David H. Hackworth
AWOL FOR 'HAZARDOUS DUTY'
In this column over the last few years, I've told you about waste, abuse and malfeasance involving people in high places who trampled your public trust.
I've also told you about some of our real heroes, from Navy Adm. Leighton "Snuffy Smith to Air Force Col. Sandy Mangold to Army Maj. Gen. Jim Mukoyama and all the fine warriors who nobly serve our nation out on the killing fields and back home in Washington and other spots. They all stand tall against the perfumed princes and porkers of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex.
In my "spare time," between dashing off to vacation spots like Mogadishu and Port-au-Prince and present and past widow-makers such as the former Yugoslavia, Vietnam and Korea, I hammered out a sequel to "About Face."
My new book, Hazardous Duty," describes the post-Cold War dangers and frustrations our warriors face around this troubled globe when they execute dork-inspired, mindless missions that have nothing to do with America's national security.
The purpose of "About Face" was to tell the truth of what happened in Vietnam and blow away the party line of Gen. William Westmoreland and the 'Nam revisionists: "We won all the battles but lost the war" because of frivolous politicians, a turn-coat press and the peaceniks.
A second purpose was to pass on the important lessons I was taught as a boy soldier in Italy and Korea by tough, demanding World War II veterans. They had learned the hard way and had other stuff to pass on as well - stuff they had thumped into them by their sergeants and captains who had fought in World War I. Many of these simple, how-to-stay-alive tricks go right back to the earliest times, to when the walls came crashing down at Jericho.
A lot of people got the word. "About Face" is now in its 21st worldwide printing and has sold well over 1 million copies.
"Hazardous Duty," which hits the shelves this week, discusses Operations Other Than War in the various hellholes I've visited. You'll be looking at war not over the sights of a rifle as in "About Face," but through the pages of a war correspondent's notebook.
I don't want to toot my own horn. But please allow me to quote what the Kirkus Service, a tough-minded, independent review, had to say about "Hazardous Duty":
"An unsparing critique of the U.S. military as well as its industrial and political allies, from a been-there/done-that warrior who sounds off with all the subtlety of an artillery barrage.
"The retired colonel's first-person accounts feature hard-hitting observations on the capacities of the U.S. military, plus recollections of his own time as a front-line commander.
"Proceeding from the premise that the primary responsibility of the armed services is to protect the nation against its enemies, Hackworth lights into political leaders who use the military for diplomatic rather than military purposes. Other targets include Pentagon contractors who produce immensely expensive weapons systems of little use in low-tech conflicts, lawmakers who support megabuck procurement programs that promise to create jobs in their electoral districts and senior officers with a sharper eye for budgetary advantage than for eliminating wasteful duplication.
"By no coincidence, Hackworth has a thoroughgoing reform agenda, including amalgamating the national Guard with the Reserves, letting NATO die a natural death, gearing up for brushfire belligerencies, merging the USMC into the Army and encouraging professionalism rather than careerism in the officer corps.
So, I'll be AWOL for a bit, bopping around the United States of America, hustling "Hazardous Duty." My hand-picked replacement, I'm proud to say, is a Marine, who earned his spurs on two tough battlefields: Vietnam and the Pentagon. A retired lieutenant colonel, David Evans is a former Chicago Tribune defense reporter and columnist.
I'm pleased that a good man like Evans will bring you the word about military happenings that most of our press sadly ignores, even though the Pentagon racketeers gobble up 17 cents of every one of your tax dollars.
I hope this book causes the pols to add military reform to their Election '96 agenda instead of dodging it. Also, I hope to see you in the trenches of your local bookstores and shake your hand.