Defending America
David Hackworth
9 Dec 97

THE PROUD, THE FEW AND THE MISUSED

Remember the Alamo? We got our clocks cleaned. Remember Pearl Harbor? Even worse. The Japanese caught us with our pants down.

Remember Task Force Smith?

What a laugh. At the start of the Korean War, it was cut to ribbons and the two star 24th Division commander was down to zapping tanks himself-before North Korean infantrymen took him prisoner.

Remember Vietnam? Forget it. All we really have to remember is The Wall!

December is the month of Pearl Harbor and Christmas, a day of infamy and a holy day. Because we so seldom remember the bad ones, our troops too often spend the good ones in some Godforsaken place waiting for the unholy buzz of bullets.

Today, American warriors are deployed in or offshore from 100 foreign lands. Never before have our defenders been stretched so thin or on so many missions that don't have a thing to do with national security. Frauds such as defending South Korea or Europe and 90-plus other bogus operations tie up everything from single Green Beret teams to Army divisions on land, battle fleets on the seas and combat aircraft in the heavens that once gave us the Star of Bethlehem.

Bigger and badder missions are the best way to keep the hog fat and the arms industry booming. These wrongheaded missions are our gift from a White House, Congress and Pentagon bent on maintaining an obsolete force structure and doing make-work operations simply because they are good for business.

Thank-you notes should go to the Bushes, Clintons and Gingrichs and, sadly too, to many serving high brass who have forgotten their oath to serve country not careers.

The fast tempo of operations from all this fecklessness has exhausted our troops and buckled their already worn-out gear. The state of the U.S. military readiness is the worst I have seen in over five decades. Most ships and squadrons are overworked and understaffed. Army battalions that normally have three rifle companies are now down to two ­ they are not even good-to-go.

The catastrophe's of the 1940's, 50's and 60's were not the fault of GI Joe. They happened, as they happen today, because stinking politicians and lickspittle brass consider the welfare of our fighting troops less important than defending unneeded military bases in their states or gold plating new weapon systems that provide jobs but little real military protection.

Here's what we need to remember this holiday season. Taking care of the troops means a lot more than serving up a few slices of turkey on Christmas Day and flying VIPs into isolated camps, desert air bases and steaming aircraft carriers to mouth meaningless platitudes.

Looking after the troops means making sure they're prepared and trained for the right kind of combat, the right wars, with the right leadership and the best fighting gear money can buy. It means preserving their strength, not bleeding them on worthless missions.

The young warriors today are some of the best I've ever seen. They're not the high school drop-outs who joined up one step ahead of the law like so many from my own generation. They're not long haired druggies who fragged their leaders or started race riots in Vietnam.

They represent the very best of Generation X. Despite all the trash that has been laid on this generation by the media, the warriors within it have had the grace and the guts to put country over Me, Me, Me. They deserve a lot more than they get from the Commander-in-Chief on down the corrupt chain of command.

More than 30,000 warriors are out in the Gulf on the impossible mission of trying to change the stripes of a ruthless psychopath. Another 20,000 warriors are tied up in or near Bosnia on another futile mission.

Here are their addresses:

Bosnia: Any Service Member

Opn. Joint Guard

APO AE 09397

The Gulf: Any Service Member

Opn. Southern Watch

APO AE 09852

Fire off a letter, a Christmas card, a bundle of goodies. Tell 'em how much you value them and that you appreciate their sacrifices. If you have another few minutes to spare, write to the Porkchop Gang in Washington and tell them: "I'm mad and this time, I ain't gonna forget."

The end