DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
July 26, 1999

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

Maybe you didn't get the word that two American soldiers died in Kosovo last week. The media were so busy bludgeoning the nation with JFK Jr.'s sad story that none of the major networks bothered to report on the deaths of these two Army grunts. Brokaw, Jennings and Rather and the 24-hour news channels were all too busy wailing over past and present Kennedy misfortunes, which - more than incidentally kicked - up TV rating numbers and brought in big bucks.

Thousands of newspapers around the nation also joined the mourning. But few carried even a mention of the names of the two soldiers who died in Kosovo, let alone told their stories. These two soldiers were not Kennedy famous, so they didn't rate much media time. They were just plain grunts from ordinary American families with the bad luck to be on patrol when their armored vehicle rolled over. They were G.I Joes, not much different from the tens of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen deployed around the world as the spearhead of "The Clinton Doctrine." Like JFK Jr., our two dead warriors had loved ones, hopes, dreams and aspirations. But unlike Kennedy, they died doing their duty while trying to bring peace to a province ripped asunder by 600 years of civil strife.

Sherwood Brim and William Wright have now joined David Gibbs, Kevin Reichert and Anthony Gilman, soldiers who also recently died in the Balkans. Let's not forget any of them or the scores of other service men and women who've paid the supreme price just since 1993, when "The Clinton Doctrine" received its baptism by fire and 18 American warriors were killed in the streets of Mogadishu. Since then, more than 100 uniformed guardians of this country have died while on global duty executing Madeleine Albright's "indispensable nation" strategy. But you seldom hear about these deaths unless the catastrophe is so big it can't be hidden or ignored -- like the shootout in Somalia or the U.S. Air Force hotel bombing in Saudi Arabia.

We take for granted the grave dangers our warriors face in places like Bosnia, Colombia, Haiti, Kuwait and now Kosovo, where, as I write this, soldiers are at maximum alert for terrorist rockets, ambushes and incoming hand grenades. Perhaps the reason so many Americans and the majority of our media are so cavalier regarding these dangers is because those serving are all volunteers from other towns, other neighborhoods, other families. Perhaps the attitude expressed by Albright prevails among most citizens who don't have loved ones securing the new American Empire -- that if they get hurt, so what, they're Regulars, they signed up for it.

Maybe we should go back to the draft. Get back to sharing the pain between the rich and the poor, the black, the brown and the white. In Vietnam, once the upper classes started dying side by side with those at the bottom, that bad war suddenly became every U.S. citizen's concern, not just the poor's. Had JFK Jr. bought it in that armored vehicle in the killing fields of Kosovo instead of while winging off to the Cape for a weekend of wedding fun, the media and certainly the powerful Kennedy family would be asking some hard questions. You can bet your 401K that if an Albright, a Gore, a Bush or a Gates were blown apart in one of Clinton's global villages, these questions would be asked: "Why are we trying to police the world? Why are so many of our soldiers put at such high risks? Why are so many body-bags being filledwith our youth when our national security isn't involved? Why is Clinton still trying to fix all the problems in the world on our warriors' backs when those being "saved" want Yankee to go home?"

On the seventh day of the media extravaganza on JFK Jr.'s death, an Army recon plane went down over Colombia. All five missing soldiers are presumed dead. Again, this story got little press coverage.

If we had a draftee Army again, the bell would not toll just for our royalty, but for every American in this land of the free and the equal. Bet you a buck, it would toll a lot less frequently, too.