DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
September 26, 1995

THE SOMALIA COVER-UP

Most Americans have forgotten what happened two years ago on the killing fields of Somalia.

But my friend, retired colonel Larry Joyce -- who lost his only son Casey there -- and Gall, Casey's mother, will never forget. Nor will the parents, wives, children and loved ones of the 44 other Americans whose lives were snuffed out during the Somalia misadventure.

I knew some of the dead, visited many of the wounded in hospitals and interviewed many of the gallant survivors. Every American citizen, especially the loved ones of the dead and those who survived the horror, deserves a better accounting of what happened in Somalia.

Nine months ago, a U.S. Senate subcommittee promised such an accounting; instead, the Somalia disaster has been swept under the rug. As a result, those responsible -- including Clinton and the generals in charge -- have gotten off scot-free. When asked about Somalia, they lie through their teeth and publish "how-clever-we-are" official after-action reports.

When Sen. Sam Nunn (D.-Ga.) held a Senate hearing, all those involved -- from the generals whose bad plan sent a force that was too small and inadequately supported, to some of the fathers of the dead -- were questioned. A report was written, but it has never seen the light of day.

The report has been studied, rewritten, weasel-worded, tossed back and forth between the Democrats and Republicans, and then locked up in a censor's safe. Just another political "hot potato" that the politics-as-usual senators -- mainly John Warner (R.-Va.) and Carl Levin (I).-Mich.) -- refuse to serve up to the citizens.

A congressional insider says, "Levin is dragging his feet, trying to protect Clinton. Warner is trying to keep the report on ice until '96 when it can be released and used as a weapon against Clinton during the election."

So far, there's nothing to show of the costly investigation but congressional double-talk, cover-up and partisan back-stabbing.

Sen. Strom Thurmond, (R.-S.C.), who replaced Nunn as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has urged Warner to break the bureaucratic logjam and immediately "release your report." He says, "Levin is stalling the release of the report to avoid embarrassing the White House."

Meanwhile, our country has been sucked into combat in the skies over Bosnia. Before the winter snows melt, our warriors will likely be knee- deep in that bloody quagmire, dodging shot and shell -- all because no one has learned from the past.

Had the report been released as promised, outraged citizens, after reviewing the combined political/ State Department/Pentagon blunders, might have screamed: "No, no, not again! We're not going to put our sons and daughters in another no-win war where we have no interests."

We could have learned from Somalia -- as we didn't learn from Vietnam and Lebanon -- and not repeat the same errors in Bosnia. Perhaps from this disaster we could prevent more American warriors from dying needlessly there or in future hot- spots in a world that promises more disorder than order.

With such lessons in mind, former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger set forth in 1989 the following doctrine, which bears his name:

· "Do not commit combat forces overseas unless the engagement is deemed vital to our national interest.

· "If combat troops are committed, do so wholeheartedly, with the clear intention of winning, and with clearly defined political and military objectives.

· "The commitment of combat forces abroad should be a last resort."

Clinton ignored these rules when he changed George Bush's Somalia feeding mission to fighting. Without thinking out the consequences, he upped the ante and used the military solution, costing our country 45 lives, scores of wounded and over $2 billion.

Clinton's daughter Chelsea can look forward to a bright tomorrow; for Casey Joyce and the others who died in Somalia, there are no tomorrows.

A broken-hearted Col. Joyce says: "Nunn, Warner and Levin promised to find out what went wrong in Somalia. But nothing has happened." Joyce, a straight-shooting old warrior, is fed up with the slimebags in Washington. He says, "This is just one more example of how our political system isn't serving this country."

Amen! He's rightly mad and so am I. You should be, too.