Heroic Lobbyists of the Congress – NAFTA War of 2017 to join other War Vets this Veterans’ Day

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 10.45.49 PMWashington D.C. —

This November 11th, “very serious people” who just know a lot about economics that you don’t understand, will be joining veterans of American wars past, present and forever, in parades across the country, as well as using their time in Washington defending the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a deeply complex multi-lateral trade agreement understood by five people, to lobby Congress for certified veteran status.

“I feel like we deserve America’s gratitude and thanks for our service in lobbying with our Army to protect this legislation”, said Michael Wellington, an MBA grad from Yale whose hair has not moved since his junior year at Choate.

“It’s high time brilliant patriotic organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have the social capital and honor that the general public pretends to bestow upon veterans , and I myself have sacrificed my 2nd vacation with my family this year in defense of what is probably the greatest trade agreement, piece of legislation, or political act is world history, NAFTA is the dream that Hyman Roth wanted for Cuba in the Godfather before undesirables forced their agenda upon the masses”, added Wellington, praising NAFTA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

NAFTA has a storied legacy of adding tremendous profits to corporations and rich people that has taken the U.S. economy to record heights according to the Chamber. “The stock market is at record highs and has gone to places we could have only imagined back in 1993”, explained Chamber spokesperson Jonathan Hunter. When pressed for comment about the lack of tangible connections most Americans feel to stock prices and the Gilded Age-levels of economic inequality people are facing, Hunter retorted “look at the Dow Jones Industrial, look at the Nasdaq, look at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and finally — why are you communist who hates America?”

Before deploying a squad of the vaunted “NAFTA Army” on an AL.com correspondent earlier today Hunter was last heard yelling that the link between effort and reward is perfect, that the common people just needed to believe in the magic more, consume more products in order to achieve happiness, and most importantly, they just need to be born as Jonathan Hunter, Michael Wellington, and other similar people and they’ll do just fine. 

The Margin of Error – Episode 20 “1! 2! Ah-1, 2, 3, 4!” with Troy Olson

Allan and Carson are joined by Troy Olson to talk about the GOP’s epic failure that was the AHCA, the peculiar racism of conservative reading lists, and whether or not Millennial wages will ever recover from the Great Recession.

The first of what hopefully are many weekly (bi-monthly) updates promoting the latest episode of the excellent podcast The Margin of Error co-hosted by Allan Branstiter and Carson Starkey. In the future this website will be shamelessly, unapologetically, and proudly posting and promoting each episode, along with Bruce Springsteen music, and Jimmy Buffett retirement communities.

Hey, Carson — don’t ya think it’s time we have another installment of Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past? Trump-era edition?


Judiciary is Conspicuously Missing from WhiteHouse.gov as Being Part of the Federal Government

As of 10:20 PM EST on January 29th, on the tenth day of the Trump administration — the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government is conspicuously absent from WhiteHouse.gov

According to the Way Back Machine on the InterWebs, the Obama Administration had The Judicial Branch of  the Federal Government on its website. While this could have been an oversight, rather than a deliberate political move, like the status of LGBT Americas, Climate Change, Health Care, and Civil Rights, I believe this is a deliberate attempt to delegitimize the Courts, which are the last vestiges in the way of one party fascist rule (in addition to the rights guaranteed us by the Constitution, which must be enforced each and every day by WE THE PEOPLE), and the basic decency and goodness of the American People and our communities.

It takes a long time for the Courts to change over. As you may know, the Supreme Court has had a right wing tilt for a generation or two, but the lower courts have turnover at a much faster pace. While an obstructionist GOP often blocked President Obama’s nominees to the Federal courts – he was able to appoint a total of 329 federal judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayer and Justice Kagan.

This legacy of judicial appointments also includes 55 Courts of Appeals judges, 268 judges to the District courts, and a couple dozen more to specialty courts under Article III  (International Trade), Article I (Federal Claims, Tax Courts, Veterans Claims, Military Commission Review, Armed Forces), and Article IV Territorial courts.

