Statement of Charles Sheehan-Miles
Executive Director, Nuclear Policy Research Institute and Spokesman for Veterans for Common Sense
Good Afternoon. My name is Charles Sheehan-Miles. I am a Gulf War veteran, Executive Director of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, and I serve on the Board of Directors of Veterans for Common Sense.
I would like to open by offering our condolences to the families of those who have already been killed in action in the second Gulf War. Regardless of whether or not we agree with the policies causing this war, we share your grief for your loved ones and offer our prayers.
During the first Gulf War, I served in combat with 4th Battalion 64th Armor, which is now in combat somewhere in Southern Iraq. I am here to talk about the grave concerns many veterans share about the second Gulf War.
Like our affiliate – the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) – Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) and Win Without War recognizes that it is not just the fate of one man, but the fate of 24 million Iraqis and hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers that hangs in the balance.
Veterans for Common Sense is a patriotic organization of veterans: we support our troops and our veterans 100 percent. However, VCS rejects the Administration’s new “First Strike” doctrine.
American soldiers should protect America, not attack other nations.
VCS is disturbed to note that even as our troops are in combat, the White House and Congress are actively cutting health care and educational funding for those service members, veterans and their children.
Here is what Veterans for Common Sense wants to share with America:
First, Veterans for Common Sense respects America’s long history of building multilateral diplomacy, international agreements and the rule of law.
In the past, America has served as a beacon of freedom and democracy, defending freedom, building international institutions and working to ensure world peace.
The President and this administration have turned a century of multilateral diplomacy upside down: we have weakened the United Nations, damaged relations with our allies and tarnished America’s image in the world.
This war puts hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers at severe risk. Recently one thousand American veterans, including retired senior military officers, wrote the President citing the dramatic risks the Iraqi population faces, including widespread disease, food shortfalls and exposure to severe environmental toxins including depleted uranium and oil well fires. All this in a country of 24 million people, with less than ten thousand medical doctors
Veterans for Common Sense is concerned that a unilateral, first-strike approach to foreign affairs encourages armed conflict around the globe, providing a deadly precedent to other countries which may use military conflict to avoid patient diplomacy. As we have seen with Russia only this week, a first-strike aggressive policy encourages nuclear proliferation and makes the world a much more dangerous place.
As an alternative to the Administration’s national security doctrine, Veterans for Common Sense wants the United States to be engaged in world affairs as a partner with allies and the United Nations.
Even as our troops are in combat, Congress is slashing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget. While Americans remained glued to their television sets watching the second Gulf War unfold on TV, the House Budget Committee voted to slash $25 billion from VA’s budget over the next ten years.
The prestigious National Academy of Sciences blasted the Pentagon twice for failing to keep records on Desert Storm veterans’ toxic exposures – including exposure to sarin chemical warfare agents. The Pentagon’s outrageous failure needlessly delayed medical research and treatment for tens of thousands of seriously ill Gulf War veterans for many years. Yet, despite the passage of the Force Health Protection Act, the Pentagon is repeating the same mistakes and not conducting appropriate health surveys of deploying troops.
The Administration’s actions show a loss of respect and loss of concern for American soldiers and veterans and for the civilian population of Iraq. The proposed budget is an outrage that must be stopped. To paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln, America must provide full healthcare and benefits for those who have borne the battle.
Today Veterans for Common Sense, with the Win Without War Coalition, announces our campaign to support the troops with deeds, not words. To the Congress and the President, we ask that you really support the troops: don’t just say it.
Elements of our campaign include:
• Pushing to safeguard the safety and healthcare for the troops and fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs.
• Direct contact with deployed service members with prayers and messages of support
• Continued education and public awareness of the role combat veterans must play in the national debate over the judicious use of military force.
More information about the campaign is available on our web site at http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org
Thank you. May this war end quickly and our soldiers return home safely.
Veterans for Common Sense