Afghanistan, Vietnam and the VA Hospital – Orange County Registry


The day Kandahar fell to the Taliban, I went to the VA Long Beach Healthcare System early for an appointment and routine blood tests set up weeks earlier. If you haven’t been to a VA hospital, they are like regular hospitals. These days, before entering, you have to wear a mask and answer the questions: Contact with COVID? Health problems?

As in most hospitals, most of the patients are middle-aged, with the usual aches and pains and ailments associated with age.

But because of what was going on in the news, more than usual I was aware of young vets in wheelchairs without legs. Or with legs, which means they were paraplegics. Or walk but without arms. All races, beliefs and colors.

In 2019, just before COVID hit, while there, I saw a vet roll over on a stretcher whose legs and arms couldn’t move. A quadriplegic.

I have been going to VALBHS now for about 17 years. The good news is that care has improved a lot since the national ILI scandals half a decade ago. There was also a lot of construction.

It’s bipartisan. President Trump initiated the reforms and President Biden continued them. Democrats and Republicans in Congress passed the law. For once, you can be sure that your tax dollars will go to something good.

This is not the case with the $ 2 trillion now estimated as the cost of the 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

The butcher’s bill was also high, starting with 2,443 American soldiers killed and 20,000 wounded. 3,800 American defense contractors, 1,144 Allied soldiers, 66,000 Afghan soldiers on our side and several tens of thousands of civilians were also killed. This adds to the even higher toll of the Iraq war.

From both wars, wounded in other ways were the civilians left at home: spouses, children, relatives and friends of those killed and injured. Imagine a woman who has just married a troop. It is human nature to team up in times of distress. And nothing is more stressful than war.

Then he’s in the country for a week and an IED breaks his spinal cord. He is transported to a combat support hospital. Then he is evacuated to his home.

Money wasted is also important. How many potholes in Southern California and elsewhere could that $ 2 trillion have been filled? Or schools built or extended health care? Perhaps national and local health systems would have been better prepared when COVID hit.

Or how about returning the money to the taxpayers for their individual needs? How many people have never married or had children because taxes were too high by $ 2 trillion?

You may recall that the war in Afghanistan marked the end of the brief period of balancing the federal budget. There have now been 20 consecutive years of borrowing, with the national debt reaching $ 27 trillion.

Who will repay this money? How can we put $ 27 trillion on the tiny backs of children?

When I was in the VA waiting for a date, I listened to three veterans talk about another war, the Vietnam war. All three were 19 or 20 years old when the Tet offensive began in 1968. They are now 71 or 72 years old. I listened.

A guy remembered that he had just been to Saigon when he saw “the VC crossing the bridge towards the city”. He fought them there. The guy now in the wheelchair remembered he had just arrived too. A Navy helicopter repairer also waiting to be dispatched to a base, he was tasked with repairing the helicopters in Saigon. He said, “You’d be amazed at what you can fix with just an adjustable wrench.”

It was another unnecessary war, with 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese dead.

Two days after my appointment as VA, Kabul fell to the Taliban.

John Seiler’s blogs at


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