This eight year legacy of judicial appointments, the day-to-day bureaucracy, and the majority of the American people stand in the way of significant parts of the Trump Agenda. We’ve already seen constant attempts to delegitimize the media (although they do a pretty good job doing that on their own), and I believe we’ll see more and more of this as long as District court judges stay executive orders, rule legislation unconstitutional, etc. This “battle of the Federal Government branches” mathematically can only last eight years, or even fewer than that.

Why? Because if we allow one party rule under this President and his administration for that length of time, the judges appointed will be far more favorable to executive orders like the one that swept across the nation this weekend.

This has been a dispatch from Publius – a Public Citizen of the “Sons and Daughters of Liberty” – writing from the island where Lady Liberty welcomes new Americans to the land of opportunity, holding a torch, which will burn a little less brightly if WE THE PEOPLE – do not do our duty in the years to come.

EXCLUSIVE: New Leaks Reveal CSM’s Account of Iraq War According to WWE Superstar John Cena

LOS ANGELES, CA—A hacker operating under the alias “SPCgaryPOWNen487” leaked a classified account of the history of the Iraq War this afternoon. While national security experts and historians have deemed much of the information contained within this presentation, they admit that it offers valuable insight into the mind of the average U.S. Army senior non-commissioned officer.

This 8-slide Powerpoint presentation appears to have been composed by CSM Anthony S. Ciotola of III Corps HQ stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Department of Defense officials have not yet commented on the authenticity of this presentation or information as to who it was intended for.


Agreeing Loudly’s Allan Branstiter Receives Accolades for Coverage of Veterans’ Issues

Allan Accolades

LOS ANGELES, CA—Agreeing Loudly columnist Allan Branstiter received the accolades for his deft and insightful coverage of veterans issues. Jack and Jason, two prestigious and influential New media, poured praise for Branstiter’s work.

“I have been browsing online more than 3 hours nowadays,” Jack remarked about Branstiter’s article covering the obvious plight of a Minneapolis veteran who spend days soliciting the thanks of civilians on Memorial Day , “yet I by no means discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is beautiful value sufficient for me.”

Jason was evidently more impressed by Branstiter’s journalistic bravery, explaining “I believe that you simply could do with [just] a few p.c. to power the message house a bit, but instead of that, this is an excellent blog. . . . I will certainly be black.”

Both urged Agreeing Loudly’s editorial staff to pay Branstiter market rates for his contributions to their website. His peers universally agree.

“To be honest,” mused Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, “as exceptional as Troy Olson and Carson Starkey are, you can find writers just like them pretty easily. Allan Branstiter’s the unicorn of online journalism. You’re not going to find another Allan Branstiter.”

“Forget once in a generation,” stated David Brooks, “he’s more of a once in a lifetime talent.”

Retired public radio personality Garrison Keillor was more subdued in his praise for Branstiter’s growing influence. “I consider it an intensely personal failure on my part that Allan Branstiter hates me,” he said, “I worked for decades under the apparently misguided conception that I was good at my job; however, I’m clearly the embodiment of bad white liberalism and a stain upon the very term ‘entertainer.'”

While the Agreeing Loudly editorial staff could not be reached at press time, Branstiter’s colleague Carson  Starkey offered his praise. “Allan Branstiter is the Ta-Nehisi Coates of America’s veteran community,” he remarked. “Inequality and injustice flee at the sound of his keystroke.”

The Associated Press attempted to contact Jack and Jason; however, a “trojan horse” cracked their internal email server and emptied the organization’s trust fund.

DOD Negotiators Learn That You Can Counteroffer


Washington D.C. — In a stunning discovery earlier this week, Department of Defense officials have learned from their chief negotiators in military contractor agreements that the DOD can in-fact, counteroffer the contractors’s original price demands. This revelation could potentially save U.S. taxpayers 1 trillion dollars over the next ten years. For years, the public has been vexed by why a 3 dollar hammer cost the government 100 dollars and why everyday routine soldier items like CamelBak’s military hydration system cost over 100 dollars when the free market price is no more than 15 — we have our answer and the DOD is thrilled.

