By Robert L. Rosebrock, Staff Writer
Do Americans torture, or do we not! That’s the big question in the ongoing debate regarding a waterboarding technique used by the military and CIA to interrogate a few suspected terrorists in order to obtain information that could prevent any future attacks on the United States.
This back and forth battle of partisan politics has itself become torturous. As a result, everyone seems to have their own head under water because nobody is asking the most important question of the day: Is it torture when an American Veteran is Homeless? The answer is unequivocal: Absolutely!
So why isn’t this the paramount issue and concern of every American that appreciates his or her own freedom and safety? And why isn’t our government protecting and defending those who have protected and defended America’s citizenry instead of making it a priority of defending and protecting thug terrorists that would like to kill every American citizen?
It’s because Americans do not torture and being a homeless Veteran is really not torture, right? After all, we would never inflict torture on anyone because we’re just too good to ever ill-treat, abuse or mistreat anyone. That’s what Third World and barbaric countries do, but never Americans!
RIGHT: Is this torture? A homeless Veteran sleeps during the day outside the chained gates of the National Veterans Home because he must remain awake during the night for his own safety.
More importantly, America must show the world that we’re above all that and in order to prove it, we’ll even coddle and pamper a few brutal terrorists because they’ve purportedly been treated unkindly through aggressive interrogation, kept in isolation, and deprived of sleep at their residency on the tropical coast of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President Obama has called the interrogation techniques used on a few suspected terrorists to gain information as “a dark and painful chapter in our history.”
In the Meantime …
Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs has declared that about one-third of the adult homeless population have served their country in the Armed Services. Current population estimates suggest that about 154,000 veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.
Think about it, more than 150,000 of America’s Veterans are without shelter and hungry and each must fend for his or her own safety on the dangerous and crime-ridden streets of America.
Who Really Cares?
How many of these homeless Veterans have been subjected to coercive and aggressive interrogation by street criminals as to how much money they have and would they like to voluntarily part with a few begged coins in exchange for their own lives? How many have been robbed of a sandwich or beaten into submission for sexual favors, maimed for life, or actually killed? How more isolated could an individual be than homeless, alone, and sleeping with one eye open for your own safety. Who knows and who really cares, right?
We know for a fact that our government and the so-called “human rights police” certainly do not care or they would’ve done something about this torturous treatment a long time ago. And why should government and human rights organizations care about a couple hundred thousand homeless Veterans living in crime-infested squalor when all of their time and energy is spent on protecting the safety, treatment and quality of living conditions for a couple hundred al-Qaeda terrorists who even their own countries do not want returned into their society?
A Clueless Nation
The mantra of “Americans do not torture” is getting worn out. But do America really torture? Yes, we do! And so long as there’s one homeless Veteran living on the outside of our own society here on American soil, we are all guilty as charged!
But what the heck, they’re just “vets,” a bunch of second-class citizens and prospective “domestic terrorists” as declared by our Department of Homeland Security. Just ignore the problem and it will go away.
Is this torture? Two Veterans sleep alongside the multi-million dollar fence outside the Veterans Home during the day, the safest time for them to sleep.
The senseless debate that’s taking place right now is the most disgraceful period in American history and it’s time to issue a cease-fire on both sides of the political spectrum about what is torture and what is not.
Americans have become clueless as to what real torture is and we all need to face reality and demand that our homeless Veterans be protected and cared for with the same fervor as those whom they once fought against.
A Place Called “Home”
Here in Los Angeles there are an estimated 20,000 homeless Veterans. This is the largest VA in the nation and the land it sits upon was exclusively deeded in 1888 “to be permanently maintained as a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.”
And the Home is backed up by an 1887 Act of Congress, which specifically stipulates: “That all honorably discharged soldiers and sailors who served in the regular and volunteer forces of the
United States, and who are disabled by disease, wounds, or otherwise, and who have no adequate means of support, and by reason of such disability are incapable of earning their living, shall be entitled to be admitted to said home for disabled volunteer soldiers.”
This is their rightful “Home,” yet politicians and VA bureaucrats have aided and abetted in the pillaging and plundering of this sacred land to the highest bidder, including giving away a billion dollar parcel “rent free” for a public park.
A Grand Community Park
The group that manipulated this incredible land heist, Veterans Park Conservancy (VPC), which is not a Veterans organization but a wealthy homeowners group, wants to convert Veterans sacred land that has been preserved for over a century as a place of privacy and quietude for America’s Veterans “to heal from war,” into a “grand community park.”
In a Q&A that was on VPC’s original website, the homeowner group was asked: Will the 16-acre park be a small neighborhood park? Their answer: “No. What we have in mind is a scaled-down version of a grand community park in the tradition of New York’s Central Park, San Francisco’s Presidio, or the Boston Commons.”
A Sanctuary For Butterflies
VPC also stated they want the park “to provide butterfly gardens … and a home for birds and other wildlife.” Imagine that! There are more than 20,000 homeless Veterans in the Los Angeles area and this group’s primary interest is in providing a sanctuary and home for winged insects, feathered creatures and wildlife critters while showing absolutely no respect or compassion in providing necessary shelter for homeless Veterans at their own sanctuary, the National Veterans Home.
