Friday, May 06, 2005
Throughout his life David Hackworth was a controversial figure. I have a link to his Soldiers for Truth web site on this blog. For the most part, I enjoyed reading about the issues he raised, even if I did not agree with all of his opinions. What I especially liked was his ever increasing criticism of the US military' s new "CEO manager" generals and admirals, who are more concerned with saying yes to the Secretary of Defense and not with doing what it takes to take care of the average working man in uniform. He called them the "Perfumed Princes". It was an apt analogy. Entirely descriptive of some of the leadership in the Pentagon who are selling their souls for a mess of porridge, while trading away real capability and benefits for folks who deserve better.
At the same time however, one cannot just dismiss the other issues in "Hack's" life. His bios tend to gloss over or omit the 18 years he spent in Australia awaiting the statute of limitations to run out on multiple criminal charges brought by the Army. Those charges were not drawn up lightly, however the senior officer handling the charges was reluctant to press the issue 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.
As a columnist for Newsweek, he was involved in a controversy that lead to the suicide of then Chief of Naval Operations Mike Boorda. This came during a time of considerable controversy, when the Navy was being beaten up from all sides and, in truth, had made some remarkably stupid concessions to the feminist mafia. He was to have published an article in Newsweek magazine that criticized Admiral Boorda for wearing the combat "V" on medals he was award for his duty in Vietnam, which included combat operations. But copies of the citations released by the Navy did not mention that Boorda qualified for wearing a combat ''V.'' It was later discovered that some of Hackworth's own claimed decorations were incorrect. And during John Kerry's election campaign there were those who said that the media had a double standard, hounding a decorated Naval officer, while giving Kerry a pass. In the end Newsweek just quietly stopped using his articles.
These items are all on the record. However he still made a contribution in my humble opinion. Hackworth was a flawed man, as are so many. However the issues that he raised were important, and just as importantly there are a whole set of folks who think that he gave a voice to the average working Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine allowing them to highlight issues that are increasingly being ignored at the higher levels. He pointed up in his own unique style the increasing disconnect between what the Admirals and Generals understand vs what the working men and women are hearing. And got the criticism out of the "hidden messages" they are sending. Hidden messages like wanting to cut personnel in time of war, but making zero cuts in the number of admirals and generals. Or like that of saying "we support our troops", while watching the lackeys in the Department of Defense try to roll back pay raises and increases in hazardous duty pay. He drew attention to the current Operational Tempo of the Army and what it was doing to its future. Things that need to be heard and discussed
So like it or not, I'm glad Hack wrote and stirred up trouble. Here's hoping his successors at SFTT continue the good work.