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Hackworth -- On Marines

October 30 2002 at 8:20 PM
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Dick G  (Login Dick Gaines)
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David H. Hackworth
6 Jan 98


"If the Army and the Navy ever looked at heaven's scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines."

So goes the Marine's Hymn.

Maybe the heaven bit's a stretch, but as we enter 1998, the Marine Corps is the only outfit in Clinton's armed forces that can still fight the hard fight.

The Army, the Navy and the Air Force have caved into political pressure that has marginalized their fighting ability and made the often quoted statement that "America has the finest fighting force in the world" the biggest lie since the Pentagon said "Gulf War syndrome doesn't exist."

I'm an old Army doggy not a Marine. So saying this is out-right heresy and will cause a lot of Army loyalists to want to nail my dog tags to my forehead.

But I'll take the risk. Because if our armed forces continues to slide down the gender-bending tube -- which is destroying fighting spirit and driving out fighters -- we'll lose future battles, wars and eventually our freedom.

The Marine Corps hasn't rolled over as much as the other services. For example, it hasn't allowed the women's liberation army, led by such advocates for women in the trenches as former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder and former Assistant Secretary of the Army Sara Lister, to have their anti-warrior ethic way.

Schroeder, Lister and thousands of others who have never spent a night in a front-line foxhole believe that GI Janes should have the same opportunity as GI Joes to fill bodybags. This way, they figure, women will have equality and can someday become Colleen Powells and Norma Schwarzkopfs.

These misguided and tireless fighters for female equality-opportunity have become so obsessed with liberating women that they've forgotten the purpose of our military is to defend America.

Defending America starts in the front lines, where it's always inhumanly brutal. And getting young women in the front lines as grunts has been their endgame. Since the Vietnam War, the Schroeders and Listers brilliantly picked away to get your daughter -- not theirs-- on the killing field.

They have been far more strategic and effective than the weak-kneed politicians and the senior brass who swapped their souls for stars and went along with these fanatical hare-brained ideas.

First the "feminnazis" integrated Air Force basic training, then the Army went coed, while the Navy, in an attempt to deflect the bad press from Tailhook, surrendered in 1994.

But the Corps stood tall and said "No way. Won't work."

And now the Corps can say "I told you so."

A panel led by former Sen. Nancy Kasselbaum Baker recently concluded that the Army, Navy and the Air Force should stop coed training because "integrated basic training is resulting in less discipline, less unit cohesion and more distraction"

The Marines fought this wrong-headed thinking from the beginning. They said sex would get in the way. The liberating liberals counterattacked and said Marine leadership was prehistoric and out of touch with American society.

The proof of the pudding that the Marines were right can be easily measured. Their morale and combat readiness are the best. Unlike the others, recruits are rushing to join and its quit rate is a fraction of the other services. For example, 37 percent of all first hitch Army enlistees quit before their enlistment is up and male noncoms and junior officers are deserting squadrons, ships and battalions as if there were a post-war demobilization.

This exodus in our best and brightest talent is gutting combat effectiveness and costing the taxpayers billions of dollars.

I receive over a 1,000 e-mails a week from service personnel. Most are rightfully grousing about bad leadership and conditions and lousy readiness. Few of these letters are from Marines.

Dozens of times a week, young men ask me to recommend a branch of the service. My answer: If you want to be challenged and forge stronger values, better character and develop into a better person, join the Marines.

As the Marines say, they won't promise a rose garden, but they'll give you something you won't find in any of the other services --and that's being in an outfit with strong leaders who have the guts to stand up to confused crusaders in order to keep doing the right thing for the Marine Corps and America.

The End

Semper Fidelis
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Gunny G's Sites & Forums

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Hackworth -- A Rare Breed Of Generals

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October 30 2002, 8:22 PM 

David H. Hackworth
March 23, 1999


What is it with most Marine generals? Do they get inoculated with double
shots of truth serum in boot camp? From two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Smedley Butler-- who in the 1930s said, "War is a Racket"-- to the current crop, they sure know how to tell it like it is and don't sweat the fall out.

Recently, Marine Gen. Charles Wilhelm, headman for all our troops South of the Rio Grande, told Congress our forces haven't been able to tame the natives in Haiti and the longer they're stuck in that strife-torn swamp, the more they're at risk. He advocated yanking our troops and writing off the $6 billion "meals-on-wheels" mission as a failure.

That took a lot of guts, because the Clinton administration has been crowing about what a splendid success the Haitian mission has been ever since 20,000 American warriors invaded the place just after we got chased out of Somalia. After six years of global miscalculation and fumbling, it remains Clinton's crown jewel -- especially when compared to the catastrophe thatwent down in Somalia and the running sores of Iraq and Bosnia. Another tough-as-an-old-boot Marine general, Anthony Zinni, our military commander in the Persian Gulf, has sharply criticized Clinton and his national security gang that can't get anything right for their flawed policy to topple Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Clinton's camp holds that Iraqi opposition groups can toss Saddam out. Zinni flatly says Clinton's plan is ill-conceived and could further destabilize the Gulf region.

In 1993, then Marine Commandant Carl Mundy took a shot at the crowd in the White House who are doing their level best to turn American warriors into 'consideration-for-others' brainwashed Boy Scouts. Mundy said marriage should be banned during a Marine's first hitch. He took a lot of heat for his stand, and his idea was spiked by White House and Pentagon social-scientists civilians who think they know more about soldiering than soldiers. He told me later, "Time will prove I'm right." And it has.

The Marines are now outflanking the Clinton policy that's caused a 40 percent divorce rate among first-term Marines. When high-ranking Pentagon political appointee Sara Lister called Marines "extremists," the Marine commandant, Gen. Charles Krulak, fired back with a stinging salvo: "Honor, courage and commitment are not extreme." Lister resigned in a firestorm a few days later.

Back during the horror of the Vietnam War, only retired Marine Gen. David Shoup had the guts to tell Congress that Vietnam was a bad war and we shouldn't be there. What a difference it would have made had Congress had the good sense to check out what Shoup, who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor in the South Pacific during World War II, was saying instead of listening to spinners like Army Gen. Maxwell Taylor and his White House-scripted party line.

Now, as Kosovo boils on the front burner, NATO Gen. Wesley Clark, who's in charge of our troops in ex-Yugoslavia, is clearly the wrong guy for the job. As with William Westmoreland during Vietnam, he's a smooth, slick and very political Army general with a track record for political expediency.

Back in the 1970s, Westy was looking at the Oval office and Clark now has his eye on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff job. Both generals, masters in the political arena, don't stack up when it comes to boots-in-the-mud combat and standing up for the troops and telling it like it is when the politicians do dumb things that put our soldiers and airmen in dangerous places.

Clark, a Clinton pal from their Arkansas and Oxford days, has zoomed up the promotion ladder light years ahead of his peers because of that connection. He's also the military architect of the quagmire in Bosnia, where our serving soldiers are now referring to themselves as "Prisoners of Peace." Rather than sitting around and allowing history to repeat itself, we should insist on the appointment of a Marine general like Zinni, Wilhelm or Kralak to run the show in ex-Yugoslavia. You could bet your boots -- like it or not -- they'd tell the pure unvarnished truth instead of singing a political tune like Clark's that may soon turn into a Vietnam-like national funeral dirge.

Semper Fidelis
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Gunny G's Sites & Forums

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October 30 2002, 8:24 PM 

29 September 1999


Looking back over a bunch of years, the Korean War was the defining moment in my life. I headed for Korea in 1950, going on age 20, and came back in 1953, going on 50. The things I saw there scarred me deeply. And ensuring they don't happen again has become my life's purpose.

I suspect I'm the only Doggy -- Marine slang for Army grunt -- who has a painting behind his desk of our Marines fighting their way out of the Chosin Reservoir. My Waterhouse painting perfectly captures the way it was during the winter of 1950.

The Chinese had crossed the Yalu River into Korea with the mission to destroy the Leathernecks strung out along a narrow mountain road near the Chosin Reservoir. Not only had the Chinese arrived in big numbers, but so had winter, bringing a merciless wind which drove the temperature down to 30 below zero. Weapons froze, and if fingers and toes weren't constantly moved, they turned black and fell off.

