Thursday, March 15, 2012
In December of 1973, I came home on leave shortly after being injured in a missile explosion in Utah. I landed at Logan Airport wearing my Air Force uniform and bandages on my right hand and right eye. I heard "Baby Killer" as I walked through the terminal. The Mei Lai Massacre was how many people looked at soldiers at the end of Viet Nam War.
I went to dinner last night with a friend who is not military, but very pro military. He brought up the Army sergeant who killed 16 Afghans. He said it was a shame. I said I was amazed it took ten years for it to happen--especially with Americans getting killed by the Afghans they are training.
Our soldiers, like our politicians are us. Soldiers are not beamed in from a good planet and politicians from a bad one--which is how many people talk. We have leaders whom we elect. We have soldiers who go to our schools and live in our neighborhoods. Politicians, soldiers, police, teachers and all of the rest of us who take responsibility for some aspect of public life bring humanity to that job--good and bad. The soldier who turned his weapon on civilians was on his fourth combat deployment and was diagnosed with PTSD. His fellow soldiers get killed and maimed by people who pretend to be civilians.
The dumbest thing I heard so far was from columnist and commentator Mike Barnicle. He said "This is a failure of the chain of command from top to bottom." As far as I could find, Barnicle has never been a link in any chain of command. If any of his knowledge of the military was first hand, he would know how much everyone has to trust one another and that the men in his chain of command are not jailers.
American NCOs have traditionally had more responsibility and ability to take initiative than other armies. Of course freedom can allow people to do wrong, but that is one of the costs of freedom. Our military patrols and protects the world with less than two million soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen--including active duty, national guard and all reserves. Soldiers with real responsibility and superior technology are the reasons we can do this. Barnicle would have some sort of Soviet-style army where even the generals have no latitude.
I wonder if Barnicle could last through four combat tours, see his friends killed and maimed by terrorists and maintain his sanity.