Defending America
David Hackworth
21 October 1997

DERELECTION OF DUTY

A red hot book that's now on the shelves is "Dereliction of Duty" by Lt. Colonel H.R. McMaster (Harper - Collins, $27.50). It brilliantly shows how the American people were conned by Lyndon Johnson, his secretary of defense and the high brass during America's disastrous war in Vietnam.

Read it and you'll know why most of our warriors who were sent to Vietnam didn't trust their senior leadership and why, by extension and for the same reasons, 67 percent of serving soldiers today don't trust the guys at the top.

The book nails Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1962 to 1964, for lying to LBJ about the views of the chiefs and then misleading the chiefs about the president's aims.

McMaster blasts the chiefs for not having strategic vision. He says they fought over the tiniest details, and because of their narrow-minded rivalry they put their individual service over country while 58,000 of their warriors were being stuffed in body bags.

Air Force Chief Curtis LeMay summed up their twisted mindset when he said, "The Russians are not our enemy, they're our antagonist. The Navy is our enemy."

If you're a victim of that war, you'll read this book and weep.

If you're a student of patterns, you'll see that today's military preparedness and weapon purchases are Vietnam all over again.

Take the 1998 defense spending bill. It's filled with pork, jobs for the boys, expensive hardware not needed to fight tomorrow's wars and duplication again driven by inter-service rivalry.

Here are the highlights of just some of the redundant stuff:

-- $2.3 billion for a Sea Wolf submarine designed to sink the now sunk Soviet navy. Good for Connecticut and Virginia, bad for America.

-- $3.4 billion for four destroyers -- a wet kiss for Sen. Trent Lott and his hometown Mississippi shipyard -- while the Navy is retiring ships with years of shelf life left and doesn't have the sailors to man the ships it has in the first place.

-- $2.2 billion for the USAF F-22 stealth fighter, which, strangely, goes into production before it's tested for survivability. Meanwhile, the USAF says that because of the mass exodus of pilots, it will not be able to fill all of its cockpits next year. Maybe it will ask for another billion for robots to fly the F-22?

-- $627 million for seven USMC V-22 helicopters, which will also be excused from live fire tests. USMC helicopters pilots say the V-22 is a costly disaster just waiting to crash and will ultimately gobble up the Marine Corps budget. But it's a good deal for those retired USMC brass, helping the defense contractor skin the taxpayer.

But none of this gear will be worth a tinker's damn if the threats on the near horizon rear their dangerous heads.

Intelligence sources say our unprepared armed forces may soon be simultaneously involved on two fronts: Korea and the Middle East.

North Korea may attack the South this winter. Meanwhile, even though our 2nd Infantry Division, recently received a great new commander, as in Vietnam, it does not have the right stuff or right strategy to win.

Syria, Iraq and Iran, assisted by an even more irrational Palestine, have completed their plans to have another go at Israel. This possible Armageddon could drag us into a fight that's almost certain to use weapons of mass destruction ­ chemical, biological and nuclear.

If Clinton can defuse these two hot spots, we still wouldn't be in the clear. We face serious threats from foreign terrorists who may employ nuclear, chemical and biological weapons right here in the United States that will make Tim McVeigh's truck bomb look like a firecracker.

Another highly probable threat is more low intensity fights in countries such as Bosnia and in major cities all over the world, including those in the United States. Meanwhile, Clinton and his generals have our forces deployed in most of the wrong places and with the wrong strategy.

All the gold-plated cold war gear on Clinton's 1998 multibillion dollar defense shopping list ain't going to hack it with the real threats that America will face in the immediate future.

If we don't learn from the past, in five years McMaster will be writing a follow-up to his current bestseller: "Dereliction of Duty II."

The end