DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
March 7, 1995

LEST WE FORGET

Last week, U.S. Marines pulled the United Nation's toys and boys out of the Somalian fire, then withdrew from the very beaches where they proudly landed two years ago. Now, anarchy, civil war and death have returned to that tormented land. As with Vietnam and for the same reasons, a well-meaning mission of hope has become a disaster, costing the U.S. over $2 billion, and -- more importantly -- the lives of 45 men.

They are: Lawrence L. Freeman; Pvt. 1st Class Domingo Arroyo; Lance Cpl. Anthony D. Botello; Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Deeks; Specialist Mark E. Gutting; Sgt. Christopher K. Hilgert; Sgt. Ronald N. Richerson; Specialist Keith D. Pearson; Pvt. 1st Class Matthew K. Anderson; Sgt. Ferdinan C. Richardson; Sgt. Eugene Williams; Chief Warrant Officer Donovan L. Briley; Staff Sgt. Daniel D. Busch; Cpl. James M. Cavaco; Sgt. 1st Class Earl R. Fillmore, Jr.; Chief Warrant Officer Raymond A. Frank; Master Sgt. Gary I. Gordon; Sgt. James C. Joyce; Pvt. 1st Class Richard W. Kowalewski, Jr.; Pvt. 1st Class James H. Martin, Jr.; Master Sgt. Timothy Martin; Specialist Dominick M. Pilla; Sgt. Lorenzo M. Ruiz; Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart; Specialist James E. Smith; Chief Warrant Officer Clifton P. Wolcott; Staff Sgt. William D. Cleveland, Jr.; Sgt. Thomas J. Field; Sgt. 1st Class Matthew L. Rierson; Sgt. Cornell Houston; Pvt. David J. Conner; Pvt. Don D. Robertson; Lance Cpl. William A. Rose; Pvt. Daniel L. Harris; Specialist Edward J. Nicholson; Lance Cpl. Jesus Perez; Staff Sgt. Brian P. Barnes; Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Daniel; Master Sgt. Roy S. Duncan; Staff Sgt. William C. Eyler; Capt. David J. Mehlhop; Staff Sgt. Mike E. Moser; Capt. Mark A. Quam; Capt. Anthony R. Stefanik, Jr.; Sgt. Justin A. Harris.

But these are not merely names on white crosses, headlines in newspapers or another embarrassing fumble for an inexperienced president; they stand for men who had dreams, hopes and bright futures.

Soon, only their war buddies, friends and families will remember what happened in Somalia, and they alone will continue to mourn their losses and damn the high-brass bosses for their loved ones who died in vain.

Six months into Bill Clinton's watch, the Somalia humanitarian experiment to use military force to do good turned from feeding to fighting. When our warriors started coming home in body bags, a hot-headed president ordered the Pentagon to get Somali warlord Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid.

Like Lyndon Baines Johnson in Vietnam, Clinton soon found himself stuck in a civil war he didn't want, lumbered with generals who didn't understand their enemy or the nature of the war.

Again, as in Vietnam, the brass tried to win against scrubby guerrillas with Desert Storm-like firepower and high technology, violating the most basic tenets of guerrilla fighting. Good men bled and died. Those who survived will be scarred forever.

The names of the fallen should be sent to the president, the lawmakers and the generals involved, with the questions: Why did they die? Who failed in their duties? Who was responsible?

Without protest, don't expect a climate of responsibility. The guilty will lie, dodge and hide as they squirm to avoid accountability:

-- Clinton has lied about his involvement in his "Get Aidid" campaign. He now blames the United Nations for his criminally stupid search-and-destroy operation;

-- Congress, after promising to investigate and nail the guilty, has watered down and hidden the long-promised report from the people;

-- Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Montgomery failed to demand tanks and air cover to protect his soldiers and neglected to tell his chiefs the mission was not doable. In 1994, Montgomery was promoted to Lt. General;

-- Army Maj. Gen. William Garrison, the Ranger commander for the flawed operations who made mistakes a corporal wouldn't make, was later placed in charge of the Special Warfare Center and School. This act was comparable to taking a student who flunked bonehead English and making him a professor emeritus of literature;

-- An Army-made film of the battle exists which shows the blunders, horror, futility and tragic bravery of the besieged Rangers. It's been shamefully censored. An insider says, "It's too hot for public consumption. If it were shown as is, heads would have to roll."

Accountability won't start to happen in America until those in high places find their feet held to the fire. Only alert, responsible citizens can do the deed.