The celebrations in Washington and at military bases across the planet, have only been tempered by the realization of contractors that the long and sacred government contractor gravy train has ended. “We were consistently but pleasantly surprised all of these years that DOD negotiators took our initial offer, which we knew of course, was highway robbery. However, in a negotiation you always want to start from a position of asking for more than what you want. We assumed that was basic knowledge and that we would bargain down. This was not the case”, explained Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson. Lockheed Martin’s famous boondoggle F-35 contract with the U.S. Government, which is three years behind schedule and some 200 billion over its initial budget, is perhaps the most striking example of this negotiation naiveté. The F-35, has cost U.S. taxpayers nearly 1.5 trillion dollars in total now and is the most expensive weapons program in history, it also has never flown in combat. For comparison sake, the Apollo program cost just 110 billion in today’s money. Hewson added, “once we realized they were automatically going to accept our initial offer, we just kept jacking up the price to see what we could get away with. As our stockholders can attest to, the results and profits have been staggering. All good things must come to an end though. We expected this gravy train to end in 2007 or so, it’s now 2016. This is highway robbery that any CEO should be immensely proud of.”

DOD negotiators were informed of this knowledge by an unnamed and unpaid intern, informally referred to as David, the unofficial official name of all DOD interns. This particular David had learned of the counteroffer from his time when he summered in Morocco and frequently bartered with shopkeepers and food stand operators. We could not locate this particular David, but we imagine his comments would go something like this: “I frequently bartered down on the price of bananas, watches, etc. It’s almost as if all of these negotiators have been in a bubble of unaccountability most of their lives. Meanwhile, I look forward to being called a lazy and entitled young person next week at work after my discovery is forgotten. They don’t even know my real name, they just call me intern David. I hate this job.”

This new discovery not only should help the Defense Department cut its budget without adversely effecting troop strength and national security, but it should really help soldiers that just cannot keep track of their shit. PFC Carroll of the 534th Maintenance Team for instance, loses every conceivable government issued item you can imagine. His Supply Sergeant was lenient the first few times, but he has had it up to here with PFC Carroll’s incompetence. “I just could not keep bailing him out, when you put on this uniform to represent and protect the American people, when you wear this flag, you need to conduct yourself with professionalism and integrity…keeping track of your shit is part of that. From top to bottom, we expect the best.”

Yes. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Note: While this was primarily a satirical piece, I’d like to point out that the facts and figures used are all real. This nation really has spent 1.5 trillion on a defense system that does not fly in combat as of now. This is a good example of the phrase coined by colleague Carson Starkey: #SatireIsPointless It does not matter if it’s an Onion article or a CNN article relaying information that Trump has been nominated. In 2016, it is the editorial staff at Agreeing Loudly’s opinion that the difference between reality and satire is negligible. Therefore, we’d like to coin a second phrase, that you may all use at your leisure: #Surreality 



Local Veteran Still Available to Receive Your Gratitude


MINNEAPOLIS, MN—Unable to dislodge the man from his position between the Typo and the Women’s Scarf Kiosk, staff at the Mall of America confirmed that Carson Starkey, an Iraq War veteran and recently appointed commandant of JROTC Company at E. Charles Knoblauch High School, will continue to make himself available for handshakes, salutes, and free beers from a grateful public. Starkey has posted himself at the Mall of America since Memorial Day in order to represent the what he calls “America’s Next Forgotten Generation.” “I’ll be here until Suzanne picks me up at 1800 today, I think,” Starkey explained, “It’s hard to say because I thought she meant 1800 yesterday, but she never showed. My bad.” During a period of 38 hours, Starkey claims to have shaken the hands of 3,853 bargain-seekers. When asked about his chaffed and bloody hands, Starkey admits that he may have underestimated his allergy to parabens often found in scented hand lotions. “Bath & Body Works has been giving out free samples of hand lotions since yesterday,” he sighed, “I can’t count the number of people who have used my hand to get rid of excess moisturizer.” Starkey’s wife could not be contacted by press time, but sources close to the couple state that she’s enjoying a day to herself.