The word "horror" does not describe the conditions of the Chosin Reservoir campaign, nor does "above and beyond the call of duty" describe the magnificent performance of the 12,000 Marines who fought there.

By the end of November, eight Chinese divisions had surrounded the Marines, and the stage was set for one of the most hellacious fights in U.S. history.

A new book by Martin Russ, "Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign" (Fromm International), describes this battle. Russ, himself a Korean War Marine vet, depicts the war at its darkest moment, interweaving the political, strategic and tactical aspects of the Chosin operation with stirring first-person reporting.

The book relates an epic of bravery, endurance and military excellence on the part of the only American unit during the Korean War prepared to fight from the word go: the 1st Marine Division.

Vastly outnumbered, unsupported except for Naval air and totally isolated from the rest of the 8th Army, the Marines blasted their way out of a trap, opened a path to the sea, and brought out their wounded and dead and their equipment while inflicting horrific casualties on the enemy.

Russ provides a clear view of the big picture, with stinging criticism of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the exposure of Army Gen. Edward Almond, correctly depicted as the kind of fumbling officer who's far more dangerous to his own troops than to the enemy.

One of Almond's units, the 7th Infantry Division, was made up of soft garrison troops totally unprepared for the kind of hard campaigning the Marines took in stride. Even though they were only peripherally involved in the Reservoir campaign, they fell apart like a cheap pair of boots in the rain. One infantry battalion was totally destroyed -- a scenario depressingly similar to what's still going down a half a century later, as far as comparisons between Army and Marine combat readiness and warrior ethic are concerned.

"Breakout" is a heartbreaker. I was left grieving for the dead and again admiring the Marines, as I did as a kid in early 1951, after they executed their miracle up north and pulled back on the line near my unit down south.

The suspenseful narrative is loaded with vivid characters: 1st Lt. Chew-Een Lee, a small but formidable Marine leader whose men feared him as much as they loved him; Henry Litvin, a "combat doc" with no military training whatsoever, patching up his boys as combat swirled around him, doing his job quietly and expertly while barely controlling his mounting panic; and Gen. Oliver P. Smith, the skipper of the 1st Marine Division, whose tactical wisdom and old-soldier savvy not only saved the division but killed 25,000 Chinese in 10 days while losing 700 Marines killed in action.

One wonders why the U.S. Army never seems to learn the obvious lessons taught by all wars, especially the lessons under the rubric: BE PREPARED.

In a recent interview, Russ remarked that he regrets his fallen comrades have been forgotten, or at least not remembered for their sacrifice. Amen. Few have been braver or paid a higher price.

Russ has written a great book. As we approach the 50th anniversary of that "Forgotten War," it's time Americans had a hard look at the lessons learned.

Lest we repeat them.


Semper Fidelis
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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October 30 2002, 8:26 PM 

By David H. Hackworth

The first non-Special Ops unit deployed to Afghanistan is the U.S. Marines Corps -- no big surprise to this old Army doggie.

In World War II's South Pacific, Marines were "the firstus with the mostus" into the Solomons, and they led the way into Vietnam. In Korea, they landed second, but unlike the Army units initially deployed there, Gen. Edward Craig's Marine brigade hit the beach ready to fight. And without their skill, sacrifice and courage, the beleaguered Eighth Army would've been pushed into the sea during the early months of the conflict. A similar scenario occurred during the early stages of Desert Storm, in which Marine units came in ready to fight while the first Army troops -- the 82nd Airborne Division, with its insufficient anti-tank capability -- were a potential speed bump waiting to be flattened.

The Corps, which has never lost sight that its primary mission is to fight, remains superbly trained and disciplined -- true to its time-honored slogan "We don't promise a rose garden." When, under Clinton, the Army lowered its standards to Boy Scout summer-camp level in order to increase enlistment, the Corps responded by making boot training longer and tougher. Now under USMC Commandant James Jones, that training has gotten even meaner for the young Marine wannabes waiting in line to join up, as well as for Leathernecks already serving in regular and reserve units.

Unlike U.S. Army conventional units -- their new slogan, "An Army of One," says it all -- the U.S. Marine Corps remains a highly mobile, fierce fighting team that has never forgotten: "The more sweat on the training field, the less blood on the battlefield."

The Marines are flexible, agile, ready and deadly, while the Army remains configured to fight the Soviets -- who disappeared off the Order of Battle charts a decade ago. For example, right after Sept. 11, the two Army heavy divisions in Germany -- with their 68-ton tanks that can crush almost every bridge they cross -- deployed to Poland for war games.

Hello, is there a brain at the top somewhere beneath that snazzy Black Beret being modeled at most U.S. airports by too many overweight Army National Guard troops?

The Army has eight other regular divisions, all designed to fight 20th-century wars. Three are heavy -- Tank and Mech Infantry -- and two are light, the storied 82nd Airborne and the elite 101st Airborne (now helicopter), and then there's the light/heavy 10,000-man 2nd Division that's in Korea backing up a million-man, superbly fit South Korean Army.

Less the light divisions, our Army's not versatile, deployable, swift or sustainable. The heavy units require fleets of ships and planes to move them, and it takes months to get them there -- it took Stormin' Norman six months to ready a force for Desert Storm. The 101st -- while deadly, as Desert Storm proved -- is also a slow mover requiring a huge amount of strategic lift -- ships and giant planes -- to get to the battlefield, not to mention the massive tax-dollar load to outfit and maintain it.

Sadly, today's Army is like a street fighter with brass knuckles too heavy to lift.

After the Rangers' disaster in Somalia -- where there were no tanks to break through to relieve them -- and the embarrassment of not being able to fight in the war in Serbia, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki started forming light brigades strikingly similar to USMC units. When I asked, "Why the copycating?" an Army officer said: "It was either copy or go out of business. We'd become redundant because of long-term lack of boldness and imagination at the top."

The Army costs about $80 billion a year to run. It's time for Congress to do its duty and stop enjoying the benefits of all the pork this obsolescence and redundancy provides. If the Army can't change with the times -- as the powerful horse cavalry generals couldn't just prior to World War II -- then it should fold up its tents and turn the ground-fighting mission over to the Marines.

The law of nature is simple: survival of the fittest. And in the 21st century, heartbreaking as it is for me to admit, the forward-based and highly deployable U.S. Marine Corps is the fittest.
http://www.hackworth.com is the address of David Hackworth's home page. Sign in for the free weekly Defending America column at his Web site. Send mail to P.O. Box 11179, Greenwich, CT 06831.

(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

Semper Fidelis
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Gunny G's Sites & Forums

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Hackworth -- On Oliver North

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October 30 2002, 8:29 PM 

David Hackworth on Oliver North


Source: Playboy, June 1994 v41 n6 p90(5).

Title: Drugstore marine. (Oliver North) Author: David Hackworth

Abstract: North's career shows an undeniable streak of deceit and misuse of the trust of colleagues and the American public. His most significant betrayal was engineering the trade of arms to Iran for US hostages. North would become a threat if he were to succeed in a bid for the Senate.

Subjects: Political corruption - Cases People: North, Oliver L. - Moral and ethical aspects Gov Agncy: United States. Marine Corps - Officials and employees

Electronic Collection: A15456160 RN: A15456160

Full Text COPYRIGHT Playboy 1994

LET ME TRY to describe Oliver North in a few fast bursts. He's a jackass. He is so preposterous that there is a temptation to laugh at him. He's smarmy, a flatter, a brownnoser. He's also a twisted impostor, a drugstore Marine with an apparent compulsion to bull**** just about all the time. But while he tries to fool people with his fantasies, he is also very easy to fool. He boasts that he was an can-do guy when he was in the White House, but the record spells no-can-do. North did terible damage to the U.S. until he was caught. One thread runs through his performance--getting conned. The Iranians conned him, the contras conned him, the crooked arms dealers conned him and even Manuel Antonio Noriega conned him.

