David H. Hackworth
February 16, 1999
WANTED: AMERICAN SKIPPERS ONLY
Now that the impeachment battle's over, Bill Clinton is unfortunately good to greenlight Kosovo without being accused of another "Wag The Dog."
Clinton says he just made the decision to go. Funny that. I've known which Marine and Army troops were tasked for the invasion of Serbia for more than two weeks. But of course our commander in chief would never lie to us.
So hang on for another Clinton misadventure - with no relationship to our national security - that will further clobber our forces already hurting from doing too much with too little.
And make no mistake that this military solution will be anything but a nightmare. Kosovo promises to make our four-year no-exit-in-sight occupation of Bosnia look like an R and R on Waikiki Beach.
For openers, bear in mind that the NATO forces cranked up for the Kosovo slaughterhouse aren't strong enough to keep the fanatics at bay. They'll have to be doubled and then probably doubled again.
At least this time, the French and the Brits who condemned the United States for fighting in Southeast Asia and supported our communist enemy with supplies and intelligence will be bleeding alongside our own kids in the same foul trenches.
But unlike Vietnam and the congressional Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the American people have had no vote on this upcoming blood bath. Perhaps few citizens are protesting our involvement this time around because our forces are all-volunteer.
Were our forces made up of all draftees, I suspect their parents would already be beating down the doors of our lawmakers demanding they stop the madness and screaming: "Why are we going? Our dog is not in that European fight."
Despite the silence, our Congress should clear its head from its Bill and Monica hangover and ask: "Why Kosovo? And who'll be calling the shots down on the ground? Will it be an American or Brit or French general?"
Bet your boots he won't be an American. Oh, we'll be told that the foreign NATO general in charge will report to American Adm. John Ellis, who in turn will report to the American NATO commander, Clinton's Arkansas buddy, Gen. Wesley Clark. But when it comes to a crunch down where the slugs sing, where people die and decisions must be made instantly, our mud soldiers will be under foreign command on a complicated battlefield. Stuck right in the center of a civil war.
I am opposed to American troops ever being placed under foreign command. Fifty-three years ago, as a young soldier, I got my first bitter taste that Yanks don't fare well under other than the U.S. military when my 351st Infantry Regiment was placed under the Brits only a few hundred miles from Kosovo. We were fighting the same serial killers, not over Kosovo, but a similarly ethnically divided Territory of Trieste.
It also didn't work in the dozens of other debacles I've waded through as a soldier or a reporter since then. Take Somalia as an example. There, on Oct. 3, 1993, our Ranger Task Force got into trouble executing a dumb Clinton order to snatch Mohammed Aidid in the Civil War-shattered streets of Mogadishu. Our Special Operations soldiers were surrounded by Aidid's rebels and in deep trouble. They'd taken casualties but couldn't get them out. U.S. tanks were needed to bust through Aidid's lines, but Clinton and his inner circle failed to have them available. Then, when American Gen.Thomas Montgomery went to his commander, a Turkish general, and asked for U.N. tanks, it took six hours to saddle them up and six more for them to bust into the Ranger's position. Phone calls to foreign capitals had to be made; orders -- sometimes given at gun point -- had to be translated from English to Malaysian and Pakistani tank crews. While all this jabbering was going on, Ranger James Smith, Bravo Company, 3/75th Ranger Regiment, bled to death from a leg wound. An American skipper would have had that armor into Smith's position, and he and the other wounded Rangers would have been in the hospital within an hour. Clinton should remember Ranger Smith and the 17 other American warriors who died following his orders on that fateful day in Mogadishu, and think out the consequences of his Kosovo call before it's too late.