Kleiner Mann Joe Blue Collar, Was Nun?: The Way Forward for Those Who Don’t Care About The Heritage Foundation’s Agenda

By Carson Starkey

Darren McCollester | Getty Images

Hans Fallada’s “Little Man, What Now?” was first published in 1932. Johannes Pinneberg, the protagonist, faces constant economic anxieties, petty humiliations, and social disillusionment in post-World War One Germany. He travels through a broad range of emotions, but most of all, he feels disconnected and abandoned…abandoned by faceless, uncaring “leaders.” As he sees it, somebody should be looking out for him. He doesn’t hold grandiose, sophisticated ideas about public policy, history, economics, or politics. He wants a steady job, a place to live free from his repulsive mother-in-law, affordable healthcare for his wife Emma, and food for his son Horst. He’s not angry about socialism, trade unionism, or fascism. He’s angry that self-declared “serious” people in government can’t or won’t protect him from avoidable misery. A fair number of scholars assert that the book acts a broad explanation for the future political success of fascism in Germany. Johannes Blue Collar wasn’t obsessed with waging expensive, seemingly endless warfare or subjugating everyone that disagreed with him politically. He just wanted to pay his bills and maintain some measure of human dignity. Of course that was true in 1932. It has been true throughout the course of human history. It’s true today. Which brings us to Joe Blue Collar in contemporary America and his broad interest in, if not sympathy with, Donald Trump.

What has been most intriguing, in my view anyway, about the rise of Trumpism (broad, detail-free populist declarations about making America great) are the reactions among Establishment or respectable conservatives. “Establishment conservatives” has come to mean Republican Party voters that favor millionaire welfare checks, eternal warfare with Muslims, and racial segregation without the burden of supporting a politically inexperienced, orange-skinned, toupee-adorned grifter who plies shoddy products at Macy’s. Now that Trump is going to be the Republican presidential nominee, respectable conservatives are melting down in highly public, Mel Gibson-esque spectacles that reveal the ugly yet honest ideological foundations of American conservatism. Respectable, establishment conservatives claim to care about intellectually serious matters like Supreme Court nominees, small government, or fiscal restraint…although no evidence exists to support the contention that those same conservatives have ever worried about such matters in the past three quarters of a century, unless we mean preserving low tax rates for rich people or criminalizing the existence of non-white people. No, what rankles self-proclaimed grown-up conservatives about Trump is that he’s giving away the inside game by verifying an uncomfortable suspicion that Heritage Foundation “scholars” have always attempted to suppress during campaigns. That is, most self-proclaimed conservative voters don’t care about the Ayn Rand agenda. While abolishing taxation, dissolving social insurance, and building Pax Americana are important causes to people who work at The Wall Street Journal, all that Jane or Joe Blue Collar care about relates to making financial ends meet. Which makes conservative aristocrats angry bordering on hysterical.

Continue reading

Russian,Syria, and the Limits of Military Power

by Allan Branstiter

(Alexander Natruskin | Reuters)


Six months after intervening on behalf of the Assad regime, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that “the main part” of the Russian military task force in Syria will begin to withdraw. Despite warnings that Barack Obama’s foreign policy had the U.S. “slouching toward World War III“—this isn’t some whacky prognostication from the margins of American foreign policy thought, it came from a former professor and NSA analyst and Naval War College professor—the Forever-War Consensus’s great erotic nightmare of World War III hasn’t come to fruition. I suppose they’ll have to find a more effect way of killing off all us pinko Millennials.But how did all these national security black-belts and counterterrorism maestro’s  with super-secret clearances get it so wrong?

But how did all these national security black-belts and counterterrorism maestro’s  with super-secret clearances get it so wrong? Let’s ignore the fact that these confidence men have managed to find a way to turn the art of being consistently wrong about every single international policy since the fall of the Soviet Union into lucrative careers as “serious” subject matter experts. Actually, let’s not.

What these “the world is a Tom Clancy novel” fail to understand is that the Kremlin approaches foreign policy from a self-aware position of weakness. As audacious and ambitious as Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria appear, they’ve been relatively measured. Russia isn’t trying to engage in nation-building, nor are they looking to engage in a five-trillion dollar war nor are they looking for new Nazis and the outbreak of World War III. What defines their effectiveness (so far) is not Bush/Reagan cowboy bellicosity, but a self-awareness masked by bombastic rhetoric.