North is also one of the most dangerous men in America today. I've talked with him only once, by telephone on Michael Jackson's radio talk show on KABC in Los Angeles. I had done my homework and wasn't surprised when North put on his usual act. By the time I debated him I had talked with dozens of Marines and soldiers who knew him, as well as with former National security Coucil staff colleagues. I had seen him on countless TV shows, had read about him in several books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. "Does Oliver North Tell the Truth?" was the title of a June 1993 investigation in Reader's Digest. The writer, Rachel Wildavsky, presents a watertight case, providing names and dates and plenty of reasons why the answer to the headline is no. My own sources confirmed or amplified what Wildavsky reports: North "could not be believed--even under oath." One of his former colleagues is quoted as saying North "had trouble distinguishing between what was true and what he wished to be true."

In almost 50 years of being around soldiers, I have bumped into my fair share of bull****ters, but Ollie would have to take the first-place ribbon. His record shows that he is totally untrustworthy.

During the radio show I asked him to clarify a few of the contradictory stories he was told about himself. North bobbed and weaved and said that if we could get together he would explain everything. I don't want to go near the guy, and he can't make facts disappear by trying to flatter me. At the end of the show he said, "I'm under posttraumatic stress disorder from this interview." The fact is that North is the sort of guy who cringes at the truth.

His relationship with Ronald Reagan, for example, was close, according to Ollie. Part of his line is that he persuaded Reagan to invade Grenada in 1983 and that he and Reagan watched the live broadcast of American students returning from Grenada and kissing the tarmac. According to Ollie, Reagan emotionally embraced him. Evidence says that North was never alone with Reagan and that he did not even see the president on the day the students came home. Reagan himself has accused North of making various "false statements."

North was convicted on three different counts: for helping decieve Congress about the Reagan administration's trading arms to Iran for release of hostages, for destroying documents and for illegally accepting a home security system that was paid for by a government contractor (Richard Secord), whom North had brought into his operations. Now he claims he was "exonerated," which is another lie. An appeals court threw out the convictions on a legal technicality.

During the radio show he called his house in Virginia a "plan old farm." Some plain old farm. It cost more than $1 million and comprises nearly 200 acres and a large stone house in one of the plushest areas of Virginia. He ignored my mention of its worth and said, "We have succeeded with a business that I started." True, he did start a business, Guardian Technologies, which manufactures bulletproof vests, but the major sources of his wealth are well known. Within a year of his appearance before Congress, North started what has become a successful fundraising effort (more than $23 million so far) of which he has been the chief beneficiary. The money he received has also funded his campaign to be the Republican candidate in Virginia's Senate race this year.

If you think he did a lot of damage as a light colonel with a record on contempt for the law, imagine the trouble he could get us into as a senator and later as President North. Then he wouldn't merely disregard our Constitution--he could burn it.

He probably would not be our first psychopathic president, but he would be the most dangerous.

North has a magic mouth. He's part natural politician and part huckster. He could sell camel **** back to the camels. He has the aura of a savior and he instinctively plays to his audiences. He wants to be looked upon as a military hero, the hairy-chested underdog who can save our country, a kind of leader stud who will follow the example of other warriors who continued to serve and defend our country after they took off their uniforms. North is a perversion of that great tradition.

He was not faithful to the Marine Corps, nor to his country, nor to his God. When he became a Marine he took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and to "bear true faith ad allegiance" to the Constitution "so help me God." He then proceeded to lie under oath to the Congress and generally treated the Constitution and other laws as obstacles.

What is scary is that North's propaganda has worked on a whole bunch of people whom he was successfully exploited. The perception of many of his devoted flock is that only a strong leader can stop America from being flushed down the toilet.

Like Ross Perot, North is a lightning rod for many people who are dissatisfied with America. But North is a lightning rod that is not grounded, and that kind can start fires. He calls himslef a conservative and talks about traditional values, but in fact he was flouted most of them. He should instead call himself a chameleon.

The fact that North invokes a war-hero image offends me and disgraces all the brave warriors who serve our country with honor, not deception. North is the sort of guy who could give war stories a bad name.

I've spent a lot of my life defending America with either rifle or pen, and I view Ollie as I would a defective weapon system that will blow up when things get hot.

Besides shredding evidence, North shredded the trust that soldiers hold close to God, country and their fellow men. Trust is the glue that causes units to be cohesive and to accomplish the impossible.

Part of North's spiel is that he was a warrior who followed the orders of his masters--the lowly, good Marine who was the fall guy for the White House ratbags.

Nazi generals used the just-following-orders plea when they explained their mass murders. The Uniform Code of Military Justice protects American soldiers from obeying unlawful orders.

There is no sign that Oliver North has changed his mind about our Constitution. If he were elected I have no doubt he would do a constitutional bypass, in the interest of efficiency, on the document that efficiently guarantees our freedom.

North exaggerate his experiences in a way that makes real warriors gag. Lines in his standard speech include references to Marines who "died facedown in the mud" and remarks such as "this old Marine is prepared for the mission ahead." Sanctimonious ****.

North offended many Marines when he showed up for the congressional hearings with his uniform and medals. It was as if he had donned a costume designed to prove he was a hero, and to win sympathy. To the civilian eye, that splattering of fruit salad seemed to confirm the myth he had already spun about himself with the Washington press corps: that he was a leatherneck who had plenty of experience leading men in combat where people get the medals that count.

His Silver Star is no big deal by the standards of the Vietnam war. In Vietnam a total of 21,630 Silver Stars were awarded to Army personnel. Marines received more than 2500. I have nine altogether (five from Korea and four from Vietnam) and gave back a tenth because the action that I was cited for never happened. All too often in Vietnam, officers got medals just for showing up. North also won the Bronze Star. There were 720,000 awarded by the Army during the Vietnam war. No one can count the stunning acts of heroism that was obscured by the excesses of the medal count. Many Vietnam veterans got medals, but most don't try to exploit them or make more of them than they are worth.

Retired Major General John Singlaub, a man well-known for his physical and moral courage, said, "To people all over the world Ollie North was a hero. But I knew better. There was a wide gap between the media image of Ollie North--the honest, loyal Marine--and the sordid reality of his true character and performance."

Let's keep things in perspective. In 1968 and 1969 North spent 12 months in Vietnam. During the first nine months he skippered a rifle platoon on a though I Corps battlefield and was wounded twice. He was not short on guts or leadership ability and his men rated him as a gung ho and caring leader. For his last three months in Vietnam North was a staff officer, away from combat, with mostly administrative duties.

Between 1969 and 1974 he spent most of his time in offices and classrooms and on training assignments. In late 1974 he again took charge of troops when he became a company commander, as a captain, on Okinawa. Just 29 days into the assignment, North--described to me by a follow officer who saw him at the time as an "emotional wreck"--surrendered his command.

He returned to the U.S., where he spent as much as three weeks at Bethesda Naval Hospital for some deep-shrinking by psychiatrists. The episode is shrouded in mystery. North himself is vague about it in Under Fire, his autobiography published reports that parts of his medical record were expunged. Meanwhile, there have been published reports (which North never legally challenged) that provide details about the apparent nervous breakdown. In one account he ran around naked, babbling incoherently and waving a .45 pistol.

I asked him about his emotional problems on the radio and he did not want to talk about them. Voters in Virginia should ask him about this and demand to see his Marine medical record. Watch him say it's secret because of national security. Hell, he may believe it himself.

North never afterward commanded troops. For the rest of his career he was a staff wienie--and by all accounts a good one, if sometimes voerzealous.

"You had to keep an eye on him or he would get everyone in trouble," an officer who worked with him told me.

He tirelessly shuffled papers, taught classes and for the last five years before Iran-contra exploded, worked as a presidential advisor on national security matters. In the White House his dangerous and destructive fantasies took on the hallmarks of megalomania, perjury, double-dealing and gullibility. He was still a serving Marine, but he wore civilian gear and his weapons during those five years were a word processor, a file cabinet and one mean shredder.

And now he is on a roll as the comeback colonel.

We are lucky to have survived his first effort at shaping policy. He was incompetent. Now matter how slapstick some of his antics were--like taking the keysshaped cake and the pistols to Tehram--his incompetence caused grave harm to American national interests.

The record shows him to be an extraordinary sucker. He wants to please everyone and has this thing about being the ultimate insider. Real insiders can smell pretenders like Ollie. They let them inside only when they can use them. And, boy, was Ollie used.

According to one of his colleagues, North boasted that Ronald Reagan "loves my ass."

