THE WAR WITHIN - Infighting among Veterans is counterproductive
David K. Winnett, Jr.for Veterans Today
There are no greater patriots than our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen. Collectively, the members of America's Armed Forces represent the most formidable foe that any potential enemy could possibly imagine. They are better educated, better trained, and better motivated than any who came before them. They are today's warriors, and tomorrow's veterans. They are taught to fight for what is right and just, and to place country before self. Though many serve only one tour of duty before returning to civilian life, the values and camaraderie that they assimilate while on active duty will remain in their hearts for a lifetime. This is especially true for veterans who have served side by side in combat. The esprit de corps never dies. The Marine Corps motto is "Semper Fidelis", meaning, "Always Faithful", and we mean it.
The American Veteran is yesterday’s warrior. But the warrior creed remains for a lifetime. For all of these reasons there are two things in life that you do not want to do. First, don’t piss off our active duty warriors; if you live, you will live to regret it. Secondly, don’t piss off our veterans, for you will surely live to regret doing that. Our Armed Forces are certainly a force to be reckoned with, but so then are our veterans. Consider yourself warned, especially you who seek public office.
I recently wrote an Op-Ed that discussed America’s use of Depleted Uranium (DU) in our armaments. The Op-Ed was entitled, “A Painful Lesson in the Health Risks of Modern Warfare”. It was published in the Daily Breeze, a local newspaper based in my hometown of Torrance, California.
With today’s internet capabilities it didn’t take long for this article to make the rounds. Although the article discussed the possibility that DU may be at the root of Gulf War Illnesses, I clearly pointed out a number of other possible causes, including sarin gas, multiple vaccines, heavy use of pesticides, a non-FDA approved anti-nerve agent drug, and others. For the most part, the feedback on my article was very positive. The article stimulated discussion, which was my intent. But the negative feedback was much more interesting, and provided me with a sort of “baptism under fire” that I’m sure many journalists can relate to.
I found out after the article was published that some people can literally become emotionally unglued when they read something that they disagree with. I suppose by writing my article I expected to initiate a civil debate about the potential causes of Gulf War Illness. Was I wrong, at least in one case. One person in particular sent me an email filled with false assumptions and misstatement of facts regarding my article. More importantly, this person, who is quite apparently convinced that DU poses no risk at all to our troops and to the civilian populations that occupy former battlefields, despite strong evidence to the contrary, threatened to investigate my military records, apparently in an attempt to impeach my credibility.
When he advised me of this, I actually encouraged him to pull my records. I happen to be very proud of my Marine Corps service record. When that tactic didn’t seem to work he went on to accuse me of using my current employer’s time and resources to publish the Op-Ed, which could not be further from the truth. The individual went on to make very derogatory comments about my affiliation with a well-known veterans advocate and retired Air Force (Desert Storm) Nurse who for nearly twenty years has been one of the most outspoken advocates for sick Gulf War veterans. It turns out he has spent years attempting to discredit her at every turn. One has to wonder what this person’s motives are.
This person seemed hell-bent on censoring or completely discrediting what was clearly an opinion piece, and his tactics seem to have no limits. By no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself an expert on DU. Though I can say with absolute certainty that the health effects of DU are still being studied by some of this country’s finest scientific and medical institutions. To any veteran who has served in the defense of freedom, this form of attack on free speech should send chills down your spine, as it did mine.
The most disturbing part of all this, is that this person is a retired Reserve Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. A veteran. It is unknown what the Colonel’s motives are. Given the level of agitation that he has demonstrated on the issue of DU, some in the veteran community believe that he may in fact be associated with a governmental or corporate entity that is actively undermining any open discussion about Depleted Uranium. Hopefully this is not true. Hopefully he is just a person with what some call “an unhealthy obsession”.
No one appreciates freedom more than those who have put their lives on the line to defend it. Veterans selflessly go forth into battle to protect and defend our Constitution. When they come home from the battle, they rightfully expect to be protected by that same Constitution, and by the Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech brings with it a reasonable expectation of civility and a respectful debate.
Unfortunately as we see all too often in politics, many seem unwilling or unable to engage in debate without including unwarranted conjecture and personal attacks. For politicians to engage in such behavior has come to be expected. For veterans to engage in such behavior is shameful. If we are unable to engage in civil debate amongst ourselves, how can we expect to maintain any degree of credibility in the eyes of those we are seeking to influence, most notably our elected representatives? On issues such as Gulf War Illnesses, how can we begin a respectful conversation with our government when we can’t even get along with one another?
Nearly twenty years ago, something happened that eventually caused one in four Gulf War Veterans, an estimated 170,000 members of our Armed Forces, to become sick with as yet unexplained chronic illnesses. As the years have passed, many veterans have bravely stepped forward as they were trained to do, to take the lead in getting to the bottom of what has since become known as Gulf War Illnesses. Along the way, we have made significant progress. But many times we have stumbled. All too often we have stumbled over our egos, or individual biases.
