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Bill Orton
(D-Long Beach)

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Lots of ísplaining to do

by Bill Orton

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 -- It's a good thing that the news reports how President Bush will be traveling to address gathered veterans of foreign wars. Good also that all those candidates seeking their respective party nominations, also went.

Good, because certainly, what better chance to speak openly to the American people, and to the pages of history, for THIS president. He could take time speaking to veterans.

Of our nation's foreign wars.

His, this president, are two of them.

The wars.

Bush Wars.

Terror is ongoing, and that campaign shall forever be America's test of vigilance against those determined to cow us, eviscerate us, destroy all that we hold and cherish.

Of course those opponents shall ultimately fail, though they take victims -- innocent, precious fallen, injured and utter bystanders to it all.

This President could certainly tell these fine Americans attending their annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, just what is the goal and lasting character that this guy sees on the world? Where is America in all of it?

How are our interests being defined? and when does it all end, sir?

Certainly, this President could speak to all of that, cuz no one else can. Condoleeza will "stick it out" and the President still holds confidence -- seemingly alone -- in Alberto Gonzales.

Maybe if Karl Rove wasn't going, maybe the President would pull out some new graphics, this time enboldened with the seven letters of PROGRESS, and more happy talk.

Good luck with that, sir, but maybe you could also give the last real opportunity for a big speech to our truest of Americans, just what this war is about? why is it OK that 3,500 are dead~! 27,500 injured! How are we taking care of these fallen Americans?

That last one, that is what each -- those candidates -- politician owes a setting like VFW's convention. Some sense of reverence to the sacrifice and knowledge as is found flowing in the VFW national hall, and in a spirit of speaking honestly, it sure would be good if the President gave the family's of 3,500 war dead that reverence.

But more. Much more.

Expected of the politicians should be clear stands on just how (just how!) shall those that fight, those that fought, those who soquick so-quickly get active-to-veteran with a pile of forms and an inner traumatic life to spin and weave within, inside the brain.

How're we gonna treat our nation's wounded? Yes, the 27,500 now suffering life-changing physical INJURY as a result of combat action in these Bush Wars.

How will DoD and VA records be made consistent? in what simple way can the dates of combat service routinely be attached to all veteran files? How many health care positions to better screen VA and DoD people for suicide? what about universal outpatient screen? for all combat personnel before exit from theatre? Or mandatory mental health screening on exiting active service? Couldn't there be more chaplains?

There's plenty that the President could say. And the politicians wanting the President's job -- and roles, including of Commander in Chief -- have, as Ricky Ricardo correctly says, "some 'splaining to do."

'Splain, my fellow Democrats...

-- How mental health will be prioritized in military health?

-- Where does this nation go after the Bush Wars?

-- That while extrication affects the situation, changes the theatre, impacts the world, but it does not alter one iota the reverence due to veterans, nor lessen a single lick the obligation we have to make whole the American bent by injury of war.

And Mr. President... could you, just next time, leave the canned lights and banners and single-words like "progress" and "gendavidpatreaus"? Tell us... just tell us. "This is what I am ordering." Give Sec. Gates the order on better mental health. Ask the military and VA to make their records consistent, with the promise to veterans that their combat service will be permanently attached to their records.

'Splain away, fill the world with words. But there's 27,500 Americans bent by injury of war, plus tens of thousands of brave fighting personnel who STILL cannot prove what their personal honor bears, namely that they SERVED IN COMBAT, who are -- each of them, all of them, more then them -- these people need serious long-term help.

And they're OWED IT. That's the sacred promise that I would like to hear articulated by some politician and CERTAINLY by the President of the United States, particularly at so auspices a moment as when five of those politicians (including the President) decide to grace the VFW with a visit and speech.

The President has a long ride through history and still some time to act on making DoD/VA records both consistent and accurately mark for permanent records a veterans combat service.

Do those things, Mr. President, and fund mental health better and programs like the Wounded Warriors at Camp Pendleton, and even move to a universal outpatient screening before any American is cut loose from Active Duty.

Don't do those things, Mr. President... let mental health languish, fail to assist amputees with paperwork... make it hard for Tramautic Brain Injury sufferers to get help... continue defunding veterans health services, Mr. President, and let the inconsistent records and for combat service to be a burden=of=proof for our finest Americans... do THAT, Mr. President, and, well, guess yer headed off to the patch of history left for you to graze.

Hope you have a green bushy patch of grass, Mr. President.

But, again, about all those wounded...

'Splain about them.


Bill Orton is a writer and historian living in Long Beach, California.