North certainly brough the power of the White House to his projects. And for some of the worst people in the world it was a lucky day when Ollie walked in. He was an answer to the prayers of sleazebags from Panama City to Bierut. It was as if they had one of their own in the White House.

The Iranians Ollie dealt with were basically the same people who has seized the U.S. embassy and taken hostages in 1979. Most of the world regarded them as criminals. During the war with Iraq the Iranians were having trouble getting arms. But, with Ollie's help, they managed to get tons of weaponry during 1985 and 1986. In return they prevailed upon their allies in Lebanon to turn loose some kidnapped U.S. civilians. North himself, in a message sent to John Poindexter (a message that he attempted but failed to destroy), lays out the chain of organizarions from Tehran right down to the hostage holders--a well-known Middle Eastern terrorist group called the Hezbollah.

It was the Hezbollah who carried out the bombing of the Beirut barracks in October 1983, in wich 241 Marines and servicemen were killed. Two years later, despite the rhetorical denunciations of all terrorists by the Reagan White House, Ollie did business with them.

So Ollie did succeed in getting people out, right? Yes, except that when three hostages were released, the terrorists simply snatched three others to get ready to bargin for more arms.

"The net accomplishement of North's arms deals with the Iranians was to create a market for hostages," said Tom Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C. The NSA, a nongovernmental library of declassified documents, is the greatest single public repository of hard facts about North and the whole Iran-contra scam. "The market featured prices--a.k.a. ransoms--running from $1 million in cash to as high as $8 million in missiles. That's an incentive for a revolving door."

Remember: the official line was that North and his colleagues worked only with moderates in Iran. The joke back in 1987 was that a moderate in Iran was anybody who was low on ammo. Voters in Virginia should ask him if the people who killed the Marines and sailors in Beirut were moderates.

North also dealt with other people who dwelt in the terrorist sewer. Back in 1987 he testified that terrorist Abu Nidal wanted him dead. I was, North said, Nidal's threats that made him install the security system. Nidal and his associates must have had a good laugh when they saw how North had fooled the American public. They knew about Ollie. abu Nidal and Ollie bought weapons from the same Syrian arms dealer. Monzer al-Kassar. So did Abul Abbas, the man who carried out the seizure of the Achille Lauro and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer. The terrorist underworld wanted a patsy like Ollie alive and doing business.

It's a good bet that the contras did not get their money's worth out of the weapons Ollie got for them from Monzer al-Kassar. For all the money he raised for the fontras, little of it did the grunts in the field any good. They were eating monkeys and suffering supply problems while the Miami leadership team with whom North worked brought expensive suits and lived comfortably.

North's involvement with manuel Noriega would be funny of it had not damaged the U.S. so much. Ollie regularly kissed the Panamanians's ass in exchange for promises of help with the contras. An American who knew them both said, "To North, Noriega was like Brando up the river in Apocalypse Now. No rules."

Noriega's reputation--as a narcotrafficker, election fixer, double or triple intellignce agent and accomplice to murder--did not deter Ollie. When Noriega got some bad press in the summer of 1986 he went to Ollie and told him he wanted his image buffed up in Washington. In return, Noriega offered to blow up some Sandinista targets inside Nicaragua. North enthusiastically reported all this to Poindexter and, ever gullible, judged Noriega's offer "sincere." Thank God, North got caught just two months later. Voters in Virginia should ask North why he wanted to improve the image of someone like Noriega, who played such a crucial role in shipping cocaine to Americans.

North should not call himself a conservative, at least not in the way my family and friends in Virginia define the word. If the qualifies as the leader of any cause it is the neo-fruitcake movement. I hope the good people of Virginia realize he is the opposite of a patriot and make that clear with their ballots. My family first settled in Virginia in 1622 and my ancestors would spin in their graves if he were to represent the state. I hereby volunteer for his enemies list.

-- End --

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Hack Takes A Whack At Attack On Iraq

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October 30 2002, 8:35 PM 

Posted on 09/25/2002 7:27 AM EDT by RJCogburn


IF GEORGE W. BUSH had employed the services of David H. Hackworth as speechwriter, the discomfort level might have been considerably higher at the United Nations on Sept. 12, when the President challenged and chided the world body over its inaction on Iraq.

?I would have taken his speech and laid it on the table,? said Hackworth, a retired Army colonel known for his outspoken and frequently controversial opinions. ?And every place it said Iraq, I would have crossed it out and I would have replaced it with Syria, China, Lebanon and we could just go down (the list).? Hackworth, a Connecticut resident, ventured up to New Hampshire last week and was interviewed on the WNDS-TV program ?Capitol Ideas? with Arnie Arnesen.

The former colonel gave the commander-in-chief something less than a four-star review for the case he presented against Iraq at the U.N. ?Can I give you about two dozen guys who are equally as bad as Saddam Hussein?? Hackworth asked. ?I?ll go to Pakistan. The guy that?s running that place got into power with a shotgun, blowing everybody out of the way. Anybody who wants to run against him, he blows out of the way. He supported and organized the Taliban, who provided haven to al-Qaida?s bunch. And he?s got ?nuke? weapons that are really far more sophisticated than the alleged ?nuke? weapons that Saddam Hussein has. So I just don?t think the President has made a case and I don?t think he?s articulated what the threat is. And I think if that was his best shot to the United Nations, he hit his foot.?

?Hack,? as he likes to be called, knows something about shooting oneself in the foot. The nation?s most decorated living solider, he won more than 100 awards, 78 of them combat related. Highly regarded for both his skill and courage, Hackworth became the youngest full colonel in Vietnam. But discretion was not the greater part of his valor. In 1971, he appeared on ABC?s ?Issues and Answers? and was remarkably candid in his criticisms of our military?s leaderships, strategy and tactics in Vietnam. The Army brass soon convinced him that a career change might be preferable to a court martial, and the 26-year veteran retired from active duty.

But not from speaking his mind. He has written or co-authored four books (one of them a novel), writes a column that appears in about 100 newspapers, and he remains active on the lecture circuit, making about 20 speeches a year. The Bush administration might wish he were still in the Army, so he could be court-martialed after all. Hackworth is openly scornful of the administration?s claim that Saddam Hussein?s nuclear weapons program poses an urgent threat to the United States.

Assuming he is on the verge of creating a ?crude? nuclear bomb, the Iraqi dictator is still a few thousand miles short of being able to deliver it to the United States. ?He?s got to put ?em in his canoe,? Hackworth cracked. He believes our government?s fixation on Iraq has less to do with ?weapons of mass destruction? than with barrels of ?black gold.? ?We want a new gas station and we?re going to get it,? said Hackworth. ?And we?ll use the military power to get it.?

The Vietnam veteran isn?t worried about a protracted war this time. He predicts it will be over in 90 days?60 days of bombing followed by 30 days of ground war. But we may still be in Iraq years ? even generations ? after Saddam Hussein is gone. ?Do we occupy a new oil well, a gas station for the next 60 years?? Hackworth asked.

The more immediate consequence, he fears, is that U.S. standing in the Arab world will further deteriorate and more young people will be inspired to join the radical, anti-American forces.

?We?re engaged in a hell of a fight with the main opponent,? he said. ?That is the al-Qaida, the terrorists that delivered such a grievous blow to our country on Sept. 11. If we distract ourselves on a sideshow such as Saddam Hussein, maybe to pay back what Daddy (Bush) didn?t do or whatever, we might lose the main event.?

Having lived long enough to be an old solider, Hackworth, 72, resents ?the suits? in the Washington power elite who appear quite eager to send another generation of young Americans into another needless war. ?The ones that are advocating war, all these super hawks, never went to war,? he said. ?Nor are any of the kids of the congressmen and women in the forward positions of a foxhole or a tank. They?re not going to be the ones that come back in a body bag.?

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Hackworth's error Compared To Boorda Case

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October 30 2002, 8:41 PM 

Hackworth: Error Doesn't Compare To Boorda Suicide Case
by Dick G
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Hackworth says error doesn't compare to Boorda suicide case

May 16, 1997 Web posted at: 11:00 a.m. EDT

In this story:
Ranger? Not
'I zapped it'
Questions raised
Related stories and sites

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- David Hackworth, the retired army colonel turned journalist who questioned medals worn by the Navy's top admiral -- who later killed himself -- acknowledges he wrongly claimed credit for two of his own military honors.

