush and Cheney should be turned over to the International Criminal Court to be tried as war criminals.
I am glad to know also that the brotherhood thinks it unseemly of John McCain to propose that just because he was a POW he is qualified to be the President. There have been thousands of American POW's; including my friend Jose who saved my life in an ambush in the Que Son mountains in August of '69. Jose was captured in January of '70 (he spent three years as a POW) when we were in the northern part of the Arizona territory in the An Hoa basin. POW status does not qualify one for the presidency.
I am also glad to know that the brotherhood speaks as one when the brotherhood says that anyone, and I mean anyone, who thinks that this country is about, and should be about, invading countries willy-nilly around the world killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, should immediately go down to the nearest Recruiting Station, enlist, and ask to be immediately sent to the front lines as a combat infantryperson.
The problem of the nations' public being ignorant and stupid about what war is and what it does to everyone affected is not new or unique to the US; although we have not experienced a war here since 1865. In his book "Her Privates We", an actual experiential account of trench warfare on the Somme and Ancre fronts in 1916, Frederic Manning has one of his characters, Glazier, speak to this, "…only I've sometimes thought it would be a bloody good thing for us'ns, if the Hun did land a few troops in England. Show 'em what war's like. Madeley and I struck it lucky and went home on leave together, and you never seed anything like it. Windy! Like a lot of bloody kids they was, and talkin' no more sense; upon me word, you'd be surprised at some of the questions they'd ask, and you couldn't answer sensible. They'd never believe it, if you did. We just kept our mouths shut, and told them the war was all right, and we'd got it won, but not yet. 'twas the only way to keep 'em quiet." Madeley continues, "But it's all true what he says about folks at home, most of them. They don't care a 'damn' what happens to us, so long as they can keep a whole skin. Say they be ready to make any sacrifice; but we're the bloody sacrifice. You never seed such a windy lot; and bloodthirsty ain't the word for it. They've all gone potty. You'd think your best friends wouldn't be satisfied till they'd seed your name on the roll of honour. I told one of then he knew a bloody sight more than I did about the war."
There are extremely serious issues at stake in this years' election. None of them have anything to do with whether or not there is a monolithic brotherhood or whether John McCain was a POW.