David H. Hackworth
18 June 1996
IF THEY YELL, I KNOW I'VE HIT A NERVE
Blame it on Ike.
In 1946, he asked me, "What do you think of the chow?"
Pvt. David Hackworth told five-star European Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, "It stinks. All we get is Spam."
Ike said, "Spam?"
"Spam, Spam, Spam," ricocheted down the line. The buck finally stopped with a major, who said, "All we have in the depots is Spam."
"Depot ... Spam, depot ... Spam, depot ... Spam," buzzed back up the line of VIPs to Ike.
"Stop it," snapped Ike. "Feed these men 'A' rations." He smiled at me and moved to the next trooper in my Italy-based recon company.
Imagine the imprinting! A 15-year-old kid complains to the boss, and right in front of his eyes the problem gets fixed, and we're given food edible for human consumption.
So I spent much of the next 25 years as a soldier sounding off. During the Korean War, if my colonel didn't get my unit sandbags, barbed wire or ammo, I -- a mere 21-year-old captain -- went over his head and told the general. I didn't care about the consequences. I wanted those supplies; they kept my soldiers alive.
The last time I sounded off in uniform was in 1971. I was a brand-new full colonel. After almost five years in Vietnam witnessing the brass lying about how the war was being won while they ignored the tens of thousands of Americans who were being zipped up in body bags, I went to the media and said, "This is a bad war; we can't win; the people are being lied to; we should get out now!"
You don't kick the president and his top brass without getting kicked back. They kicked back in 1971, and many of their clones are continuing the tradition today.
Every time I write a piece that describes high-brass sins or abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars, I get verbally zapped by the bagmen or their hired snipers.
The louder they scream, the more I know I'm doing my job: ensuring our warriors are never flung into hell spots unless it's a matter of national security; making sure if they're committed they're damn well armed, well trained and led by America's best; and protecting our tax dollars from being wasted on the wrong stuff.
Not every senior general or admiral is an Ike. Remember, when they get that high, the brass become a law unto themselves, and no on dares to challenge them.
Take Gen. George A. Joulwan, the guy who five decades later has Ike's job running NATO.
The inspector general recently nailed Joulwan for using a military VIP jet as transport from his lavish castle in Belgium to Garmisch, Germany, for a holiday and to fly from Europe to Pennsylvania to attend his daughter's college graduation.
His wife, Karen, has found life in the VIP fast lane irresistible, too. The same inspector general found she'd flown on VIP airlines free at least six times, to attend her daughter's graduation, to travel to Garmisch and to accompany Joulwan from Belgium to social dinners in the United States.
Joulwan and his wife's VIP travel aboard his private DC-9 jet cost you, the poor, pocket-picked taxpayer, about $200,000. And Joulwan wasn't just satisfied with free transport. He actually filed for and was paid per diem expense money for the Christmas holiday trip to Garmisch and for the trip to his daughter's graduation.
If a sergeant or captain pulled this, he'd be looking at a court-martial, hard time and the boot. In Joulwan's case, his boss, Defense Secretary William Perry, referred to the travel scam as "a minor, minor mistake."
The higher you go up the ladder, the easier it is to plunder, especially if your boss covers up for you. At least when Gen. Joseph Ashy and Adm. Richard Macke similarly sinned, they were zapped, with Ashy paying back $5,200 and Macke being busted two grades and retired.
I wish Ike were still around. I'd like to ask him if a man who would cheat on his expense account would also lie to the American people about what's going down in Bosnia with our troops.