The awards, which had been listed on Hackworth's personal Internet page, have now been removed.

Hackworth, once a columnist for Newsweek magazine, has described himself as America's most decorated living veteran. He was scheduled to interview Adm. Jeremy Boorda, chief of naval operations, on the day Boorda committed suicide one year ago.

Boorda, 56, committed suicide less than two hours after he learned that reporters would be questioning him about two pins on ribbon decorations that he had worn.

He left notes lamenting the coming disclosure that he had improperly worn the two bronze "V" pins, which normally are awarded for valor in combat.

Ranger? Not

From his home in Montana, Hackworth told CNN by telephone Thursday that he recently found out that he was not entitled to a Ranger tab, an insignia worn on the shoulder of a uniform.

Normally, it indicates that the wearer has completed one of the Army's toughest training courses, a rigorous entry to one of the service's most elite groups. Hackworth said he thought he earned the Ranger insignia during his service in the Korean War.

He also told CNN he found that the Army had given him two Distinguished Flying Cross medals, when he had only earned one.

In both cases, Hackworth says the mistakes were made by the Army, not him. Before he died, Boorda said he thought he had earned the medals in question during service in the Vietnam War.

'(Adm. Boorda) was wearing valor awards he wasn't entitled to wear. ... I was wearing tabs I was entitled to wear according to the Army's regulations at the time.'
-- -- Retired Army Col. David Hackworth

'I zapped it'

"The minute I found that the qualification didn't pertain to me, I zapped it," Hackworth said, referring to the entry on his Internet page. He contends that there was no comparison of his situation with Boorda's.

In a column written shortly after Boorda's death, Hackworth said: "It is simply unthinkable an experienced officer would wear decorations he is not entitled to, awards that others bled for. There is no greater disgrace," he wrote.

Questions raised

Vietnam veteran Terry Roderick, who raised the questions that led to Hackworth removing the two items from his Internet page, said the unit Hackworth served with in Korea was not a Ranger outfit.

Hackworth said he also served with the 8th Army Ranger company, but Charles Pitts, who was the first sergeant of that unit, told CBS he "never knew him."

An Army official, asked whether the service had done a search of Hackworth's medals, said it had not.

"He's retired. There was no reason to," said the official.

Related story:
Navy colleagues believe Boorda could have survived scrutiny - May 17, 1996
Related sites:
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
David Hackworth
List of his military honors

External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

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Hackworth Attacked

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October 30 2002, 8:44 PM 

Hackworth Attacked...
by Dick G
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Forum Owner


To: Linda Harris, Editor
Weirton Daily Times

I have known columnist, and retired U.S.Army Colonel, David Hackworth since 1968 when we both served a short tour in the Pentagon as relatively junior field grade officers. We both departed that assignment to return for another combat tour in Vietnam. Our paths have not crossed since that time as our careers took different directions. Dave Hackworth left Vietnam under a dark cloud of pending multiple criminal charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Those charges were not drawn up lightly, however the senior officer handling the charges was reluctant to press the issues because of Hackworth's superb combat record. The Army leadership at the time allowed Hackworth to retire in lieu of charges. Hackworth retired from the Army and moved to Australia for the next 18 or so years. On his departure from active duty he publicly blasted the country's Senior leadership from the president on down, and was especially hard on the Army's military leaders concerning their handling of the war. This got wide spread news and TV coverage at the time. As we have learned in recent years, based on several outstanding books, many of our senior leaders were truly derelict in their duty. Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, and retired General Maxwell Taylor are just a few of the key players in this sordid era of poor American leadership. In 1989, after the statue of limitations on the charges against him had run out, Hackworth returned to the USA and wrote a best selling book and later became widely acclaimed columnist. He also has a well known web-site on the internet that cast a wide net over our military forces of all ranks. He is well wired, to say the least, with the junior military. Senior officers deal with him at their own risk, usually sad and sorry afterwards.

In his recent column, "TROOPS DON'T HAVE FAITH IN BIG BRASS", which was published on 26 Jan 2000 [HTML Editors Note: The date varies by which paper publishes the article, Hackworths date is different] , he finally tripped my trigger with his broad damnation of our military leadership. He collectively damns all Generals and Admirals with a broad brush of gross incompetence and self promotion. In his own way, he breeds a lack of trust in our nation's most respected institution, our military forces. He does a great disservice to the American public, your readers and to our military.

He needs to zero in on the few bad folks with a sniper's rifle and quit using area fire on everyone.

There are a few poor leaders in our military hierarchy, but in the main, they are as fine a bunch of men and women as you can find anywhere. For 30 years I was a soldier, and during my last 6 years I was a General Officer. Many of my best friends are serving and retired General Officers. 40 members of my West Point class (1956) are retired General Officers, to include Norm Schwarzkopf. I do not know a more honorable group of men. I maintain contact with a wide circle of senior and junior officers serving our country today, from Lieutenant to General Officer.

The Army, and our other services, have problems, some major problems, but there is no gross lack of professional competence, or reluctance to stand and be counted on the tough issues by the senior leaders.

Hackworth's suggestion that senior officers should retire when they do not like the orders they are given, contradicts the very essence of military discipline. Officers, and all leaders, are taught to argue and discuss until the decision has been made, then to execute the order as if it were their own. During my day I had junior officers argue vehemently for a specific course of action only to be told at decision time to get on with it. At all grades, I believed it was my duty to present alternative ideas and thoughts to my seniors. But when the decision was made, I moved out smartly.

When commissioned, an officer swears "that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic". The Constitution clearly states that our President is our Commander in Chief. Military leaders follow the orders of the people appointed by the Commander in Chief whether they like them, or the orders they give them. There no room for quibbling, or slack, in this basic American document regarding military discipline.

An officer has the option at any given time of resigning his/her commission should they disagree strongly with a senior's decision. This option is rarely used and is easily uttered by those who do not have to take the action. Recently, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Ron Fogelman, took this action because he had a major disagreement with his civilian bosses regarding actions taken against one of his officers. There are many other less publicly well known instances where this has taken place over matters of conscience and principle.

Public disagreement with your superiors while on active duty is not conducive to good order and discipline. It is often done by our senior officers under questioning by our congressional leadership. Quite often the congressional leaders are tipped off by their staffs regarding the right questions to ask the military. One does not routinely question the orders of ones superiors, and certainly not in a public forum. It is called loyalty. Not blind loyalty, but following orders when the decision has been made.

Today there is much unhappiness in our military about the lack of integrity of our serving President. There is little enthusiasm for the multitude of peacekeeping missions they perform. Yet the military leaders continue to perform their duties and follow the orders given. No one liked the missions in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, and most recently Kosovo. The military leaders argued their case, lost the argument and were told to execute. They have done what they were told to do in good spirit and with dedication to duty. Anything less is disloyal.

Dave Hackworth never made it to General Officer rank. There are many reasons for this, in spite of his many combat decorations. His gross lack of integrity during his last days in Vietnam and in the Army was not his finest hour. Since that time he has achieved more than his 15 minutes of fame and has a wide reading audience across America. Quite often he performs a great service to our military and the public with factual columns. His personal hang up on the poor quality of all Senior Military leaders is totally wrong headed. It sells to the movie and TV folks, a lot of junior soldiers, and the masses of unknowing readers, but it is absolutely wrong.

I, and most of my friends, could routinely take up pen and contest his bad assertions weekly. It would not change his direction of writing and he would love the controversy. He pushed me too far this week and he may do it again. Until next time, take it from a well decorated retired Army General Officer and life long soldier-------Hackworth needs to be believed about 50% of the time and highly suspected the other 50% of the time.
John C. "Doc" Bahnsen
Brigadier General, US Army (Ret)
New Cumberland, WV

Note: "Doc" Bahnsen served with the 11th Armored Cav in Vietnam.

He can be reached at docbahnsen at juno


Semper Fidelis
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Gunny G's Sites & Forums

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The Outrage

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October 30 2002, 8:47 PM 

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[The Outrage Title Graphic]
May 16, 1997
[Image of today's outrage]

This is a parable about people living in glass houses and still throwing rocks.

