Veterans Day

Berkshire Eagle
Wednesday, Nov. 11

On Veterans Day, America honors those who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones, as well as World War I, which is passing deeper into history and is represented by only one surviving American veteran. America should also take this opportunity to assess if current veterans are being well-treated by the nation they serve, which means sending them to fight only in justifiable wars and providing them whatever health care they require. In this area, we can and must do a lot better.

President Obama is pondering his options in Afghanistan, which former vice president Dick Cheney sees as dithering. If Mr. Cheney had spent more time dithering about Iraq, a needless misadventure that continues to claim American lives as it winds down, he perhaps, for one example of many, would not have had to admit that he was wrong to claim the insurgency there had been broken when it was ramping up. We prefer Mr. Obama's cautious, considered approach, and his late night visit to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to honor 18 veterans killed in action in Afghanistan shows he knows what it is at stake. There is no evidence that either Mr. Cheney or his pupil President Bush ever roused themselves from bed to make that same visit or saw troops as much more than cannon fodder and campaign props.

The U.S. must root out al-Qaida and its allies, but it cannot engage in nation-building -- certainly not in a nation
that is one in name only, whose president is corrupt and whose populace is increasingly conflicted about the U.S. presence. While an escalation is out of the question, the administration cannot allow its enemies to survive and fester there either.

With health care reform dominating the news, a Harvard Medical School research team Tuesday released a timely and sobering report estimating that 2,266 U.S. military veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they lacked health insurance and had limited access to care. This is far more than the 155 troops killed last year in Afghanistan. Unhappily, the weak and watered down health care reform plans slogging through Congress won't begin to address this shameful situation.

These numbers are of no concern to the aging reform protesters who bray about socialized medicine while benefiting from their own socialized medicine in the form of Medicare. But they should shame every American embarrassed that a wealthy nation leaves as many of its citizens without health insurance as we do. That so many veterans, many of whom return from foreign wars with mental scars as well as physical, are uninsured and receive little or no health care is a national disgrace.

Pittsfield honors its veterans today with a parade and ceremony at the World War I monument on South Street, which is undergoing a major restoration. As attendees admire this remarkable monument and honor our veterans, we hope they will keep in mind those veterans who deserve much more from their nation.