Continue reading

Sarah Palin, PTSD, and the Survivor-As-Hero Myth

by Allan Branstiter


This past Tuesday, half-term governor Sarah Palin endorsed fellow reality TV star and demagogue Donald Trump for president of the United States of America. That same day, her son Track, an Iraq war veteran, was arrested for drunkenly assaulting his girlfriend with an AR-15 and attempting to prevent her from reporting it to the police. At a press conference the next day, Sarah Palin addressed “the elephant in the room” and used her son’s alleged domestic violence incident as a platform to blame Obama for not supporting the troops, especially those with PTSD.

“My son, like so many others,” she explained, “they come back a bit different. They come back hardened, they come back wondering if there’s respect for what it is their fellow soldiers and airmen and every other member of the military have so sacrificially given to this country.” Remarking that she could “related with other families who can feel these ramifications of PTSD and some of the woundedness our soldiers do return with,” she then turned to Obama as the root of the victimization of American veterans. “It starts from the top,” she concluded, “the question though, that comes from our own president, where they have to look at him and wonder, ‘Do you know what we have to go through?’”

In the days since, many veterans have rejected Palin’s statements. Liberal critics wuickly condemned her overtly partisan manipulation of veterans issues, while others (like Bill Maher) argued that Track’s actions were the product of poor parenting, not combat trauma. Some [see 1, 2] have even gone as far as to argue that Track Palin never saw combat and, therefore, is lying about having PTSD (recent studies have shown that 31% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD, including many who never saw combat). While the response to Palin’s remarks has been almost exclusively negative, she is tapping into a perception among conservatives that Obama and Democrats neither care or understand the military or veterans.

Whether or not Track Palin suffers from PTSD remains unknown. As a veteran who has been treated by the Army and the VA for anxiety issues in the field and at home, I’d hate to attempt to diagnose Palin from afar. However, there are some lessons to be garnered from Palin’s statements that have not been addressed by most observers, namely where her statements come from and their effect on public perceptions of veterans. Most people on the left side of the aisle have dismissed Palin’s remarks as a bald-face and shameless attack on Obama. And yet Palin is tapping into several less obvious ideological and cultural strains regarding the role of veterans in American life.


"Survivor Heroes" emphasized the victimization of veterans at the hands of abusive civilians while romanticizing revenge, violence, and mental trauma.
“Survivor Heroes” emphasized the victimization of veterans at the hands of abusive civilians while romanticizing revenge, violence, and mental trauma.

Sarah Palin’s statements tap into a long-standing view of the veteran as a “survivor hero.” According to historian and attorney Eric T. Dean in his study of mental trauma during the Civil War and Vietnam War, this mythic image emerged during the antiwar protests of the 1960s and gained additional meaning during the 1970s. Dean points out that by the Reagan presidency, “it became common in the United States to view the Vietnam veteran as beset by a wide range of problems and betrayed by his fellow citizens and government.” This image of the “survivor-as-hero” who fought a war they were not allowed to win and then attempted to piece their lives together in an ungrateful society was popularized by portrayals of veterans like John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) in First Blood (1982), James Braddock (Chuck Norris) in Missing in Action (1984), and the entire cast of A-Team (1983-1987). While cinematic notions of the Vietnam veterans as damaged by war gained notoriety in essentially antiwar movies like Taxi Driver (1976) and The Deer Hunter (1978), the growing popularity of “survivor-as-hero” myth resonated with the “New Patriotism” of the 1980s.

In the early 1990s, the “survivor hero” myth was extended to a new crop of veterans returning home from the First Iraq War. While Americans repeated many of the mistakes from Vietnam in the country’s intervention in the Middle East (for example, believing that technological superiority, a destructive air campaign, and a ground invasion would allow the United States to secure a quick and inexpensive total victory), they were determined not to abuse this new war’s veterans as they believe they had done during Vietnam. Yellow ribbon campaigns were widespread and new “Welcome Home” festivities were planned for Vietnam veterans and Persian War veterans. The ground war in Iraq was quick and relatively bloodless, and friendly-fire incidents and growing rumors of Persian Gulf Syndrome failed to dampen the public’s belief that the victory had healed the old wounds of the Vietnam era. “It’s a proud day for America,” the elder Bush proclaimed, “and, by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

