More media attacks on vets *UPDATED*

The media supported the troops when they felt they could attack the War. Now that the Surge is working, with dramatic downturns in overall violence (setting the stage for political stability), making attacks on the War somehow doesn’t work anymore, so the media has found a tried and true target: the troops themselves. The first salvo was the NY Times “troops as killers” tripe, which Iowahawk skewered. Round two in the media’s undeclared war is “the troops as insane, drug addicted homeless people,” an attack emanating this time from AP. What’s marvelous (in a twisted way) about the AP report, is how it relies on the media’s original myth about insane, drug addicted homeless Vietnam Vets to support its central tenet. Thus, after one anecdote about a poor, lost soul, the report hits its stride:

This is not a new story in America: A young veteran back from war whose struggle to rejoin society has failed, at least for the moment, fighting demons and left homeless.

But it is happening to a new generation. As the war in Afghanistan plods on in its seventh year, and the war in Iraq in its fifth, a new cadre of homeless veterans is taking shape.

And with it come the questions: How is it that a nation that became so familiar with the archetypal homeless, combat-addled Vietnam veteran is now watching as more homeless veterans turn up from new wars?

What lessons have we not learned? Who is failing these people? Or is homelessness an unavoidable byproduct of war, of young men and women who devote themselves to serving their country and then see things no man or woman should?

(Incidentally, Erin McCalm, the author of this “report,” repeats this myth again later in the article.) Pardon me while I take a short trip to the vomitorium to purge myself of that kind of trite psychobabble.

I’m not someone who deals comfortably with numbers, so I’ll leave it to you guys to tell me what’s wrong with these:

For now, about 1,500 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 400 of them have taken part in VA programs designed to target homelessness.

The 1,500 are a small, young segment of an estimated 336,000 veterans in the United States who were homeless at some point in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

And yes, I am willing to bet that this minuscule statistical sampling is somehow very wrong. That is, I’m assuming that if someone compares Vet homeless figures to general homeless figures for young men and women in the same demographic, the numbers will be the same or, as seems often to be the case (whether the subject is alleged rises in Vet suicide or murder) lower.

Anyway, Ms. McClam, isn’t really interested in actual numbers. She’s much more interested in predicting imminent social breakdown because of the return of vast numbers of dysfunctional vets:

Still, advocates for homeless veterans use words like “surge” and “onslaught” and even “tsunami” to describe what could happen in the coming years, as both wars continue and thousands of veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress.

People who have studied postwar trauma say there is always a lengthy gap between coming home — the time of parades and backslaps and “The Boys Are Back in Town” on the local FM station — and the moments of utter darkness that leave some of them homeless.

In that time, usually a period of years, some veterans focus on the horrors they saw on the battlefield, or the friends they lost, or why on earth they themselves deserved to come home at all. They self-medicate, develop addictions, spiral down.

How — or perhaps the better question is why — is this happening again?

“I really wish I could answer that question,” says Anthony Belcher, an outreach supervisor at New Directions, which conducts monthly sweeps of Skid Row in Los Angeles, identifying homeless veterans and trying to help them get over addictions.

“It’s the same question I’ve been asking myself and everyone around me. I’m like, wait, wait, hold it, we did this before. I don’t know how our society can allow this to happen again.”

I suspect that poor Mr. Belcher can’t answer the question because it’s probably not happening again, just as it didn’t happen before.

And so the article goes. Broad, unsupported conclusions, breathless anguished questions, a complete absence of hard facts. This is not reporting. This doesn’t even rise to yellow journalism. This is so bad Ms. McClam couldn’t even make it as the writer of daytime soaps — the audience would expect more in the way of plot development and verisimilitude. This is the stuff of 1930s Hollywood spoofs about bad female journalists, trafficking in breathy innuendo, emotions and fantasy.

(The picture at the top, by the way, is of a Canadian homeless man.)

UPDATECurt, at Flopping Aces, is doing the math:

If my math is right (and there no guarantee it is, jarhead remember) those numbers work out to be .004% of the veteran homeless were from the Iraq/Afghanistan war.

So .004% is worthy of a 1,947 word article from the AP? This article from the NYT’s in November puts the number of Iraq/Afghanistan homeless veterans at 400. In two months it went up 1,100. That’s some jump.

And how about that 336,000 number. HUD reports that in 2006 the number of homeless in the United States was

The number of chronically homeless people dropped from 175,900 in 2005 to 155,600 in 2006, according to data collected from about 3,900 cities and counties.

Anyone see a problem there? This article from HUD puts it at 744,000. Pretty big discrepancy there. It even says 41% of that number are whole families which means only 416,000 are singles. I’m thinking that most of these veteran homeless are not taking their whole family with them so the majority of single homeless are veterans?

Any other math work from readers will be much appreciated.

