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In Memoriam Steve Robinson:
The Lion of Veterans Advocacy

by Carl Osgood

June 21, 2014 (EIRNS)—The veterans community lost a valuable friend on June 12 with the passing away of Steve Robinson, a ferocious fighter for the welfare of military service members and veterans who had been scarred by the Bush-Cheney wars and were being denied the medical help and benefits that so many of them still need to this very day. Steve was an Army Ranger who retired from the military in 2001. He was a veteran of both the 1991 Gulf War and post-war Operation Provide Comfort. He spent the last three years of his service before retiring working on Gulf War illness issues as the senior non-commissioned officer in the Preliminary Analysis Group, Investigations and Analysis Directorate, Office of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses.

Steve was 51 years old.

Steve’s first position as an advocate was as the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, and he later held the same position with Veterans For America. He testified many times before Congressional committees on physical and mental health issues faced by combat veterans, urging reforms in the way such issues are handled by the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments.

His expertise on these matters was informed by his own experiences responding to calls for help from individual veterans whose lives had fallen into a spiral of collapse, and sometimes even suicidal depression. He spared no effort to close the gaps in his own knowledge by research and consultation with medical professionals, and he was relentless in challenging senior military officers, Defense and Veterans Affairs officials, and members of Congress to tell the truth about what so many combat veterans were going through and to do right by them. Even when he wasn’t officially associated with a particular veterans organization, he was always an advocate for those veterans in need and never hesitated to respond to any who reached out to him for help.

A 10-Year Collaboration

Indicative of his passion for his fellow human beings was Steve’s collaboration with EIR and this writer, a relationship that extended over a period of more than ten years. During that time he granted four interviews, which were published in full,[*] and he offered his insights and expertise on many other occasions. Even as my attention was drawn away from the issues that he helped me to cover, we remained in contact, speaking for the last time about a month before he died.

In that last discussion, he expressed his great frustration over the latest scandal engulfing the Department of Veterans Affairs. He described to me his own experience trying to actually get an appointment with a VA physician, and finding that the 25 or so other veterans also in the waiting room all had appointments for the same time and the same physician, the strategy being to keep them waiting until they gave up and went home. This way, the VA could say, "we made an appointment for you, but you didn’t show up." While Steve’s account could’ve been ripped from the headlines of the past two months, it occurred, in fact, in 2005, showing that things haven’t really changed that much, and, if anything, have only worsened.

My first awareness of Steve’s work came in early 2003, just before the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq, when he joined with other advocates and members of Congress to warn that the troops were being sent to war with too little training, chemical and biological warfare defense equipment that was ineffective, and too little of the medical screening required by a 1997 law that stemmed from the flawed treatment that ill veterans of the first Gulf War received.

My first contact with him followed in August of that year. His business card came to me from a LaRouche movement literature squad that had met him, one morning, at a Metro station in Washington, D.C. I called him, and thus began a relationship that resulted in not only the four interviews but other articles, covering all of the issues that he dealt with, from Gulf War illnesses to failures in veterans and military medical care to mental health issues and the severe problem of suicide among combat veterans. Steve’s unconditional willingness to collaborate with me gave me a deep understanding of the price being paid by members of the military stemming from the illegal, un-Constitutional wars waged on behalf of the British Empire by the Bush-Cheney cabal.

Preparing to Kill, Not to Heal

One of Steve’s consistent points about those wars was that the soldiers being sent off to fight them were being prepared, in every way, to go into war and kill, but then not being prepared to reintegrate back into civilian society when they come home. "Unless you’re a psychopath, you don’t enjoy killing," he told me in 2008. This means that soldiers have to be trained to kill, but then we "don’t give them any tools to educate them on how that can impact their brains and bodies and how to own that experience."

So, after that preparation and after that experience, they come home only to find that we "don’t give them therapy because you don’t have enough counselors, or you kick them out because they’re having aberrations of PTSD that you think are administrative discipline problems and then you release them upon the society. It’s an injustice to our society." This injustice has been felt in many ways: homelessness, drug abuse, domestic violence and other violent crimes, and in the extreme, even murders and suicides committed by veterans who never received the help that they needed, help that would’ve saved lives.

Steve was no Johnny One-note, however. He understood that the very real physical and mental health issues that he was confronting, and the bureaucratic efforts to dump many veterans by the wayside, came in the context of, and stemmed from, a larger policy of perpetual warfare and economic collapse. He therefore appreciated my efforts to keep him briefed on the global fight for economic justice being waged by Lyndon LaRouche, including LaRouche’s campaign to restore the Glass-Steagall separation of real, commercial banking from Wall Street speculation.

In an Oct. 15, 2004 radio interview, LaRouche took note of the mental and physical health issues that were already arising among the troops in Iraq, and the cases of insubordination that had resulted. Steve noted, in response, that a reservist who leaves a $65,000-a-year job when he’s activated, could lose everything if he’s wounded and winds up with, say, a 30% disability. Of the troops in Iraq, he said, “They’re being asked to do more with less, and take more risk with less consideration for the rules and procedures of the conduct of war.”

At the time of the last full interview I did with Steve, in 2010, the shortcomings of the Obama Administration were beginning to make themselves felt. Obama had made dealing with veterans issues a central theme of his 2008 campaign yet as of August 2010, nothing had happened to keep those promises.

"I think I’m not the only person out there who is articulating the sentiment that we are frustrated with the first 18 months of this Administration, and the pace at which it is tackling the issues that confront service members and veterans," Steve said. "And that there hasn’t been much change in the Dept. of Defense. It’s virtually the same as it was in 2005. And I think that there’s a level of agitation among veterans service organizations, that is going to manifest into political action by those organizations, to hold leaders accountable—whether it be through the vote, or whether it be through activity on Capitol Hill, or activity in the press, but that we can’t wait any longer."

Indeed. Steve Robinson was, as his friend Georg-Andreas Pogany characterized him to me in an email, a true "Lion of Veterans Advocacy."

[*] The interviews are available at www.larouchepub.com in the issues dated Sept. 5, 2003; May 7, 2004; May 11, 2007; and Aug. 20, 2010.