Sunday, March 24, 2013

Conditions at the V.A.

            In Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July, one particular scene stood out more than any other. After the main character sustains serious injuries while deployed in Vietnam, he is taken to a V.A. hospital back in America to recover. The conditions at the hospital are not what you would expect to find in America especially for wounded returning soldiers during a major war in the 21st century. The hospital over all was filthy and on one occasion a patient even commented on the amount and size of the rats, the hospital was understaffed and those who were on staff were rude impatient of just plane indifferent about the patients and the conditions. At one point a group of orderlies were more interested in finishing their card game than looking after the patients. Much of the equipment did not work and the one doctor who showed up revealed how unimportant the Veteran Hospitals were in the war effort. That hospital scene, which can be seen here, was a good depiction of many V.A. hospitals throughout the country.
            Surely though, this was what the hospitals were like during the late 60s and early 70s and when these problems came to light the federal government gave them the funding necessary to be ran properly. In recent years with 2 wars being fought and a massive amount being spent on them, there should be no doubt that the necessary amount of money was being spent on these hospitals, so that the wounded soldiers received the medical treatment required and owed to them.  However, if Robert Burns’ Washington Post article, “Workers at VA hospital in Mississippi raise concerns about improper care” were anything to go by, one would have to believe otherwise. The article talk about how in 2009 a group of whistleblowers employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Mississippi, revealed “’serious wrongdoing,’ including improperly sterilized instruments and missed diagnoses of fatal illnesses”[1] at Veteran hospitals within the state. Just over two weeks ago in Tampa Florida, a local V.A. hospital reported rat dropping in a supply closet[2]. Alone this might not seem like an issue but the Tampa Times reports that this is one in a string of sanitary problems at this particular Veterans hospital. In 2010 “A Cape Coral soldier's family complained about the lack of cleanliness at Haley” and in “In 2006, Haley officials canceled several surgeries after flies were seen in the hospital operating-room suite”.[3] Why are the Veteran Hospitals having these issues, what is the root cause here and how far does it reach?

[1] Robert Burns. “Workers at VA Hospital in Mississippi Raise Concerns About Improper Care.” Washington Post.

[2] William R. Levesque. “Rat Droppings Found in James A. Haley VA Medical Center.” Tampa Bay Times. A

[3] Levesque. “Rat Droppings Found in James A. Haley VA Medical Center.”

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Unwanted Legacy of LBJ

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office. His term as President could be coined as the tail of two presidents, one on the home front and the other was the one who was “not going to lose Vietnam”.[1] Johnson was stuck between a rock and a hard place, not wanting to lose a war for what was though to be a strategic piece in the in the Cold War nor wanting to be “the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion”[2]. What Johnson wanted, was to be a social reformer, a president who that acted in the best interest of the people, “the President who educated young children…who helped to feed the hungry…who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election.”[3] To some extent President Johnson achieved this, he was the President that signed two of the most important pieces of legation for the 20th century into law, those of course being the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unfortunately, much of what he wanted to achieve at home could not be done because of the growing war in Vietnam, and the resources being allocated there.
  From the onset of his administration Johnson wanted America to be more involved in Vietnam than Kennedy had and he took the first steps with the National Security Action Memorandum 237 or NASM.[4] By April of 1965 Johnson had sent 75,000 troops and by July 125,000[5] and the amount only increased over the course of his term. Along with increasing the numbers of troop, the Johnson Administration undertook an immense bombing campaign against targets in both North and South Vietnam. Johnson did not just stop at Vietnam with his fight to stop the spread of Communism; he secretly funded rightwing governments and forces though out the globe including South America and Indonesia.[6] Johnson had to make a choice, between waging a war for social reform at home or fighting a global war against communism and protecting America’s investments abroad. He choice the latter and forever changed the legacy of him and his administration.

[1] Oliver Stone, and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. 393
[2] Ibid, 394.
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid, 395.
[5] Ibid, 400.
[6] Ibid, 420.