Apparently in VPC’s self-serving world, a safe haven for our fellow human beings that served to protect their own homes is far less important than providing a secure refuge for butterflies and whatnot.
Their mission goes beyond any notion of torture purported against thug al-Qaeda terrorists! This is rubbing salt into mental and emotional wounds of all America’s Veterans whose blood has been shed for the safety of our nation.
The VPC group has also proclaimed that there will be “family picnics and community celebrations,” including “military reenactments” at their grand community park. How much more insensitive can this group really be by wanting to celebrate and create the reenactment of war as public amusement on sacred land where Veterans are actually trying to erase the anguish and horrors of combat so they can heal from war?
Democratic Party Rejects Veterans Resolution
Over the weekend the California Democratic Party (CDP) held it State convention in Sacramento to vote on Resolutions and other interests. One was the “Resolution to Protect a National Sacred Trust,” submitted by the Party’s Veterans Caucus, which sought to end all of this VPC nonsense and called for the CDP “to support an immediate halt to any giveaway of any of the Los Angeles National Veterans Home property, either to a non-veterans organization or for any non-veteran-related purpose, and the revocation of any extant agreement to do so.”
This noble Resolution was blocked on the floor and denied a vote, the second time it has been blocked or voted down by the CDP. Why would they do that? Well, when Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Henry Waxman are the major supporters of this wealthy homeowner’s group that “wants” Veterans sacred land for a public park then Veterans “needs” become irrelevant.
The Los Angeles National Veterans Home is right in the middle of Congressman Waxman’s wealthy 30th District that includes Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Westwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.
So the torture of homeless Veterans continues while the wealthy homeowners who live in multi-million dollar mansions take away their sacred land for healing and use it for their own playground. With gratitude like that who needs ingrates?
A New Era of Responsibility
President Obama campaigned on bringing our Troops home from Iraq so why can’t he initiate a campaign to bring our Veterans home that are missing from action in America? He also campaigned that he was a uniter and not a divider, yet our nation has never been more divided since the Civil War, and it’s getting worse instead of better.
In his inaugural speech, President Obama called for remaking America with a “new era of responsibility” and declared that his Presidency will emulate the revered qualities of President Abraham Lincoln. He even placed his hand on the bible of our nation’s 16th President when he took the Oath of Office to become the 44th President of the United States.
President Lincoln ended his second inaugural speech in part: “to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”
In addition to calling for a healing of our nation’s divisiveness after the Civil War, Lincoln also established a new era of responsibility when he charged our nation with the moral responsibility to care for America’s Veterans, particularly those who had faced the tragic horrors on the battlefield.
President Obama needs to show the same kind of Lincoln leadership and bind up our nation’s wounds by diverting the public debate over torture of suspected terrorists, to that of caring for those who are indeed being tortured, America’s homeless Veterans.
He can accomplish this by opening all National Veterans Homes across America and provide an exclusive safe haven for our Veterans to heal not only from the rigors of war, but from the torturous wounds inflicted on the battlefield of homelessness.
It’s time for President Obama to bring an end to this “dark and painful chapter in our history.”
Investing in Your Karma
There are more than 150,000 homeless Veterans who are disabled in body, mind and spirit and they have no adequate means of support or are incapable of earning their living, as stipulated in the Congressional Act of 1887.
They are without jobs, shelter and food and we the people are leaving them behind to live broken and destitute lives. This is the worst form of torture because it goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And we are guilty of inflicting this pain and suffering upon our fellow citizens who were once the defenders of our freedom and independence, because we refuse to do anything about it.
But this is America and we supposedly do not torture. If you believe that, then ask any one of these homeless Veterans if it is torture to live homeless in the most prosperous nation on earth, a nation that they defended in our behalf, yet nobody cares or is willing to defend them in their hour of need. That is real pain — torturous pain!
Make no mistake; this is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s an American responsibility. We are a nation of people that prides ourselves in living by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as we would like others to do unto us.” It’s also making a smart investment in your Karma portfolio.
Now if you do not think it’s torture when we ignore our homeless Veterans when they’re down, then carefully heed the advise of Zen Master Wei Wu Wei: “When you give a shilling to a beggar, do you realize that you are giving it to yourself? When you help a lame dog over a stile, do you realize that you yourself are being helped? When you kick a man when he is down, do you realize that you are kicking yourself? Give him another kick, if you deserve it!”
About the author: Rosebrock is a U.S. Army Veteran, Vietnam War-era, HQ USARHAW, Schofield Barracks. He is Director of The Veterans Revolution and Co-Director of We the Veterans, and a Member of the American Legion Press Association. [email protected]
U.S. Army, 1965-67, Schofield Barracks, Hqs., U.S Army, Hawaii. Director, The Veterans Revolution, Captain, the Old Veterans Guard, and Director, We the Veterans.