We're going to set the wayback machine for 1991.
Operation Desert Storm. Perhaps the last great hurrah of the US Military - Kuwait was liberated, and Saddam Hussein embarrassed, as well as his military destroyed, along the "highway of death
Who knew that three decades later, we'd still be bogged down in an endless cycle of false promises, missed opportunities, and changed premises?
Ah, but this is about none of those things. The US Military has many legacies; parts of the Pacific are still contaminated by radiation. Check around any military base, and there's tons of pollution, toxic chemicals in the water, unexploded ordnance, and who knows what?
Then there are the soldiers themselves - in addition to mental strain, physical injuries, and more, there's a legacy of the military poisoning our soldiers with things unknown. Three decades on, and "Gulf War Syndrome" remains a troubling and baffling malady. There was once some hope that the root cause might be determined, but it increasingly appears that those affected will remain so for the rest of their lives.
America's memory of the 1991 Gulf War has faded, but we must remember the 697,000 U.S. veterans who drove the Iraqi army from Kuwait 30 years ago this month -- especially the one in four who lost their health to toxic exposures serving their country. That country refuses to care for them.
The inauguration of a president who personally understands the terrible consequences of toxic wounds to veterans and their families inspires hope that help may finally be coming.
The Gulf War was hailed at the time as a great victory, with U.S. casualties limited to 148 dead and 467 wounded. Today, we know that at least 175,000 American servicemen and women returned home with constant pain; fatigue; and gastrointestinal, memory and chronic neurological problems now referred to as Gulf War Illness. They will not be celebrating this anniversary.
In the Vietnam War, 58,000 U.S. service members died and 153,000 were wounded. But more than 650,000 Vietnam veterans suffer or have died from illnesses related to Agent Orange.
Each of these tragedies has been a case of "friendly fire." Gulf War illness was triggered by anti-nerve gas pills the military ordered troops to take and pesticides sprayed to protect them from insect-borne diseases, according to reports of a congressionally mandated public advisory committee appointed by the secretary of Veterans Affairs. But the VA maintains that current evidence does not support a clear association.
"It never dawned on us that we may have done it to ourselves," acknowledged now-retired Lt. Gen. Dale Vesser, who led a Pentagon investigation. Low-level nerve gas released by U.S. destruction of Iraqi weapons facilities was also a likely factor.
In every instance, the government has resisted admitting responsibility for decades. It denied that Agent Orange exposure caused adverse health effects for 20 years after Vietnam -- 40 years for many illnesses. The VA currently rejects more than 80% of Gulf War illness claims, according to a Government Accountability Office investigation. It also denies 78% of burn pit claims.
This is indeed a toxic legacy that crosses multiple presidencies; as it always seems to be, "The Troops" are the most important thing when there is actual war - but when the shooting stops, not so much. At least the current president once sent his own flesh and blood overseas and in uniform, so perhaps something might change one day.
Moving on, the fallout from January 6 continues. As it has been reported in this space previously, extremist groups hold a strong sway over the current military. Retired service members are even more dangerous, as they still have their experience and training without the military discipline and oversight looming over them. As more layers are peeled away from the onion, more disturbing things are discovered.
Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Edward Caldwell had a plan leading up to the violent Jan. 6 takeover of the U.S. Capitol, according to federal prosecutors.
The 66-year-old former Reserve intelligence officer wanted to transport weapons into Washington, D.C., by boat -- possibly with three four-man sniper teams who could "go hunting after dark" for "cockroaches who prey on the weak." That's according to new court documents that allege Caldwell and other veterans who forcibly busted into the Capitol last month relied on military training to prepare for the breach.
Caldwell, who lives in Virginia and left the Navy in 1995, is a member of the Oath Keepers, according to federal agents. The far-right anti-government militia group is one of several that recruits people with military and law enforcement experience. Two more veterans are named as Caldwell's co-conspirators: Jessica Marie Watkins and Donovan Ray Crowl.
Watkins, a 38-year-old from Ohio, is an Army veteran. Crowl is a former Marine corporal who worked on Huey helicopters.
The trio are among at least 32 alleged participants in the U.S. Capitol breach who served in the military. The number includes Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, who was shot and killed by law enforcement inside the Capitol, stopping her apparent attempt to reach the House of Representatives chamber. She was one of five who died in the riot.
Many of the rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, including Babbitt, believed that President Donald Trump won the 2020 election. There is no evidence to support the former president's claims of widespread voter fraud. Trump was impeached by members of the Democratic-led House for the second time in his presidency over his comments leading up to and after the Jan. 6 mob, but the Senate failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority to convict him, and voted to acquit Feb. 13.
Each of the military services is now facing an order to address extremist ideologies in the ranks. The Joint Chiefs have called the Capitol mob "a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process."
I have been saying for weeks, if not months, that this is a cancer upon America. We are not stronger, we are weaker every day this is allowed to progress. At some point in time, something vital will finally succumb, and the country will not survive much longer. If you've watched a living person battle the disease and eventually lose, you know of what I speak.
But - instead of being the doctors and trying to work on a cure, Congress is instead that ignorant uncle that smuggles a dying cancer patient "one last cigarette" whilst they are in an oxygen tent, with predictable results.
The recent acquittal means more than the former President and the GOP walking away scot-free; they have actually endorsed rioting and insurrection at the Capitol for future causes. It was unsuccessful this time, but since the perpetrators walked away without even a slap on the wrist, others will be emboldened to try again in the future.
Like all things touched by Mr. Trump - this is not going to end well. Whether it's the next election, or 50 years from now.