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Beware the Anger of the Legions
Beware the Anger of the Legions


These articles and commentaries are provided courtesy of DefenseWatch, the official magazine for Soldiers For The Truth (SFTT), a grass-roots educational organization started by a small group of concerned veterans and citizens to inform the public, the Congress, and the media on the decline in readiness of our armed forces. Inspired by the outspoken idealism of retired Colonel David Hackworth, SFTT aims to give our service people, veterans, and retirees a clear voice with the media, Congress, the public and their services.

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March 17, 2004

[Have an opinion about the views expressed in this article? Sound off in the Hot Issues with Defensewatch Forum.]

By Paul Connors

The war and occupation of Iraq is rapidly approaching the one-year mark, while U.S. troops have also been engaged in Afghanistan since the days following the terror attacks of 9/11.

Lest we forget, American troops, primarily from the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve have also been keeping the barbarians from killing each other in Bosnia since the early 1990s, as well as Kosovo and Macedonia since the latter part of that busy decade.

We are three months into 2004, a year that may be the key to the future for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces. The reason is obvious: this year is also a presidential election year, as well as one where significant numbers of Senate seats come into play. Additionally, the entire House of Representatives is also up for election or re-election.

The men and women of the armed forces really do need a friend this year, and if that friend is not the occupant of the White House in 2005, it most certainly should be the American voter. In addition to electing a president, we are also picking a commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

As voters study the campaign issues and prepare to go to the polls next Nov. 2, even those without parents, children or other family members in uniform, they should remember and take into account the needs of those serving in the military.

What our warriors need at the very top is a leader who possesses the backbone and moral courage to stand tall in the face of criticism from any number of quarters. The CINC needs to be a person who can inspire his legions and know that he has not placed them in harm's way without first having considered all of the variables that must be considered before a nation resorts to the use of force.

As an observer of both political and military issues, I have grown alarmed at the politicization of both the war in Iraq and the postwar occupation. But the hostages are not the Iraqi people - they are the Americans in desert camouflage fatigues carrying out the lawful orders given them. The mainstream news media and certain parties on the outside of political leadership in Washington have made accusations and claims that border on the absurd, and what is especially egregious is that many of them have gone unanswered.

In our military today, one that is composed entirely of volunteers (and that includes the National Guard and reserve components, too), there is little of the ennui that infected the draft-dominated military of the Vietnam era. Despite shortfalls in equipment, personnel, spare parts and leadership, the average GI is committed to the mission.

Here at DefenseWatch over the past year, we have documented instances of abuse of power, poor leadership, lack of equipment and other issues that plague our military personnel on a daily basis. From time to time, we have even enjoyed that rarer pleasure of telling the story of some success, kindness, act of heroism or plan that succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations.

What the government, the media, this year's candidates and perhaps even the electorate at large seem to have forgotten are the GIs away from home. Performing under incredibly adverse conditions and despite all of the negatives they face, they are doing the job they were trained to do. What is uplifting for me, despite hearing of all the snafus that crop up to stonewall these brave men and women, is that they are persevering with the ingenuity that has been the hallmark of the American soldier all the way back to Valley Forge.

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coasties prevail and overcome not because of their leaders, but sometimes it seems, in spite of them. While all too many generals and admirals pander to the press, to their next senior rater and to the political hacks at the five-sided wind tunnel, the infantrymen and MPs patrol the streets of Baghdad, the Hindu Kush and the mountain roads of Bosnia. The men and women aboard ship keep the sea lanes open and secure, and the Air Force patrols the skies. The Marines - being Marines - are on their way back to Iraq, and for the umpteenth time in their history, have also been called in to keep the peace in that hellish place known as Haiti.

What I sincerely hope is that this year we do not see a repeat of the spectacle from the 2000 election, where both parties used the men and women of the armed forces as campaign props.

In ancient Rome, the Legions became as political as their masters and as Rome ceased being a Republic and became an Empire, the Caesars relied as much on the Legions as their own political acumen to retain their thrones. In the United States today, a country still a republic, but with the global security requirements of empire, our armies are far more democratic. There is no Praetorian Guard that, with the clash of sword against shield, can unseat an emperor or choose another. No, we are a nation of laws and our service members honor their oaths to the Constitution.

Our Legions are not all regulars, however. Instead of auxiliaries levied from the conquered lands, the United States utilizes its reservists and National Guardsmen to augment its first line of defense. But soldiers are soldiers, whether they served in 60 A.D. or 2004, and they are not immune to the cynicism found in the news media and throughout society as a whole.

Our "imperial" staff in Washington should not ignore the rumblings from the rear ranks. The men and women of today's Legions are volunteers and better educated than soldiers of yore. They know inherently when they are being asked to grab the bitter end.

They also know, that as citizens, they have a say in who leads them. So in a sense, they are not unlike those ancient Centurions and Praetorians who made and unmade their leaders.

To the folks in Washington, I offer up this caution: Beware the anger of the Legions at your own peril. The voices from the ballot box speak as loudly as the volleys of musketry from any battle in history.
"So in the Libyan fable it is told,
that once an eagle, stricken with
a dart, said, when he saw the fashion
of the shaft, 'with our own feathers,
not by others' hands, are we now smitten."


Paul Connors is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at paulconnors@hotmail.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com. 2004 DefenseWatch. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



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