You may recall the tragic case of Navy Admiral Mike Boorda who killed himself last year after being accused of wearing medals that he had not earned. Boorda had worked his way up in the Navy and had an honorable and distinguished career before shooting himself within two hours of learning of the accusations against him.

His accuser was Newsweek correspondent and retired Army Colonel David Hackworth. Even after Boorda had shot himself in the chest, Hackworth said "It is simply unthinkable that an experienced officer would wear decorations he is not entitled to, awards that others bled for. There is no greater disgrace."

Perhaps there is a greater disgrace -- blatant hypocrisy.

Hackworth had aggressively pursued Boorda to learn the truth. When Boorda committed suicide, another Vietnam veteran, Terry Roderick, began to subject Hackworth to the same scrutiny.

Hackworth had been called the army's most decorated living soldier. However, it appears that some of the decorations were self-awarded. Hackworth now admits that he had no right to some of his decorations. For example, he attributes one of his unearned Flying Cross awards to a mistake by "a sleepy clerk."

(Source: New York Daily News.)

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Hackworth -- Free Republic

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October 30 2002, 8:50 PM 

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Adm Boorda, Col Hackworth, and now Gen Wesley Clark (Ret)

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October 30 2002, 8:52 PM 

From: Stars and Stripes, European Edition (Quoted in AIM Newsletter of
30 Oct 02)

Letter to Stars and Stripes magazine on Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.)

By Col. George Jatras (Ret.)
October 17, 2002

The article "Still no decision on Kosovo medal" (Oct. 8) said
"Pentagon brass" ensured a waiver was granted so that Gen. Wesley Clark
received the Kosovo Campaign Medal, the first one minted, at his
retirement ceremony in 2000. The waiver was necessary because Gen.
Clark's service didn't meet the criteria for the award, even though he
led the international alliance in its "78-day blitz" against Yugoslavia.
An earlier article, "Army can't explain how Clark got medal" (June 16,
2001) said, "The Army is at a loss to explain who granted a waiver
awarding retired Gen. Wesley Clark the Kosovo Campaign Medal," and that,
"After four months of repeated queries, Army officials say they're still
not sure who approved the medal."

To date, we still don't know who granted Gen. Clark the waiver. I
guess that's one of the unsolvable mysteries of that era, like law firm
billing records. In the meantime, as the story said, thousands of others
who supported the campaign at bases in England, Spain, Germany, Turkey
and even the United States are still waiting to learn if waivers for
their eligibility will be approved.

As a Vietnam combat veteran who had "awards and decorations" as
an additional duty, I can understand the intricacies of determining who
deserves the medal. Given the scope of the campaign, virtually everyone
in the military, active and Reserve, contributed in some way. If the
criterion is based on a combat zone defined as "in and around the
Balkans," Gen. Clark certainly does not deserve the medal, even given
that vague definition of the combat zone. Gen. Clark led the campaign
from Mons, Belgium. If the waiver was based on Gen. Clark's contribution
to the campaign being more important than that of the ground support
troops at places such as Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, or Whiteman Air
Base, Mo., then maybe we should look at just what his contribution was.

In his book "Waging Modern War," Gen. Clark wrote about his fury
to learn that Russian peacekeepers had entered the airport at Pristina,
Kosovo, before British or American forces. In the article "The guy who
almost started World War III," (Aug. 3, 1999), The Guardian (U.K.)
wrote, "No sooner are we told by Britain's top generals that the
Russians played a crucial role in ending the west's war against
Yugoslavia than we learn that if NATO's supreme commander, the American
General Wesley Clark, had had his way, British paratroopers would have
stormed Pristina airport, threatening to unleash the most frightening
crisis with Moscow since the end of the Cold War. 'I'm not going to
start the third world war for you', General Sir Mike Jackson, commander
of the international KFOR peacekeeping force, is reported to have told
Gen. Clark when he refused to accept an order to send assault troops to
prevent Russian troops from taking over the airfield of Kosovo's
provincial capital."

Gen. Clark's buddy in Kosovo was Hashim Thaci, the leader of the
Kosovo Liberation Army, which, according to the Belfast News Letter
(Northern Ireland) of July 30, is engaged in sex slavery, prostitution,
murder, kidnapping and drugs. The Daily Telegraph reported on Feb. 19
that "European drug squad officers say Albanian and Kosovo Albanian
dealers are ruthlessly trying to seize control of the European heroin
market, worth up to $27 billion a year, and have taken over the trade in
at least six European countries."

Another Clark buddy was Agim Ceku, who commanded Croatia's army
during "Operation Storm," when ethnic Serbs were driven out of their
ancestral homes in the Krajina region of Croatia in 1995 in what
columnist Charles Krauthammer described in Newsweek on April 5, 1999, as
"the largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Balkans wars." This is the
same Gen. Ceku who commanded the KLA.

The shortsightedness of Gen. Clark's consorting with KLA thugs,
whom he is largely responsible for putting into power in Kosovo, is
borne out by the Washington Times article "Kosovo Albanian attitudes
change; Some see U.N., NATO as foes." (Sept. 21). It said, "Where once
NATO troops were greeted with cheers, those cheers have now changed to
anger and occasionally violent protests since the arrest of several
leaders of the former Kosovo Liberation Army."

As for his ability as a military leader, Gen. Clark failed on two
counts - the air campaign and his plan for a ground campaign. While the
questionable effectiveness of the air campaign was not solely his
responsibility, his acquiescence to the strategy and his cover-up of the
results detailed in the Newsweek story "Kosovo Cover Up" (May 15, 2000)
are testimony to his dedication to power and career. As for a ground
war, which Gen. Clark admits that he favored, he insists that he could
have conducted a successful ground war in Kosovo by sending Apache
helicopters and ground troops through the mountain passes between
Albania and Kosovo, a plan which was described to me by an Apache pilot
as a "hare-brained" idea. Gen. Clark planned to support the Apaches with
"50,000 Albanian troops," a statement he personally made to me at a
Washington, D.C., book signing. There's no doubt that a ground war with
the might of 19 NATO nations eventually would have been successful. But
at what cost and why? To feed Gen. Clark's ego and ambition!

If Gen. Clark had had his way, we might have gone to war with
Russia, or at least resurrected vestiges of the Cold War. And we
certainly would have had hundreds if not thousands of casualties in an
ill-conceived ground war.

Col. David Hackworth, in his 1999 commentary "Defending America,"
wrote of Clark: "Known by those who've served with him as the 'Ultimate
Perfumed Prince,' he's far more comfortable in a drawing room discussing
political theories than hunkering down in the trenches where bullets fly
and soldiers die."

In my opinion, Gen. Clark is the kind of general we saw too often
during the Vietnam War and hoped never to see again in a position of
responsibility for the lives of our GIs and the security of our nation.
That it happened once again we can thank that other Rhodes scholar from

Col. George Jatras (Ret.)

Sterling, Va

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Expert Says Too Many Medals Issued!

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November 17 2002, 10:27 AM 

Experts say too many medals issued

By Franklin Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, November 17, 2002

by Jon R. Anderson / Stars and Stripes
A Bronze Star medal hangs from a United States Air Force uniform.

Courtesy Department of Defense
President Clinton approved establishment and award of the Kosovo Campaign Medal and campaign streamers to recognize the accomplishments of U.S. military servicemembers who participated in or were in direct support of the Kosovo operations within established areas of eligibility.

It was an issue in 1945, too ...

The Jan. 8, 1945, issue of Stars and Stripes included these letters in the "B Bag" column, a forum for servicemembers' gripes and comments:

Much about medals

The division AG and the regimental S4 get a silver star for gallantry in action. Hell, they are so far back that the German artillery can't reach them. How could they be gallant in action?

What chance do the boys on the front lines have to get citations when the brass in the rear echelon gets them?

? 1/Sgt. William R. Johnson and four others of 95th Div.

Medals ? Two

Why are "Bronze Star Medals" distributed so freely? There are rumors that one is given with every ten tops from K ration boxes. If so, to whom must we address the box tops?

? S/Sgt. D.A., Ord.