The petty arguments have far too often resulted in unnecessary delays in lobbying for much-needed legislation aimed at bringing relief to those who suffer from these devastating illnesses. Far too often, when those who need us the most, needed us the most, we let them down. Many of the heroes who took point on this issue from the very beginning have long since thrown in the towel and retired, weary from the internal battles and infighting. A few, like Desert Storm Nurse have weathered the storm and the vicious personal attacks, at great personal sacrifice to health, personal finances, and emotional well-being. How anyone of good conscience, especially another veteran, can treat someone with such contempt is beyond outrageous.
Veterans should treat other veterans with the same respect that we have come to expect from a grateful nation. Launching personal attacks on a fellow veteran over scientific disagreements is totally unacceptable, and in the case of a Commissioned Officer, conduct unbecoming. We stood together against our enemies, and we should stand together now as veterans to condemn this kind of behavior wherever and whenever it appears. We need to police our own. Only then can we expect to hold our elected representatives to the same standards.
Nice article but what he failed to mention is the government likes to divide and conqueor on lines simliar to this subject. Let me put it this way some of us deployed got symptoms. If you were in the desert the government's stance is you might have it. If you were not in the desert there is no way you can have it. Divide and conqueor and it works well. Army or Marine deployed you have it. Be Navy or Airforce that wasn't directly in theater and no way in hell you have it. Doesn't matter that your medical records show symptoms years before any set of symptoms were released. Doesn't matter the level of your security clearance in the military. Doesn't matter what you might been exposed to.Doesn't matter any gentic markers you might have making you suceptible to certain exposures. It's a poltical choice point simple. Why should America take responsiblity for anything and be the bad guy right? We have have a certain dead dictator in Iraq that is easy fallguy for it. After all the best military, politcial, scientific, and medical minds wouldn't be biased about something like this right? How could veterans and civilans that never deployed to the Gulf get ill and they are doing all you guys that did serve in the Desert a huge diservice by saying that they are ill with same thing.
Is that why reseearchers who actually believe that Gulf War Illness is real get canned for doing real research,meanwhile the people who research projects that are doomed to fail from day one get constant projects? Don't belive me on this look up what little you can find on Anthrax vaccine research causing Gulf War Illness it's a joke. Look up Dr. Haley's research verfication that was suppose be done by the VA see what you find there. Better yet ask yourselves how the IOM can constantly berate any findings that say Gulf War Illness is real effectively calling many veterans liars or worse. The data just isn't there they say. How many these see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil doctors actually went out and seen the ill military personel with their own eyes? Wonder what would happen if you "effectively" called someone rich and powerful a liar in public news articles? You be lucky if you don't end up with jail time. You will end up losing everything you own that part is sure. Calling veterans liars though while pretending to hide behind an "offical" line perfectly acceptable. Hell that might even get you a promotion or pat on the back by the people backing the divide and conqueor agenda.
Posts: 269 | From: Fla | Registered: Oct 2006
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To the topic:Good point's! We as Veteran's should stick together! Opposing view's should be heard and examined, to get to the truth! JMHO
Posts: 115 | From: OHIO | Registered: Jul 2005
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David Winnet has been attacked by the man who claims DU is perfectly safe. It is then why was the government compelled to completely destroy the buildings where they used DU armor to build the vehicles the contamination levels were so high from the dust, "cleaning" them was impossible, they crated the tables and tools in thick lead containers to haul them off to "nuclear disposal sites" the buldings were bulldozed and also similarily disposed of, if it was so safe why did the government feel compelled to destroy the manufacturing buildings in this manner? Once DU is in metal it is fine but once the integrity of the metal is compromised, otherwise hit by a round and DU dust is flying then it becomes dangerous to humans, imagine how dangerous DU rounds are then. DU is not the whole story of GW illness, there are many causes that contribute to it, Sarin, Mustard agents were also present at Kamisayah why hasn't the DOD or IOM released a report on the hazards of mustard agents at low levels because they already know, and they will not open that can of worms, because then they will have to admit to pulmonary, cardiac, and gastrointestinal medical issues for 500,000 GW1 veterans, and that will never happen, you are talking billions if not trillions of dollars. Just my opinion of course.
Posts: 1381 | From: South Carolina | Registered: Jul 2005
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I think the problem with DU lies in that its makes the best anti armor weaponry around. When I was in it was the weapon of choice for the army for fighting any russian tanks with their explosive outter armor. The round is so inertial heavy and armor peircing that it would often pentrate the tank before the explosive outer shellf of enemy tanks could expel it out. Most CIWS on navy ships use it cause even a glancing hit from one those rounds destroys aircraft of missles on contact. When you consider the density of this weaponry and it's effectivness in combat you can understand why the military fights so hard to keep it. The sad part is medical cost for those people who get exposed to it. Dying from cancers etc of the lot when I have seen DU veterans they tend to be much worse off than the other groups. The irony is that the Russians we knew had unsafe nuclear reactors for years, that shortens their sailors and military reactors personell lives by years. Our bad apple is DU sorta ironic. We need to find a new composite metal weapon in my theory that is an acceptable substutite for DU. I don't fall into the DU category and I am not playing devil's advocate for the government, but research and weapon development and replacement does not happen overnight. Titanum sabot rounds might work for anti tank weaponry if we put enough development for it but Russia is the only country in world that has that kind of titanum deposits. I belive we still make our aircraft out titanum alloy but thats about it.
Posts: 269 | From: Fla | Registered: Oct 2006
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