DEFENDING AMERICA
by Col. David H. Hackworth
22 October 1996

THE SHORT END OF THE STICK. . .AGAIN

If we can conquer space, why can't the Pentagon make sure our warriors are protected with the best stuff the USA's brilliant scientific community can whip up?

For five decades now, I've been a first-hand witness on too many bear hunts where American grunts didn't have the right stuff before they faced the bear. Wrong stuff on bear hunts or battlefields kills the hunters.

During Desert Storm, the troops' chemical gear was not much better than that used by our soldiers' great grandfathers in the trenches of France in 1917-1918. As a result of top brass negligence, there are battalions of warriors hurting from poison wounds -- while the Pentagon chiefs tell the wounded they're making it all up.

Pity the grunt.

This recent Pentagon deception reminds me of Vietnam and Agent Orange. Remember when the Pentagon said it didn't exist except in the veteran's over-stressed heads? Finally, thirty years later, the Agent Orange wounded are being belatedly cared for.

Scores of good warriors tell me that to make top rank today, you have to self-serve your way to three and four stars and become a certified public liar.

As I write, a US Army brigade is back in that same stinking desert where our kids were poisoned. American troops are again prepared to save Kuwait, even though that undemocratic government didn't exactly hang out a welcome mat.

Again we're geared up to fight the world's fourth largest tank army, which escaped being converted to a junkyard by Bush and his politically correct generals. And, as is par for the combat course, our grunts still don't have the right stuff.

Our desert warriors don't have a decent shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon, not unlike Jim Gavin's paratroopers in Sicily in 1943 or Bill Dean's grunts in Korea in 1950. They're still packing the Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) their fathers busted bunkers with in Vietnam -- a weapon that would barely scratch the paint on an Iraqi T-72 tank.

Our boys still use the M-60 machine gun, which was a real winner when my rifle company took it into Berlin in 1961 and when their dads packed it in Vietnam. But now this once beloved antique is flat worn out and jams more than it fires.

Their Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) works well when it's new, but our soldiers' SAWs are also worn out. Too often the gun is a jammer. Even when it works, its slug won't penetrate a tinny Toyota at 500 yards.

Meanwhile, tons of defense dollars are being spent buying exotic stealth bombers and fighters and gold-plated naval ships or spiffing up the Pentagon with a billion dollar face lift and paying off defense contractors with megabuck golden handshakes for doing a little post cold war restructuring.

It's criminal to send our young people into the killing fields without the best gear, while wasting billions of defense dollars on a Military Industrial Congressional Complex sleaze game which has little if anything to do with giving our kids a fair shot at coming back alive.

Good, caring senior leadership would stop this abuse. Warrior leaders would not go-along-to-get-along while their fighters are sent into lions' dens with broken swords.

Warrior leaders would stand tall and make Congress, the Pentagon Perfumed Princes and the sleazebag top defense contractors (who police up, on average, a cool twenty percent on every military contract) stop stealing and give our warriors what they deserve -- the best.

Former Army Chief of Staff Howard K. Johnson, the last great senior warfighter to hold that job, said, "The Army is like a funnel. At the top you pour doctrine, resources, concepts, equipment and facilities. And at the bottom comes one lone soldier walking point."

His Sergeant Major Bill Wooldridge, a long retired three war hero, who still has a lot of fire in his belly, told me recently, "The lone soldier is what the Army is all about, and too many people at the top of the NCO and officer ranks have flat forgotten this."

Bill Clinton must fire the perfumed princes and once again put warfighters in charge of the whole shooting match. These leaders would do the right thing, not just flap their lips and talk about how they care for soldiers.