, Salem, MA

March 11, 2014

A look at what others are saying

The Salem News

---- — Excerpts from the editorials of other New England newspapers.

Combat fatigue. Shell shock. Previous generations had a wide variety of names for what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. But it has only been in recent years that psychologists recognized this reaction to war as a valid psychological condition — acknowledged that the horror of combat could leave a permanent mark on those who had to endure it, an invisible wound that was, for some, as debilitating as any physical trauma.

The difference? Those who took a hit to their body received lifelong care from a grateful nation. Not so for those suffering from mental scars.

Today, now that we have a better understanding of PTSD, it’s time to go back and right the wrongs of another era.

A lawsuit was filed by a Yale University law clinic on behalf of Vietnam veterans who had been denied medical care and other benefits as a result of discharges accepted in the days before the military recognized post-traumatic stress as a medical disorder.

Now it’s time to right at least one of the wrongs of that era. It’s time for the government to stop fighting these claims — even if it adds to the Pentagon’s budget — and grant these men the honorable discharge they have earned. It’s time to stop fighting this lawsuit and others like it and welcome these vets back into the fold.

— The New Britain, Conn., Herald

Significant cuts to defense spending like those proposed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are more likely to strengthen the nation economically and militarily than weaken it. That made the response to the proposed cuts by all four members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation disappointing, if predictable. All expressed fears that the cuts were too deep; all vowed to protect the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from any new attempt to lose unneeded military bases.

The four members are in a strong position to influence future military spending. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee. First District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter sits on the House Armed Services Committee, and 2nd District Rep. Annie Kuster serves on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Like every member of Congress with a military base, defense industry jobs or a National Guard force in their state, they are concerned about the loss of jobs and federal money that might come with the cuts. The tendency, call it a strategy if you want, is to claim that reduced spending will threaten national security, yet the opposite might be true.

In the aftermath of World War II, President Dwight Eisenhower, the former Allied commander in Europe, led the battle to cut defense spending because he recognized that it hurt the nation’s ability to spend on things that make a nation strong in war and peace: highways and other infrastructure, education and innovation and peacetime jobs. He famously warned of the danger that comes when spending decisions are driven by the demands of a military-industrial complex.

— The Concord, N.H., Monitor

By now, the American people surely appreciate the fact that the costly days of President George W. Bush and his principal advisers, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, are behind them, that no longer is it America’s impulse to send in the troops whenever a crisis erupts overseas.

But echoes of that unfortunate period in modern American history are still being heard as doctrinaire conservatives train their sights on President Obama’s reluctance to go head-to-head, militarily, with Vladimir Putin over Russia’s behavior in Ukraine.

“We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression,” U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina, declared. “President Obama needs to do something.”

Joining Graham’s criticism of Obama was the president’s rival in the 2008 election, Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, who said that “nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”

McCain and Graham have been a partisan political pair for some time now, and it seems their common bond is a deep reservoir of contempt for this president. If the American people have grown tired of their act, the senators have only themselves to blame.

Americans need to understand this: As offensive and abrasive as Putin may be (and few would argue he’s not deserving of our contempt), there is no plausible reason for our country to mount a military response to Russia’s behavior in Ukraine and especially its virtual invasion of Crimea.

— The Times Argus of Barre-Montpelier, Vt.