The “survivor-as-hero” myth largely went underground during the 1990s, but the specter of Vietnam loomed large in American political life. Americans largely stopped thinking about veterans and the effects of war; however, films like Forrest Gump (1994) continued to portray Vietnam veterans as victims of historical circumstances, while taking a somewhat ambivalent yet nostalgic view of the cultural and social conflicts of the 1960 and 1970s. Racial discord was boiled down to pithy lines like “Sorry I ruined your Black Panther party” and “Mama used to chase coons off the porch with a broom,” while Gump’s relationship with the slain black soldier, Bubba, embodied the Boomer’s belief that they, as a generation and regardless of race, had been victimized by an era they struggled to understand. Misunderstood by society and left to wander the backroads of America in search of meaning, the film ends with the proposition that love (especially in the case of Lt. Dan and his Vietnamese wife) and capitalist enterprise allowed the Vietnam generation to overcome their victimization.

Before and shortly after September 11, 2001, the efforts of Tom Hanks, Steven Speilberg, and Stephen Ambrose presented a heroic image of World War II’s veterans that altered the “survivor-as-hero” myth. In their film Saving Private Ryan (1998) and the miniseries Band of Brothers (2001), the trio presented an image of World War II veterans as righteous warriors fighting and dying for liberty and their comrades-in-arms. These works not only allowed civilians to claim a sense of “true” understanding of war, but an empathetic sense of appreciation for the experiences of veterans. I remember pastors preaching about sacrifice, quoting Hanks as he whispered “Earn this” to a bewildered and potentially undeserving Matt Damon—who served as a stand in for the American people writ large. Inspired by these films and the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Americans adopted a version of the “survivor-as-hero” myth that emphasized the heroic traits of veterans, while aligning all anti-war critics as abusers of troops.

After 9-11, it became easy for Americans to conflate what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” and Time’s “The Next Greatest Generation.” When the U.S. invaded Iraq again in 2003, Americans imbued my generation of veterans with a sense of patriotic and godly virtue. Media sources scoured the front for anecdotes to link the Second Iraq War with the heady memory of World War II. Battlefield baptisms in Kuwait served to link our war to the perceived godly mission and religiosity of our predecessors. Online videos of surprise homecomings gained millions of views, while various Americans (veteran and civilian) promised to give us the hero’s welcome the Vietnam generation was not afforded. Meanwhile, Vietnam vets ate their own in 2004, when the Swift Boat Veterans for Peace helped torpedo John Kerry’s bid for president and called into question the acceptable definition of “veteran.” Meanwhile, the “survivor-as-hero” myth returned in full force as the public began to fixate on what they saw as a growing veterans crisis of unemployment, PTSD, domestic violence, and suicide. Despite the welcome home celebrations, the pro-soldier country music songs, and the widespread insistence that veterans enjoyed the full support of the American people, the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran came to be regarded as a psychiatric victim.


The "survivor-as-hero" myth has conflated generations of veterans, producing a view that veterans are both traumatized and exceptional.
The “survivor-as-hero” myth has conflated generations of veterans, producing a view that veterans are both traumatized and exceptional.

As Palin’s statement shows, who one believes is truly victimizing veterans depends largely on where one stands politically—clearly, the former governor blames Democrats and Obama in particular. While her willingness to blame the president for her son’s PTSD is disturbing and outrageous, it is important to understand that she is tapping into a extremely widespread and long-standing view of veterans as victims. As described above, Palin and the Right’s view of the veteran as a victimized “survivor hero” dates back to Vietnam.

The experience of the Vietnam War has created a view on the Right that all American veterans are suffering psychologically. To Palin and her ilk, veterans have been continually victimized by Democrats who never served in the military (while those who have are tarred as “fake veterans”). Rather than actually understanding the experience of veterans and PTSD, Republicans would rather repeat a well-worn myth that veterans are constantly in crisis. They blame the government and liberals for putting political interests above the welfare of soldiers (see: Benghazi) and ignoring veterans upon their return home.

