Tuesday, September 3, 2013

NPR: Newest War Veterans In Congress Troubled By Syria Prospects

SOURCE:  NPR - It's All Politics (Liz Halloran)

Following is a heavily abridged version of the original story.  Read the excellent, fully story at the link above.  

The potential for U.S. military involvement in Syria is striking a nerve among many veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, where more than one in three veterans remain disabled with Gulf War Illness, likely the result of chemical exposures and genetic factors.  

To date, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has failed to develop a single proven effective treatment for Gulf War Illness.  Last year, the federal body charged with overseeing the federal government's research efforts blasted VA with a "no confidence" report, followed by a scathing Congressional hearing in March 2013 where a VA top researcher-turned-whistleblower reported VA's research leaders slant research to not find issues among deployed troops and cover up findings of deployment health issues.

Rather than address the serious underlying issues, VA Secretary Shinseki decided to take on the goals of entrenched, anti-veteran VA staff as his own, retaliating against the messengers and gutting the RAC oversight body's mission, charter, and staffing mandate, and announcing plans to replace its chair and members.  Despite substantial criticism from the press and Congress, Shinseki has failed to address any of the issues.

Perhaps while Obama is cleaning up illegitimate regimes overseas, he might consider walking across the street from the White House to do the same at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 



Newest War Veterans In Congress Troubled By Syria Prospects

President Obama's contemplation of a military strike in Syria over its suspected use of chemical weapons has roused at least 170 members of Congress to question the constitutionality of such action, and others to urge caution informed by the quagmire of recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Few congressional voices, however, may be more resonant than those of the more than 100 military veterans in the House and Senate — particularly the 16 who served in the post-Sept. 11 conflicts in the Middle East, in both combat and non-combat roles. 

If there's a single theme emanating from that mostly Republican class of members, it's one characterized by deep reticence — or flat out resistance — to the idea of military intervention without congressional authorization.

Back in 2007, when Obama was an Illinois senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination and Bush was considering a military strike in Iran, Obama staked out this unequivocal position toThe Boston Globe: "The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation ... History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action."

Walz... described his qualms about the prospect of military strikes this way:  "I'm not sure that having served in the military brings you a special insight...  But this is very visceral for members who have served. There's a very strong desire that the end game in this is well thought out. It can't be haphazard. The military will execute it, but the civilians better get the mission right."

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