David H. Hackworth
March 1, 1994


My phone ran hot last week. On the horn were Pentagon brass urging me to sound off against Clinton's threat to use bombs over Bosnia. "Hack, tell them air won't work, before they get us stuck in another no-win war," whispered one Army general.

I agree with the message, but not the approach. As a kid, I was taught by my teachers, grandmother and, later, Army sergeants, that if something was wrong, you stood tall and told it like it was.

So, as a 15-year-olf private in Italy when Gen. Dwight Eisenhower asked what I thought of the chow, I told him: 'It stinks. All we get is Spam." Ike conducted an on-the-spot investigation, and he sure had the brass ducking for cover. Once he got the facts, he gave the order: "Feed them proper food." Then he looked at me, winked and marched off.

That taught me another lesson -- if you have a bitch, take it to the boss and he'll fix it right away. These days, in the huggy-feely and politically correct 1990s,the in-your-face approach has almost disappeared, along with honor and country first. Everyone's into being "comfortable."

When civilians don't tell the boss the truth about inefficiency, wrong-doing and dizzy thinking, the only thing that's usually lost is money. But when commanders don't stand tall, too often the price paid is the loss of lives.

On Sept. 14, 1993, when Maj. Gen. Thomas Montgomery, commander of U.S. troops in Somalia, asked for armored vehicles because he was "concerned about force protection." Montgomery knew things were heating up and he wanted tanks "to get to bases if any were threatened." His bosses, Gens. Joe Hoar and Colin Powell, relayed his request to then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, but Aspin said no.

Two weeks later, 18 U.S, servicemen died and 80 were wounded, a tragedy that wouldn't have happened had armored vehicles been part of Montgomery's Ranger Task Force when it conducted a high-risk raid on Oct. 3.

Can you imagine Gen. George Patton's reaction if some Pentagon jerk who had never smelled enemy gunpowder turned down his request for tanks? "Blood and Guts" Patton would have verbally blown the roof off the Pentagon, then turned in his suit if he couldn't get the right stuff to protect his warriors,

Montgomery represents a breed of politically correct generals and admirals who never rock the boat or fight for anything or any principle. I can't name a flag officer who's resigned in protest against anything since the 1950s.

Today's top brass are masters of the go-along-to-get-along mentality that oozed into practice during the Vietnam War, a war where everyone from buck private to general-- less the brain dead -- knew Westmoreland's strategy and objective were criminally flawed. Yet in eight blood-spattered years, not one senior officer had the moral courage to tell the American people the truth. They closed their eyes and went about grabbing their medals and promotions while repeating Westy's false chant that victory was near. In the end, almost 60,000 body bags were filled and hundreds of thousands of men and women had their bodies and minds rearranged and forever diminished.

Clinton, who wouldn't know a bomber from a ballerina, and his civilian advisers -- none of whom have served in the trenches in combat -- need to know the truth. The only way to stop this shortage of moral courage is to replace almost all of the top layer of the U.S. Military's leadership with younger soldiers from the lower ranks, those still close with the troops who haven't yet been corrupted by the system.

It's time Sam Nunn and his Senate Committee on Armed Services confirm only the right men and women to the top grades, and sack the politically correct wheeler-dealers. Warriors deserve gutsy leaders who aren't afraid to stand up and be counted. Our top leadership must be made up of Nimitz/Patton/Puller- types, guys who may get into trouble from time to time, but who'll sure fight for what is right and. along the way, win our battles without paying too dear a price.