What I find most unsettling about Palin’s remarks isn’t so much the fact that she uses PTSD to not only excuse her son’s actions, nor is it her blaming it on President Obama. What bothers me, and what I hope to remedy at least partially here, is the inability of many on the Left to understand why she would make such remarks and why so many on the Right accept them as truths. Since Vietnam, veterans and PTSD have slowly combined to popularize the view of the former as victims. Since 9-11, PTSD has transcended its definition with DSM Manual and become a cultural phenomenon. How people think about PTSD—its causes and effects—are largely shaped by the wholesale adoption of the “survivor-as-hero” myth into American political discourse. During the 1960s and 1970s, psychiatry used PTSD to criticize the military’s attempt to “salvage” traumatized soldiers in order to return them to combat. Later, PTSD was used to attempt to understand war’s effect on the individual soldier and create a more skeptical view of war. Today, PTSD is shaped largely by popular culture and the political Right, and images of veterans silently suffering from invisible wounds has become a useful political football. In most cases, I believe, Republicans have proven to be much more adept at exploiting the myth of the victimized veteran than Democrats.

In modern wars where there are relatively few American casualties, PTSD has become a kind of fetishistic totem. Burdened by the guilt of downplaying and stigmatizing mental trauma among servicemembers, the military has now attacked PTSD with a vengeance. Their response has been confused at times, ranging from over-diagnosis to inaction. Despite the military’s shortcomings, much of the blame for the “veteran’s crisis” is laid upon the Department of Veterans Affairs—an entity seen by most Americans as simultaneously bloated and underfunded. For their part, veterans have been all too willing to blame the VA for the failure of the government to live up to its obligation to their welfare.

Since Vietnam, veterans’ expectations for government assistance ranging from employment, education, medical care, and mental health have increased. Many veterans view themselves as a privileged class due to their collective sacrifice and their continued suffering. In the past, many benefits were limited to those who were physically disabled due to wounds. Since most veterans today were never wounded or even engaged in direct combat, there has been a tremendous amount of pressure (rightfully and wrongly) to expand the definition of sacrifice to include more veterans. Incapable and unwilling to criticize veterans for agitating for more benefits, the American people have embraced the “survivor hero” myth. As a result, we’ve reached a point where every veteran is seen as noble victim entitled to reparations.


Literal and figurative.
Literal and figurative.

In 1944, sociologist Willard Waller argued that “the veteran is always a powerful political force, for good or evil, because others cannot protect themselves from him. He has fought for the flag and has absorbed some of its mana. He is sacred. He is covered with pathos and immune from criticism.” For decades, conservative Americans have not only imbued veterans with the mythical power of the flag, they’ve also come to think that some of the very same mana has wiped off on them. Empowered as the true defenders of an oft-victimized class of citizen soldier, these hawks are free to characterize wars and those who fight them in terms of their own pleasing.

Veterans are just as culpable as folks like Trump and Palin for the politicization (and commodification) of PTSD and vets more generally; however, there is little incentive for them to challenge the “survivor-as-hero” myth. Just look at the cultural prevalence of anti-liberal (imagined or actual) “survivor heroes” like Marcus Lutrell and Chris Kyle.

The myth of the “survivor-as-hero” myth imbues all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines with the title of “veteran,” regardless of whether they saw combat. Military service is now seen as a “sacrifice,” even though many people continue to view enlistment as a net positive and a chance to gain upward mobility. The myth not only offers veterans with a heroic sense of themselves, it has also provided them with material benefits. Let me be clear, the damaged caused by wars, physically and psychologically, are very much real and often ill-served by the military and the VA. However, the extent to which veterans, their families, and their organizations exploit the “survivor-as-hero” myth to use the image of the victimized veteran in order to cudgel their political foes or position themselves as a kind of new minority class is not above criticism.

The fact remains that a large number of Americans believe that Obama and liberals are inflicting harm upon the country’s veterans. The fact remains a large number of veterans and their families believe that Palin is speaking on their behalf. The fact remains that the Left continues to fail to critique the “survivor hero” myth in any meaningful way because they hope that they, too, will one day be able to reap its rewards. The fact remains that Left-leaning veterans organizations continue to fail at providing a counterpoint to groups like the VFW and American Legion—groups dedicated to using this myth to privilege veterans over other groups. Until we can discuss this myth’s place in American history, culture, and political discourse, those sharing Palin’s sentiments will continue to wield influence over the nation’s foreign policy and view of military service. Failing to take on the myth of the victimized veteran robs vets of their agency, denies the important role they play in our political decisions, and fails those who need assistance the most.