DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
Feb.20, 1996

THE CAPITAL GANG STILL DOESN'T GET IT

Sometimes I feel like nuking Washington, D.C., blowing up those lying, cheating, uncaring politicians along with all the other equally venal bureaucrats. Taking down all the bad guys - civvy-clad and uniformed alike - in one big puff of smoke might be the best thing that could happen to America.

Talk about reinventing government!

But there's a downside to this action. Believe it or not, there are still a few good people among the rats within the world's biggest rodent maze. I'd also hate to see Lincoln's Tomb, Arlington Cemetery and Charlie Murphy's Pizza Parlor go the way of Hiroshima.

What's caused my Irish temper to explode is a thick letter from retired Col. Milan Vucurevich, a World War II war hero and a tax-paying citizen who's at the end of his rope because of Beltway cover-ups.

In 1984, Vucurevich's son, Milan Jr., an ex-Marine, former Los Angeles lifeguard and an expert boatman, and two outstanding swimmer mates went sailing on a blue-sky, smooth-water Sunday. They disappeared, as did their catamaran, described by its manufacturer as "unsinkable."

On that day, the U.S. Navy, playing war games along with ships from five other nations, was doing its thing: blowing up floating Styrofoam targets about the same size and shape of Milan Jr.'s craft.

Since Col. Vucurevich's son was reported missing, the colonel has written three presidents - Reagan, Bush and Clinton- dozens of senators and legislators and about 200 lesser Washington pencil pushers.

Most of these ladies and gentlemen in whom we've placed our trust either blew him off or responded with a standard bureaucratic blurb. Clinton's point man for obfuscation, Gregory Nowak, replied, "I can certainly appreciate the motivation which prompted you to write."

"Motivation"? This high-priced clerk (Nowak was the director of the White House Liaison Office) talks about motivation" while ignoring, blocking and double-talking a father's pleas for help.

When your son disappears while the U.S. Navy is conducting firing exercises in the very waters where he's sailing, you better believe you want assistance from the people your vote hired and your tax dollars pay.

Vucurevich and his wife have been lied to, ignored and wrapped in miles of red tape. They have become the victims of sleight-of-hand buck passers and have been otherwise treated like last month's catch that's been rotting in the sun.

The colonel quietly says, We have a right to know the fate of our loved one" and has concluded that there's been a "cover-up that continues to this day, protecting those responsible for concealing the facts regarding the disappearance of our son.

Could the Navy have mistakenly blown away his son's craft thinking it was a target? Absolutely.! Let's look at the recent record:

· An Australian airliner was almost shot out of the sky by the boys in blue when it over-flew a similar war game site.

· A Turkish warship was accidentally hit by a U.S. Navy missile during another maneuver.

· The Navy swore that it didn't hit an Indian ship with a missile in the very same area from which Milan Jr. vanished, and it was only when insurance investigators plunked down missile parts from the destroyed ship's superstructure that the Navy did an about-face, admitting it had fired the wayward missile.

Does the U.S. Navy high brass lie? Absolutely. Let's look at a few recent examples:

· During the Tailgate sexual harassment investigation, brass from the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations, down to dozens of admirals and captains, lied under oath.

· During the attempted cover-up of the Battleship Iowa's turret explosion, a boatload of Navy brass lied through their teeth, insistently blaming a "gay sailor" until an investigation revealed that the defect was "faulty powder."

· After the cruiser Vincennes shot down the Iranian passenger aircraft, the Navy successfully claimed the ship was in "international waters" until a Newsweek magazine investigation revealed that the brass from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the ship's captain had lied and covered up.

Will the Vucureviches ever learn what happened to Milan? Congressman pit bull Robert Dornan, R-Calif., is now on the case. If anyone can light a fire under the rats and ferret out the truth, it's him.

I'll hold on the missiles for now, but stay tuned.