Obama Could Issue an Executive Order to End the Wars Tomorrow (Yes, It's That Simple)
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Paul Sullivan is a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, serving in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq as a Cavalry Scout with the Army's 1st Armored Division.
As executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center from 1997 to 2000, he advocated for the passage of the Persian Gulf Veterans Act of 1998, which expanded health care and disability benefits for Gulf War veterans. From 2000 to 2006, he was Veterans Affairs project manager, leading a team that produced reports related to the Gulf War, Iraq war and Afghanistan war.
Sullivan is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans and is presently the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a Washington nonprofit organization focusing on issues related to national security, veterans' rights and benefits and civil liberties.
Two days after the inauguration, Paul spoke with me about a number of topics, including: the lies, drugs and poisons involved in the Gulf War and its current sequels; the suicide epidemic among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans; the rash of homicides around military bases; the need for a truth commission; skewed research on Gulf War illness at VA; signs of conspiracy and subterfuge; the legacies of Bush 41 and Bush 43; the first days of Barack Obama; and his hopes for Michelle Obama as a true friend of veterans and veterans' families.
Nora Eisenberg: You've been involved with veterans' issues and rights for close to two decades -- as a veteran and advocate for veterans. Why have you devoted your life to this?
Paul Sullivan: The military taught us a valuable lesson during war: never leave a fallen comrade behind. We are now applying that essential lesson for use outside the war zone: We must never leave a fellow veteran behind.
Most people don't know that under a little-noticed 1991 law, the Gulf War began on Aug. 2, 1990, and it continues through today. The devastation that began with the bombing of Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, continues through today. … Out of 700,000 Gulf War veterans, 290,000 filed disability claims against VA. VA also reports that 250,000 Gulf War veterans sought medical care at VA hospitals.
Friends of mine completed suicide after the Gulf War because VA delayed or denied assistance. A few friends suffered without answers from Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS, for years before dying early, often after fighting VA.
The Gulf War continues as the new Iraq and Afghanistan wars. VA reports an additional 330,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have already filed disability claims against VA, and 400,000 have already been treated at VA hospitals. That's a grand total of 620,000 disability claims and 650,000 veteran patients.
We continue fighting for veterans because they need it, and because we are successful. Our 2007 lawsuit forced VA to establish a toll-free suicide-prevention hot line. In the first 15 months, the hot line received 85,000 calls and performed more than 2,100 rescues of suicidal veterans.
We fought for and secured $1.8 billion in emergency funding in 2007 that VA used to hire thousands of new doctors and claims processors. VCS testified repeatedly about the need to reform VA's broken claims system, and Congress acted by passing an overhaul bill in late 2008. Yet much more work needs to be done in 2009 and beyond.
The time has come to bring common sense to our U.S. government -- we must end the wars, bring our troops home with a responsible plan, provide medical care and benefits to our veterans, begin repairing our Constitution and our international reputation, and create a truth commission that will present the facts about the causes, conduct and consequences of the war to the American public. Then we can learn from our mistakes and move forward.