18 July 2000


In case you've forgotten, the bottom line as to why we have a standing military force will always come down to our soldiers' ability to put a slug between the enemy's eyes.

But lately, elite Army Green Berets tell me they're not getting enough range time. And range time is what allows these trigger-pullers to sharpen their skills so they can do their deadly job: kill people when they threaten our country or national interests.

Across the board, these dedicated men say they're actually not being given the money to buy enough bullets! Nor do they have sufficient Pentagon-provided funds to train tough or even get the mission-essential gear they need to win battles.

If this special unit -- which normally gets priority over all other fighting outfits -- isn't getting the right stuff, then what about the ordinary grunt airmen, sailors, soldiers and Marines who do the sustained hard duty at the point of the spear?

If the dough isn't going to the troops who do the fighting and dying, where does the $300 billion go that you and I give to the Pentagon each year?

Even a recruit knows a lot of defense dollars get blown on wonder weapons that are more wonder than weapon. Flops like the Marine's Osprey helicopter and the Air Force's latest blooper, the anti-ICBM missile -- which is supposed to be the brightest star of Star Wars II, but so far can't even manage a twinkle.

Besides these gold-plated monuments to greed and stupidity -- not to mention all the other military-industrial complex rip-offs -- there are scores of redundant World War II bases burning up dollars faster than a room full of cocaine addicts. And Congress won't be closing them anytime soon because bases mean jobs and perks for the voters back home.

Or take the recent Independence Day extravaganza courtesy of Bill Clinton and his SecDef, Bill Cohen. You know, the made-for-TV celebration where 24 U.S. naval vessels -- manned by thousands of impressed sailors and Marines -- became the stage and props for the folks around New York harbor, scores of rich Clinton and Cohen pals and the TV viewers of the world.

The cost of the event, besides further lowering morale by taking already overcommitted sailors away from their families on a major holiday, was so many millions of bucks -- sorely needed for bullets, training and gear for our sharpshooters -- that the Pentagon's still counting.

After Clinton exited the taxpayer-funded bash aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, Cohen, his wife and the Dot Com-era robber barons partied on. Perfumed prince Cohen, a big spender of Pentagon dollars for things that have little or nothing to do with defense, stayed on and used the JFK as if it were his own personal royal yacht. His rationale for the VIP party was that it would be a good way to show off the military to important community leaders and get their support and involvement.

But just a minute! Why is a Washington jewelry designer -- now apparently a Cohen-proclaimed important community leader -- rewarded with this kind of perk along with dozens of other irrelevant swells when around the world undertrained G.I.s are over-committed trying to do too much with too little?
Can't Cohen see that this sort of sorry example won't exactly have the effect he claims he wants to achieve? Doesn't he comprehend that none of his power guests rushed home and encouraged their kids to "Go Navy" or dashed down to the local recruiter, volunteering to use their influence, time and money to help fill a hollow armed forces?

And does he really think he won any hearts and minds among the sailors, who had to bust their butts to clean, cook, serve and polish the ship so some strap-hangers could say how cool a Fourth of July they had?

And what about the sailors' spouses going it alone in Norfolk, Va., with the kids while their mates were forced into serving as waiters and bellhops for the VIPs?

Come January, Clinton and Cohen will be gone. Thousands of fine warriors tell me they can't wait until they hear that flush. Hopefully then our new president will return America's armed forces to the role our founding fathers envisioned: DEFENDING AMERICA.