For the Veteran

Various information for Veterans different government programs available to assist Veterans in starting a business. Veterans benefits programs. This is not a political blog but we will speak our minds about current treatment of Veterans returning from the Gulf.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Interesting article from a former marine

Military, civilian leaders are failing the U.S.

By TERENCE L. KINDLON
First published: Sunday, July 16, 2006

Forty years ago I quit college to join the Marines. There was a war on and, like so many of my generation, I was inspired to enlist by President Kennedy, who challenged us to ask not what our country could do for us, but to ask what we could do for our country.

I loved the Marine Corps and, even now, with my memories of Vietnam receding and my 60th birthday approaching, I am intensely proud that I once had the privilege of wearing its uniform.

My 30-year-old son, Lee, is also a Marine. Lee is a captain, a military lawyer who's just finished a deployment in Fallujah with the grunts of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, where he served as staff judge advocate.

Because of my longtime devotion to the Marine Corps, it has been alarming to follow several months of news reports about a few Marines who went berserk in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha and allegedly murdered 24 civilians, including mothers and their babies. How could my Marines do such a crazy, evil thing?

Marines have always been warriors, to be sure, but we are noble warriors, not cold-blooded murderers. If these terrible allegations are true, and reports so far are not encouraging, all of those responsible must be prosecuted with grim determination.

Earlier in this war, after the torture at Abu Ghraib prison was discovered, the military prosecuted a few backwoods sad-sacks who'd been miscast as prison guards. The decision to charge only low-ranking soldiers was an obscene miscarriage of justice. It told the Iraqis that, regardless of what we said, Americans were no better than the cruel dictator we had vanquished.

Worse, as we Americans idly stood by, any number of high ranking military officers, civilian officials and politicians -- the people who were actually most responsible for Abu Ghraib -- shamelessly blamed the scandal on a few bad apples while they walked away from the horrific mess they'd made, hoping the world wouldn't notice the blood dripping from their hands.

When we make a list of the people to be prosecuted for the Haditha massacre, the first names on that list, unfortunately, must be the Marines who actually fired the weapons that slaughtered 24 defenseless men, women and children. It does not matter if they were outraged at the death of a lance corporal, or broken-hearted or freaked out or completely exhausted. These are just excuses, and Marines never make excuses.

The words "Death Before Dishonor," which many Marines have tattooed on their arms, are more than an empty slogan. In the Marine Corps, those words represent an immutable principle that sets the standard of conduct. The murder of civilians flies in the face of that principle and represents a total breakdown of Marine Corps discipline.

But those few Marines in Haditha are not solely responsible for this abomination, and they must not be left to absorb all of the blame alone. Such misconduct bespeaks a systemic problem, a scandalous failure of leadership, and the killers' superiors share responsibility with the men who actually pulled the triggers. And this time, unlike the farcical Abu Ghraib cover-up, prosecutors must methodically work their way up the chain of command until they have identified every superior officer who, through neglect, indifference or incompetence has contributed to this catastrophe.

Next, and more important, we must assign blame to the civilian ideologues who poisoned America's well with their strange, selfish, paranoid ambitions. These radicals, masquerading as "conservatives," lusted after the chance to invade Iraq so they could steal its oil and indulge their bizarre delusions of world dominance. Craven chickenhawks, most of whom had never heard a shot fired in anger or seen a dead Marine up close, they consolidated their influence to twist intelligence until it suited their purposes, brushed aside the indispensable lessons of Vietnam with a few handy talking-points and led our country straight through the looking glass into another meat-grinder guerrilla war that simply can never be won.

The civilians ultimately responsible for our debacle in Iraq profess that military service is merely another job choice -- for somebody else's children, of course -- and that dying is just an incidental part of the downside. They've hidden our flag-draped caskets, declared the Geneva Conventions quaint and thus inoperative, sent too few troops off to fight their battles, dispatched them without a strategic plan and supplied them with inadequate armor and defective equipment.

Finally, since they no longer can scrape up enough new recruits and because a military draft would be political suicide, they've issued "stop-loss" orders and consigned our Marines and soldiers to endless, exhausting cycles of deployment after deployment. Given all this, is it any wonder our troops are at their wits' end? Given all this, is it a little easier to understand the collapse of Marine Corps discipline in Haditha and the murder of 24 civilians?.

Because of their deceit and incompetence, our civilian leaders have managed to make the United States a global pariah, they have caused the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people and they are breaking the back of our military. It's hard to believe, but we have now been in Iraq for as almost as long as we fought World War II. At this point, however, instead of being on the verge of victory, our soldiers are exhausted and their families are disintegrating. And nobody is able to say what victory is or how it can be attained.

As citizens of this democracy, we cannot permit this debacle to continue. When the ghost of President Kennedy rises up to ask us what we can do for our country, the answer is stone simple. What we can do for our country is accept the reality that we cannot win this war and end it now. What we can do for our country is bring our soldiers and Marines home to their families, make amends and start healing our wounds.

What we can do for our country is take it back from the radicals who've stolen it away and start the process of restoring our integrity and our honor and our hope.

Terence L. Kindlon is a criminal defense lawyer in Albany. He once was a Marine sergeant and was wounded in Vietnam during the Tet offensive in 1968. His email address is tkindlon@aol.com.

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2006, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

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