Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Politics and War

06-01-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The inevitable intersection of politics and war often produces less than ideal results. Since the Vietnam War military analysts report that politicians usually because of domestic pressures did not send enough troops, or enough equipment or the right equipment to enable the military to get the job done. To have executed a war properly would most likely mean that politicians would have to ask the American people to make some sacrifices and that is usually not a position people up for re-election like to hold. The last war in which Americans really had skin in the game was WWII. There were lots of sacrifices, rationing, restrictions etc. The national feeling was that we were all in it together no matter which side of the battlefield. Whether Americans just won't go for that scenario or politicians wrongly think they won't go for it, the end result is fighting a war on half-measures. For the last 13 years America has been engaged in two wars but unless you are in the military or have a family member who is, there were no sacrifices required.

Which is all the more reason that Americans should be outraged at the chaos that marks the VA Healthcare system. How is it that a healthcare system as large as the VA can fail so miserably in taking care of veterans who make up around 1% of the population? So while our military men and women were fighting wars that required little on our part we could at least show our gratitude by making sure our veterans are well cared for upon their return. Maybe now is the time for Americans to make some sacrifices on behalf of our veterans and get the VA system up to par.

Many of our military personnel return wounded and broken. The level of care for those who need it is at best hit or miss. Military psychiatrists seem to diagnose everyone with PTSD and that of course allows them to prescribe lots of psychiatric drugs. As a result large numbers of service men and women and veterans are given the "pop-a-pill" treatment. Recently there has been a disturbing increase in suicide among both active duty military members and veterans. In fact in 2012 according to the Department of Defense website more active duty military died because of suicide than were killed in combat. And the Veterans Administration reported that during the same period veterans were committing suicide at the rate of 22 per day or 8,000 per year. This rise in suicide correlates to the huge increase (1100%) of prescribing psychotropic drugs (anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, stimulants, sedatives, anti-anxiety) in the military and to veterans. The rate of suicide increased more than 150% while the purchase of psychiatric drugs increased 76%.

Psychiatry has used the military since the 1940's as a source for experimentation in the treatment of mental illness including pioneering such "treatments" as electro-shock, deep-coma, LSD and other mind-altering substances. And often drugs are prescribed to soldiers that have not yet been approved by the FDA to treat certain conditions. Worse still, if a service member refuses such treatment they can be subject to disciplinary measures including court martial. That pressure in itself dictates against informed consent. These drugs simply mask the symptoms while the health of a person continues to deteriorate and their underlying problem goes unaddressed. Our military personnel should not be statistically more likely to be killed by a psychotropic drug than the enemy nor should they be guinea pigs in a mental health laboratory. This latest experiment using dangerous chemicals is obviously a failure and needs to stop and be replaced by more precise diagnosis and treatment. Compassion and not pharmacology should be the treatment of first resort.

Unfortunately this is still one more example of the intersection of politics and war. Our politicians don't want to own their failure in monitoring the care of our military and veterans so they just blame each other or claim they had no idea until the news reported there was a problem. (All the while making sure they and their families have the top of the line medical care. Could you imagine if Congresses health care was as dysfunctional as the VA?) Which gives little hope that the problem will actually be fixed. That is why it is up to us, the citizens to make sure the system is fixed, our veterans and military are given proper and adequate care. We can do that by bringing unrelenting pressure on our elected officials. Hopefully we will not make this a failure of our living up to the covenant between the citizens and those who serve our country. It surely is a stain on the national conscience that begs repentance and amends.

Let's not turn America, the land of the free and home of the brave into the land of the drugged and home of the suicidal.

Love, Fr. John B.