13 Responses

  1. 2008.01.19 Politics and National Defense Roundup

    This post will grow as the day goes on. Don’t forget to check back later. I guess they’re caucusing in Nevada today and there’s a Republicans primary under way in South Carolina. I’ll post some results when they’re final but I’m not going to try …

  2. OK everybody, let’s wake up! The extraordinarily small number of “new” combat veterans with problems shown in the NY Times article does not, in my mind, go to the credibility of the author. As tragic as are the crimes, violent events, suicides, and the like, these things and more occur in the rest of their age group population who have no military connection whatever. Every soldier (newspeak: Warfighter) is just a person, a human being, with usual and customary mental baggage like everyone else who is disciplined and trained to perform some extraordinary things in extraordinary ways with extraordinary equipment, in combat. Military combat is an unavoidably a life changing event, and sometimes the most profound event that one could experience. People sometimes forget that Military training includes things like discipline, teamwork, doing the correct things under extreme pressure, thinking under extreme pressure, the priority of the mission, and so forth. I would like to see the behavior record of all “new” combat veterans. They are probably better behaved than the rest of the public. I also feel that the author should learn more about PTSD before using it as a battering ram and starting another wave of hysterical stereotyping to the detriment of those who have real diagnosed PTSD and combat veterans who are fortunate to not have the disorder at all. I have real diagnosed PTSD. It is just plain horrible. I wish it on no one. I have had it since my Vietnam experience, and I would like, for just a little while, to have people stop looking at me cross-eyed in stereotypical amazement wondering if I am going to “go postal”, and pushing my hyper-vigilance buttons for their vicious fun and personal political profit in the workplace. With articles like this, and the others now on the bandwagon, it seems my desire to get on with life without the adverse public perception trappings of PTSD all very, very hopeless.

  3. What’s marvelous (in a twisted way) about the AP report, is how it relies on the media’s original myth about insane, drug addicted homeless Vietnam Vets to support its central tenet.

    Very similar to getting war to pay for war, Book.

    How is it that a nation that became so familiar with the archetypal homeless, combat-addled Vietnam veteran is now watching as more homeless veterans turn up from new wars?

    Obviously because journalists are still feckless propagandists.

  4. …proving yet again that there is no low that the conservative won’t greedily embrace. Congratulations, Bookworm, on as divisively partisan a post as you’ve ever authored. Clearly, someone’s paying you to publish this offensive crap. Enjoy the money.

  5. g thinks he is for unified partisan gain? He conducts divisive insurgency operations every time he vomits up his hate here.

    Some people are very good at doublethink. g is so consistent, he has divided up his mind into separate compartments to color match his divided loyalties and partisanship.

  6. Greg.,
    Your opinion is yours, and no one in this nation, at this time, will prevent you from expressing it. Your opinion also states that your life is described by the space between the semicircles,
    ( )
    Al

  7. “at this time”

    An aptly veiled threat (a promise, Al?) from the troglodytic audience that feeds on Bookworm’s dirty droppings.

  8. You get any more hostile, greg, and I’ll have to ban you — reluctantly, I admit, because I’ve always been amused by your attacks. The sheer vituperativeness, though, which involves entirely substance free insults, has got to stop.

  9. I enjoyed the opening of the article, about rejoining society after combat. I don’t really recall leaving society. Did I get thrown out, and no one told me?

    Oh, I guess leaving society is enlisting in the U.S, Army.

    I’m kind of confused on this one. Will all of you let me back into your society? I’ve been back in your country for some time, and I’ve never killed anyone since I’ve been back.

  10. […] Bookworm did up a great post on the latest MSM attack on the Bush administration and the War on Terror. Last time it was veterans who become criminals which ended badly for the MSM. They definitely had egg on their face from that one. […]

  11. An aptly veiled threat (a promise, Al?)

    if g is trying to appear unafraid, why do you think he always tries to ignore the existence of my comments?

    Is that the behavior of a strong intellectual you think?

    The sheer vituperativeness, though, which involves entirely substance free insults, has got to stop.

    Ship him some drugs, Book, I think he is getting low on his psycho depressors.

    Don’t want to be around some people when they are off their meds.

    Will all of you let me back into your society? I’ve been back in your country for some time, and I’ve never killed anyone since I’ve been back.

    Just like people who have been to strange countries and planets, you have to stay in quarantine to ensure that you don’t bring back something, Allen. We don’t want any of that Marine or Army or infantry “gung ho” crap infiltrating our universities and schools, ya know.