We are part of an ammunition section and are plenty browned off because our section chiefs were awatded Bronze Stars. We're still trying to understand why. To top that a motion pictureoperator received the Bronze Star for showing us exactly two movies since we have been in combat. He was cited for showing movies under hazardous conditions.

? Three Ammo Section, FA.

Kosovo Bronze Star controversy

A July, 2000, Stars and Stripes investigation showed that many of the Bronze Stars awarded for service in the Kosovo War went to Air Force and Navy personnel who were not in the combat zone. The issue produced numerous letters to the editor and a Pentagon review of the process. Click here for an index of the stories.

There?s a World War II newspaper cartoon by Bill Mauldin, whose wartime work came to battlefront GIs through the pages of Stars and Stripes.

It shows a tidy MP in a helmet liner, necktie and nightstick, standing near the entrance to a rear-area rest center. Three scruffy front-line soldiers lean forward in admiration ? real or feigned ? peering at the ribbons on his chest. The caption has the MP saying: ??Th? yellow one is fer national defense, th? red one wit? white stripes is fer very good conduct, and th? real purty one wit? all th? colors is fer bein? in this theater of operations.??

Half a century after U.S. forces fought to victory across Europe and the Pacific, some would say Mauldin?s cartoon makes a point that applies to today?s U.S. military. Because, in the decades since the Vietnam War, the military has greatly expanded the number and types of ribbons and other awards it bestows on its members.

For example, the services variously issue ribbons for service as a recruiter or drill instructor. There are ribbons for basic training honor graduate and for completing a noncommissioned officers? school. And each service has its own commendation medal and achievement medals.

Some critics blast the trend, which, they say, cheapens the overall value and prestige of U.S. military awards.

?I think you?re discrediting your military-awards program, regardless of what branch of service,? said retired Marine Sgt. Maj. William F. Carroll, who served from 1965 to 1990. Carroll was awarded a Bronze Star with combat ?V? in May 1967 for saving a wounded Marine under heavy artillery fire in Quang Tri Province. He was wounded in a firefight later that year, and received the Purple Heart.

?A lot of people are receiving recognition for just doing their damn job,? Carroll said. ?Whereas awards should be presented to people who are truly deserving and have gone above and beyond, not just been there.

?The awards system is supposed to set you apart from the other soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, but when they?re ? given out in mass quantities, you?re upsetting the purpose of the awards system,? Carroll said.

But the military defends its policies, arguing that the noncombat ribbons contribute to morale, and that the issuing of combat awards is subject to careful scrutiny.

?We take awards very seriously,? said Army Lt. Col. James P. Cassella, a Pentagon spokesman, ?combining our desire to recognize the service and sacrifice of servicemembers with the judicious application of policies.

?In that way, we can recognize the deserving, maximize the value to morale, and preserve the value of the award itself,? he said.

?It is important to point out that there are awards for service and awards for valor; a medal for valor will stand out even among a chestful of service awards,? Cassella said.

The biggest change, noted David Cole, staff curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C., has occurred in the number of ribbons awarded. ?Medals also,? he said, ?but really more the ribbons that have proliferated since the Vietnam era.?

?A soldier today who has any length of time in service, if you count the service ribbons, such as the Professional Development, Army Service, Overseas Service, who say, went through the Persian Gulf War, probably would have six or seven ribbons or more, not counting qualification badges and so on. Far more than his predecessor,? Cole said.

And with the war on terrorism and other changes in the global picture, the services are having to further refine their medals policies. They?re looking at new types of awards that will reflect the new types of assignments and conditions that come with their newer types of missions.

?Things have changed, no doubt about it,? said Navy Cmdr. Tom Van Leunen, the Navy?s assistant chief of information.

?The philosophy of presenting personal awards to individual sailors has changed,? said Van Leunen. ?I think the Navy?s thought that the recognition of a good job by a sailor or officer of the Navy is worthy of some sort of award.?

The changes are here to stay, the military says. And the amount and types of awards likely will increase with new military operations in coming years.

?The way or means of earning these things will certainly be greater in the future because the way this war on terrorism is, it naturally changes the philosophy, thinking, the culture ... for all the services,? said Joseph Lineberger, director of the Air Force Review Board, which oversees that branch?s awards system.

?It might be that we would have to develop new awards,? Lineberger said.

Several factors have driven the changes. Once the government ended the Vietnam War draft in 1973, the military became an all-volunteer force. Ribbons and other awards were one means of sustaining morale and were also an inducement to re-enlistments, crucial to a volunteer military, experts said.

And military awards are a factor in getting promoted and can even mean promotion points for some servicemembers.

?Each one of the services has a separate service culture, and the way in which services look on awards is just one manifestation of that culture,? said Dr. Philip Anderson, a retired Marine colonel and now senior fellow and director of the Homeland Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

?My perspective,? said Anderson, ?is that the Marine Corps is the most conservative, the Army is the most liberal, the Air Force is not too far behind and the Navy falls somewhere in the middle.?

?There?s a distinct change in the Navy,? said Jack Green, staff curator at the Naval Historical Center in Washington. D.C. ?The Navy nowadays is far more liberal in awarding decorations than it was,? said Green. ?Up into the second World War, the Navy was much more hard-nosed about giving decorations.?

The Marine Corps has also changed but ?not appreciably,? said Stephen Mackey, Marine Corps director of awards, at Quantico, Va.

?Our system is stringent, restrictive, demanding, exclusive, and extremely carefully scrutinized,? said retired Marine Col. John W. Ripley, director of the Marine Corps History and Museums Division at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington. Ripley served from 1957 to 1992, and received the Navy Cross, the nation?s second-highest award, for action in Vietnam in 1972.

?It?s all in our concept of duty,? said Ripley. ?Duty requires that you do things that are unusual, greater than the average requirement. The fact that an action took place does not in and of itself justify the award of certain medals.

?We don?t necessarily view other services as doing the wrong thing. They have a different philosophical approach to what they consider extraordinary performance of duty.?

Spc. Albert Brunson, 21, serves with the U.S. Army in South Korea and looks on his five medals and ribbons as ?nothing but good.?

Brunson, of Prince George, Va., is a personnel clerk with the 19th Theater Support Command?s Headquarters and Headquarters Company at Camp Walker in Taegu, South Korea.

He?ll return to civilian life soon after four years in the Army, and he?ll go home with at least five ribbons on his chest: the Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and Overseas Service Ribbon.

His Army Achievement Medal, given for achieving a permanent change of station, was awarded after completing a tour at Fort Still, Okla., he said.

But not everyone gets one, Brunson said.

?It depends on what kind of work you do,? he added. ?I guess it?s for how well you work.?

By the time Brunson began duty in Taegu, his medal was waiting for him in the mailroom.

?I guess it?s like a rating because it shows my accomplishments,? Brunson said about the Overseas Service Ribbon, which he received for serving 10 months overseas.

?I worked for every one I have. I don?t have the Bronze Star, know what I?m saying? I haven?t been to war. But the ones I have, I have worked for.?

He and many fellow soldiers welcome such awards, said Brunson.

?Because one, it?s promotion points,? he said. ?Two, it?s another accomplishment. They have to write down everything you did. It?s like an esteem-booster.?

Army Sgt. Maceia Roscoe is a food-service specialist in Brunson?s company. Roscoe, 25, of Chicago, works in the unit dining hall at Camp Walker.

With seven years in the Army she wears six ribbons on her uniform, several of them with small attachments indicating subsequent awards of the same medal ? five Army Achievement Medals, two Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, an Army Service Ribbon, an Overseas Service Ribbon ?for being over here in Korea,? and, most recently, the NCO Professional Development Ribbon.

She got that award for completing a 30-day primary leadership development course at the 8th U.S. Army?s Noncommissioned Officers Academy at Camp Jackson in South Korea.

?It challenged me in areas that I?m not doing all the time,? Roscoe said. ?We stood in formation, they gave us our certificates and let us know they were proud of us completing the program.?

An Army Achievement Medal came for taking part in a competitive culinary arts program, something not every soldier in her field gets to do.

?So I felt like I went above and beyond the standard they were looking for in order to receive that award,? said Roscoe. ?That one, I felt it was another stepping stone towards becoming sergeant major one day.?

Like Brunson, she values her awards.

