Lip service doesn’t stop the dying

By David Hackworth

Editor’s note: Eilhys England contributed to this column.

A straight-shooting senior soldier who’s over in the badlands helping beat back insurgents while trying to look after the welfare of his warriors is mad as a raging bull. He’s snorting and stomping because someone up at the top of the Post Exchange (PX) system has once again stuck it to the troops.

“We refurbished an indoor theater, and then PX officialdom decided to charge soldiers for movies,” writes this very unhappy soldier – who asked that his name remain anonymous “or I’ll be toast.”

The colonel adds: “The three bucks is nothing to me. But it’s tough for kids on a tight budget – and we don’t exactly have ATMs on every corner. This morale-buster is indicative that the system is out-of-touch. Does anyone think the soldiers watching movies in those old World War II newsreels were charged a quarter?”

While Halliburton and other out-of-control U.S. contractors are scarfing up millions if not billions of taxpayer dollars monthly in places like Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq – where, until recently, disgraced Gen. Ricardo Sanchez was riding around in an up-armored, Hollywoodized, air-conditioned Hummer replete with luxe leather seats and chrome crash bars – the brass hats are allowing our kids to be ripped off for three bucks a flick!

Our generals talk a good game about taking care of their grunts, and the majority of our Beltway politicians bay with moralistic fervor about how they, too, support the troops. But for the most part, they’re just mouthing the words while they play the career game, go along to get along and don’t make any waves.

How many times have you heard me blast the Pentagon for not providing the right stuff for our guys and gals doing the death dance on our behalf around the world? But our warriors are still operating with insufficient top-quality armored vests, the wrong unarmored vehicles and not enough ammo. And they’re still saddled with the limp Beretta pistol and the worst rifle – the M-16 – ever issued to an American GI since George Washington kicked out the Brits.

And now, the latest from reliable sources in Iraq is that the new Iraqi army is being issued 13,500 Glock pistols – one of the finest pistols in the world – almost a million rounds of ammo, 900 new vehicles, 50,000 of the latest and best armored vests going and top-of-the-line submachine guns. We’re already spent a billion bucks on the Iraqi army, and there’s $2.4 billion more in the pipeline.

Former paratrooper Marshall Waters says, “It seems all the things our troops have been missing and literally dying over are there for the asking for the Iraqi forces.”

Meanwhile, the regime charging our kids for the flicks is blowing up Iraqi arsenals filled with ammo, weapons and gear. “Why not give those weapons and ammo to the new Iraqi army,” asks Waters “and spend the $2.4 billion on stuff for our guys?”


The old saying that war is a racket has taken on an even more shameful meaning. In Bosnia, for example, Halliburton was given tens of thousands of dollars to refurbish several U.S. military camps and fulfilled the assignment by bringing them right up to snuff – only a few months before these same camps were then bulldozed down!

But the minute concerned citizens rightfully question wrongdoings like those mentioned above, we’re immediately slammed by a battalion of frothing-at-the-mouth self-proclaimed patriots for bad-mouthing the president or his administration and for not supporting our warriors.

These irresponsible assaults often prolong change and always deep-six any opportunity for rational dialogue. They’re also particularly offensive to me, since I’ve spent my life trying to keep our soldiers alive on battlefields by standing tall and demanding hard training, good equipment and great leadership.

If a policy is wrongheaded, feckless and corrupt, I take it personally and consider it a moral obligation to sound off and not shut up until it’s fixed. And I hope more of you will commit to this critical mission as well.

That’s what supporting the troops is really all about – making sure American grunts get the right stuff! Not mindlessly clicking our heels and saying “Yes, my leader.” That’s what the Nazis did, and we all know the chilling results.