  12. There is an evil in my head that I can’t get rid of, inside are my private battles with hell,in this body without a soul,Shared by only a few of my comrades in arms with a thousand yard stare in their eyes.It all started in a room filled with people who were united in their deep concern for the welfare of returning veterans. Many people spoke. Veterans spoke. Stories were told. Hearts were poured out.
    But suddenly, amidst all this good will, a rift spread across the room. A difference of opinion emerged. How to best serve a returning veteran? It was not so easy a question as we might have guessed.
    The cause of the rift?
    Peace!Imagine that. Peace!, as the catalyst of confrontation. But it was,A crowd of very decent, well-meaning people sat in the middle and said, We want to care for our veterans. We also want to talk about peace.Battle lines were hastily drawn. On one side, were people affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs. On the other side, the veterans.
    Oh no, the VA men said. You cannot speak of peace. If you ever want to build rapport with veterans, you cannot utter a word about peace! They went on to explain that veterans view peace-activists as the enemy. If they so much as hear that word—peace!—they will turn tail and run the other way. And you’ll have lost them forever. These are views of VA armchair warriors. These were the VA experts. They knew everything about the veterans. They carried that weight with them or so they thought. Then the veterans in the room responded. They said, Um ! Yes but…we’re not all opposed to talking about peace. In fact, given our troubles with war, we rather enjoy the discussion.Now there is truth, of course, in the suggestion that many veterans do feel a certain hostility from the peace movement—even those veterans who have been disquieted by their own experiences in war. But my feeling, as an Iraq War veteran, is that they tend to be threatened mostly by the rhetoric that is leveled directly against the actions they took in war. Veterans are not inherently opposed to peaceful days, and most, I think would be perfectly receptive to a discussion of diplomacy vs. Military action in future situations.
    And so the debate went back and forth, the moral divide opened, and the well-meaning people in the middle began to slip down into it. They looked to the left at the few passionate veterans in the room, and then they looked to the right at the men from the VA who said they’d worked with and heard the stories from thousands of veterans. Trust us,they said. We know what we’re talking about.Almost like they cough think for us.
    You could see the struggle ensue before your eyes. You could feel it. In the end, the well-meaning people in the middle grabbed hold of a rope called neutrality.
    And there they hung, murmuring, We do not want to upset our veterans, so we will not talk about peace or anything else of importance. We will not talk about politics,or about stopping the war in Iraq,or preventing a war in Iran,or about depleted uranium,or about the 120 War Vets Commit Suicide Each Week,no lets keep it simple lets talk about nothing.The cause for war had won!
    I was disturbed by what I’d heard those VA men didn’t say.That veterans have no legal right to specific types of medical care. The information is coming from documents related to a civil lawsuit filed by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war who claim the government is illegally denying mental health treatment to some troops.Army officials in upstate New York instructed representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs not to help disabled soldiers at Fort Drum Army base with their military disability paperwork last year.
    But I was not entirely surprised. One man was a psychiatrist. He explained the psychological dimensions of PTSD. Another was a chaplain. He explained the spiritual dimensions of PTSD. But by virtue of their jobs and the hands that fed them, they could not delve too deeply into the moral questions of policy.
    This is where I became most incensed.
    Because war with Iran is not yet a policy, I said to my friend who was also at the meeting. There are no troops on the ground to support or not to support. There are no units in contact. There is no mission to believe in or to doubt. This is a great burden off our shoulders and clears the table for the possibility of diplomacy. This is the time to talk about it. This is the time to talk about non-violence, before the violence begins, before the troops are sent, and before we have another polarizing war which we cannot speak of critically without offending somebody.
    But I was not entirely surprised. One man was a psychiatrist. He explained the psychological dimensions of PTSD. Another was a chaplain. He explained the spiritual dimensions of PTSD. But by virtue of their jobs and the hands that fed them, they could not delve too deeply into the moral questions of policy.
    This is where I became most incensed.
    Because war with Iran is not yet a policy, I said to my friend who was also at the meeting. There are no troops on the ground to support or not to support. There are no units in contact. There is no mission to believe in or to doubt. This is a great burden off our shoulders and clears the table for the possibility of diplomacy. This is the time to talk about it. This is the time to talk about non-violence, before the violence begins, before the troops are sent, and before we have another polarizing war which we cannot speak of critically without offending somebody.

    What was so extraordinary about this particular episode was that the painstaking neutrality embraced by all these well-meaning people to spare the feelings of the veterans had effectively trumped their own instincts to speak for peace. They were silenced. They silenced themselves, not only about the present war, but about future ones as well.
    My friend and I both vets agreed, we’d witnessed a surprising phenomenon. And we realized that the effort to prevent future wars might be effectively impeded through its manipulation.
    If, for example, Iran was pressed upon the American people not as a war of its own, but merely as an extension of the same war on terror already taking place in Iraq, then so much the more difficult it would be to oppose for those people desperately wishing to show support for the troops.
    It was a noble thing to do, and I’m pleased that it we veterans who have done it.

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