?Myself, I like to see what I?ve done, and once I put on that Class A uniform and I see my ribbons and the things I accomplished, it?s a pride,? Roscoe said.

But critics say these self-esteem boosters diminish the value of medals.

?It?s a false sense of self-respect,? said Dana Dillon, a retired infantry major who served in the Army from 1980 to 2000 and is now a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, which specializes in military affairs and Asia. ?There?s a societal tendency to do that, and now, it?s reflected in the military.?

?If you get the medal for just standing in the right place at the right time, you know the medal isn?t worth anything.?

A solution, said Dillon, is for the military to carefully retool its awards system.

?I hope that they review what is the criteria for giving out an award and set up a standard criteria,? said Dillon.

?I would hope that the personnel system would issue better guidelines, and they would come from the chief of staff. And he would say that ?each of the men and women in the military need to be rewarded for their service, but let?s not cheapen those awards by giving out too many.??

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Dick G
(Login Dick Gaines)

New CMC Decides To Stop Wearing 3 Medals

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January 8 2003, 8:29 AM 


New CMC Doffed 3 of His Medals
Marine's Records On Awards Missing

By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 8, 2003; Page A10

Lt. Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the incoming commandant of the Marine Corps, disclosed yesterday that he had stopped wearing three medals because of sloppy record keeping in a case reminiscent of that involving Adm. Jeremy M. Boorda, the chief of naval operations who committed suicide in 1996 after improperly wearing combat decorations.

Hagee disclosed his decision to remove the medals at a hastily convened Pentagon news conference in an attempt to lay to rest any controversy regarding his decorations before he assumes command of the Marine Corps on Monday.

"I should have been more aggressive, and I should have had this done much earlier," Hagee said. "There's no excuse -- my fault."

His aides began contacting reporters yesterday morning in response to an article about Hagee's decorations that appeared on the Web site of Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper. One senior aide called the episode "embarrassing" and said it touched on an extremely sensitive issue in the Navy and Marine Corps, given the Boorda tragedy.

Boorda, chief of naval operations, committed suicide outside his home at the Washington Navy Yard shortly before two journalists were to visit him to discuss why he had worn two bronze "V" pins for valor in combat in the Vietnam War when they were not explicitly authorized in official citations, as required. Boorda had stopped wearing the pins a year earlier in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the reporters.

Hagee, 58, former commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., did not mention the Boorda case but sought to draw distinctions between his case and Boorda's.

Hagee said that he had initiated a review of his decorations in September at the time he was confirmed by the Senate, and decided on his own to stop wearing the three medals when supporting documentation could not be found. After searching for the documentation for three months, Hagee said he made the decision last month when he posed -- absent the three ribbons -- for a new official photograph as Marine commandant.

Hagee insisted that he had earned all three ribbons and said he would continue searching for documentation that would enable him to wear the decorations in the future.

While Boorda acknowledged he had made a mistake in wearing pins for valor based on a mistaken belief that he was entitled to them, Hagee, who received the Bronze Star with a combat "V" pin for valor in Vietnam in 1970, admitted only to sloppy record keeping.

But given the Boorda case and the military's long history of problems with medals inappropriately worn, Hagee was concerned enough about the issue that he briefed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday morning.

Later in the day, Rumsfeld issued a statement backing Hagee.

"General Hagee brought the matter to me this morning and briefed me on the circumstances regarding documentation for his awards and decorations," the statement said. "He has considered the matter carefully and has a sound approach for addressing the matter. I have complete confidence in him and look forward to having him assume his responsibility as commandant of the Marine Corps on Monday."

At his news conference, Hagee described the Marines' archaic system for keeping records on individual and unit citations. But he said that it was every Marine's duty to make sure that the medals on his or her uniform were supported by the required documentation. Asked how those beneath him would respond to his lapse, Hagee said, "Marines are going to be disappointed."

Hagee said the three medals he has stopped wearing are a humanitarian service award for operations in Somalia in 1992; the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, awarded by the South Vietnamese government; and a Navy unit commendation that was awarded sometime before 1988.

Hagee said he removed the humanitarian award only because the U.S. Central Command, in issuing the decoration to the unit Hagee commanded, failed to include the names of the unit's individual members on the citation.

Hagee said he removed the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry because he cannot find his personal copy of the citation and can no longer obtain a copy because the South Vietnamese government no longer exists. Documentation for the Navy unit commendation could not be located, he said, because he can no longer remember the unit that received the award, or the year in which it was issued.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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Dick Gaines
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MEDALGATE! ... --By Hackworth

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October 4 2003, 11:17 AM 

By David H. Hackworth

Recently in Iraq, an Army two-star general put himself in for the Silver Star, a gallantry award, for just being there, and for the Combat Infantryman Badge, an award designed for infantry grunts far below the rank of this division commander.

During the war, members of an Air Force bomber crew were all awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for lobbing a smart bomb from 30,000 feet onto a house where Saddam was rumored to be breaking bread – even though Saddam’s still out there somewhere sucking desert air. In 1944, the only way a bomber crew might have gotten the DFC would have been if it had wobbled back from Berlin on one wing and a prayer after a dozen-plus missions of wall-to-wall flak.

Here’s another “Believe It or Not”: When the Scuds were thumping down on Kuwait, a Navy two-star admiral and six of his flunkies were awarded the Bronze Star after a missile struck 10 miles away.

Not that these abuses of the awards system are anything new. The U.S. military’s awards program – designed to recognize both our combat heroes’ valor and the meritorious deeds by those hard-working supporters who bring up the rear – has never been exactly fair.

In the past, Joe and Jill have often gone unrecognized because there was no one left at the end of the battle to bear witness, or the paperwork got lost or wasn’t written persuasively enough, or some eager-beaver officer in the chain of command stole their glory.

I know of two Medals of Honor – one in Korea and the other with a Navy unit in Vietnam – that shamefully went to still-living former officers when in fact their above-and-beyond deeds “witnessed” by sycophants were actually performed by grunts.

In the latter days of the Korean War and in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm and Somalia, such abuses of military honors increased with each battle. In Vietnam, a dog was awarded the Bronze Star, and in Grenada, more medals were awarded than there were soldiers on that tiny island. In Desert Storm, Army infantry battalions that never saw a shot fired were awarded the coveted CIB.

Now warriors in Iraq are reporting that COs there are using a quota system for awards.

Sgt. Bill Casey, whose unit saw heavy combat in Iraq, says: “Our awards were not given out on heroism. They were based entirely upon rank and duty position. If you were a company commander, you got a Silver Star. If you were a platoon leader or platoon sergeant, you got a Bronze Star. If you did a good job at a level below that, you might get a Bronze Star. If you were a PFC (private first class), you probably didn’t get a medal for valor. Every award was entirely based upon rank and duty position – rather than whether that person stood tall and continued to return fire or whether that person continued to bring the fight to the enemy or flat-out ran away when the bullets started flying.”

These stats tell the story:

* The U.S. Air Force has approved more than 50,000 medals for operations in the Middle East.

* The U.S. Army, trying to catch up with the folks in blue who flew through all that imaginary Iraqi flak, has issued medals as though they were Cracker Jack prizes. So far they’ve pinned on tens of thousands of awards, from the coveted Distinguished Service Cross to the CIB. More than 5,000 Bronze Stars alone have been awarded. One-half the members of a 700-strong aviation squadron at Fort Stewart, Ga., were recently presented Bronze Stars and Commendation medals.

But as of Sept. 22, 2003, the U.S. Marine Corps has approved only 56 Meritorious Bronze Stars – 46 to officers, 10 to enlisted – and 15 Bronze Stars for valor – 11 to officers and four to enlisted – for their 70,000 fighters who kicked more than a little butt during the war in Iraq.

Kudos to our gallant Marine Corps for not following the quota system and to its top brass for refusing to play the Pentagon’s public-relations medal-giveaway game.

But any way you count ‘em, deserving grunts aren’t being appropriately recognized by a sick, out-of-control system that desperately needs overhauling.

The address of David Hackworth's home page is Hackworth.com. Sign in for the free weekly Defending America column at his Web site. Send mail to P.O. Box 11179, Greenwich, CT 06831. His newest book is “Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts.”
© 2003 David H. Hackworth.

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