Twenty-five years ago, March 14, 1981 Jim Hopkins, Marine veteran of Vietnam, born on the Marine Corps birthday of November 10, drove his army Jeep through the glass doors and into the lobby of the multi-million dollar, showcase edifice of Wadsworth VA hospital, at Los Angeles, California. He did so to protest the gross, willfully negligent treatment given US veterans within the VA system. In specific, those veterans of the US war in South East Asia, aka, the Vietnam War.
He fired rounds from his AR 14 into the official pictures of then Republican President Ronald Reagan and Ex-President Jimmy Carter. For emphasis he then fired his .45 caliber handgun and a shotgun screaming that he was not receiving the medical attention needed. Hauled from the hospital by law enforcement, he screamed into the cameras that his brain was “being destroyed by Agent Orange.” That sent both a shock wave and a wake up call through the US and became a clarion call to thousands of veterans who felt the very same as did
In 1989 Oliver Stone made Kovic’s book into a movie starring a remarkable Oscar winning performance with Tom Cruise playing Kovic. But neither the Congress nor the Presidency changed the continuing ill treatment given veterans. Then under Reagan’s pet Republican successor George Herbert Walker Bush, the US launched Operation Desert Storm and its use of depleted uranium nuclear weapons. Vets came home from that US victory complaining of various kinds of poisoning, both from the depleted uranium and the suspected effects of chemical warfare allegedly used by Sadam Hussein’s forces. It’s called Gulf War Syndrome and the military and the VA immediately began denying any causal relationship to the vet’s complaints and those weapons. Thus, little changed. When we look at the scandal of Bldg 18 where the Washington Post reported that “part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses…” we know that nothing has changed. Today it is undeniable that those who mastermind those callous, destructive wars against the poor people of the world have the very same callous disregard for the health and welfare our working and poor people sent to fight their wars. In a nation where profit rules over healthcare how can one avoid the reality that this government cares not for it people but only the power of profit? It no longer can. The war against the people of South East Asia was a war based on a President’s lie: an attack on the US in the Gulf of Tonkin that never occurred. It is in that way akin to that of the current President; based on the lies of an obviously mentally incompetent madman far more concerned with the false righteousness of his crusader’s mission and as it suits his petroleum industry masters than concern for the American people.
As the great anti-war movies All Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory, Johnny Got His Gun, Coming Home, and Born On The Fourth of July has proved time and time again: governments use poor and working people as their cannon fodder, discarding those that survive as they do their junk military weaponry, while the manufacturing engines of war, profit and outlive war.
For over 4 years news stories have addressed the Bush-Republican cuts in the VA budget. Simultaneously, the dollar amount spent by Bush-Republicans has risen to an extent beyond any war ever fought, including WWII. At the same time the profits of the military-industrial-media complex have grown exponentially with the war budget increases. Simultaneously the number of injured veterans has outgrown the VA’s negligently conceived plan of treatment and as a result. This is in keeping with the malevolent attitude of Bush-Cheney…the two are married in purpose.