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November 11, 2002

Honoring Our Military Veterans


by Rep. Ron Paul

Although we honor veterans every November, the looming prospect of a second Gulf war makes this year especially meaningful for both our armed forces and those who served in past wars. Not surprisingly, many of the veterans I speak with in Texas urge caution in Iraq. Combat veterans understand perhaps better than any of us that war should always be a last resort, that young people should never be put in harm's way without very serious deliberation.

It's easy to talk about honoring veterans and their sacrifices on a national holiday. Yet so often the rhetoric obscures the reality that the federal government treats veterans badly. Congress wastes billions of dollars funding so many unconstitutional programs, but it fails to provide adequately for the men and women who carry out the most important constitutional function: national defense.

If we really hope to honor veterans, we must change the culture of the Veteran's Administration, which is as bureaucratic and inefficient as any federal agency. This dramatically affects the well-being of millions of former servicemembers, who rely squarely on the VA for health care, retirement living, and monthly payment of veteran's benefits. Legislation and better funding can help, but as with all federal agencies, mismanagement is the real problem. Veterans deserve dignified care, and we can't provide that with a VA that is run like the Postal Service or the IRS.

While we need to treat our retired veterans better, we also should understand that we can best honor both our veterans and our current armed forces by pursuing a coherent foreign policy. No veteran should ever have to look back and ask himself "Why were we over there in the first place?" Too often history demonstrates that wars are fought for political and economic reasons, rather than legitimate national security reasons.

Today's American soldiers are the veterans of the future, and they should never be sent to war without clear objectives that serve definite American national security interests. They should never fight at the behest of the United Nations or any other international agency. They should never serve under a UN flag, nor answer to a UN commander. They deserve to know that they fight for the American people and the Constitution, and that the decision to send them into battle was made by their own congress rather than by UN bureaucrats who don't care about them. Only by using American troops judiciously and in service of the Constitution can we avoid the kind of endless military entanglements we witnessed in Korea and Vietnam. We honor our veterans by ensuring that their service to the nation is never in vain.


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    Ron Paul is a Republican Congressman from Texas. He was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President.

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