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Betraying our troops

Terry Garlock's picture

We like to think we treat our troops now far better than U.S. Marine David Crawley was treated in the Vietnam era.

When Crawley came home severely wounded from Vietnam decades ago, he was delivered to Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Minnesota where most of his body was in a cast for months.

When he finally recovered sufficiently to score a weekend pass, he was confident his Marine uniform would help him hitch a ride home. Instead, his uniform attracted insults and thrown bottles and cans from passing cars.

It was not popular then to wear the uniform of the USA. The anti-war left did their job well convincing a war-weary America the war in Vietnam was immoral and that our troops had become evil.

When the troops came home, and for a long time after, many of them met shabby treatment in various ways and were wrongly portrayed as losers in Hollywood movies.

I can tell you when attitudes changed. In the 1990 buildup to the first Gulf War, a wave of badly needed and cohesive patriotism swept the country. In the aftermath of victory there slowly arose a national resolve not only to properly celebrate our troops, but to never again treat them badly as they returned from an unpopular war we sent them to fight.

I recently spoke to a group and told them, “I know if I could look into your heart, I would likely find affection and support for our troops in Afghanistan and other places. But do you realize what we are doing to them?”

We send them to wars we choose to fight, not wars we must fight.

As any warrior knows, victory comes most quickly and successfully from overwhelming force, but we don’t permit our troops to fight for victory. We require them to fight with a patchwork of rules that get more of them killed while engaged in nation-building and winning world opinion.

By complex rules of engagement, we value the safety of civilians more than the lives of our own troops. U.S. Marine Paul Szordla wrote last month, “When faced with a split-second decision of whether to shoot, soldiers many times must hesitate — or be investigated.”

Troops under fire can no longer depend on artillery or air support since multiple levels of approval in the command chain, including lawyers, will likely deny or delay that support, all to prevent the bad press of civilian casualties.

The result is reluctance to engage the enemy at all, and to wonder what the hell their mission has become.

To make themselves look good to voters, politicians strip from our troops the fundamental tools of war – surprise and deception – by announcing to the world when we will stop fighting and go home.

If those politicians wanted to ask someone other than our own troops, any seventh grader could tell them that is a really bad idea while fighting a war.

We give our troops impossible missions, like turning the 7th century hellhole of Afghanistan into a stable democracy friendly to the West.

Any modestly informed person knows that any American gains in that culture will be wiped out in the next hysterical reaction to a cartoon, a film they have not seen, or rumors that an American soldier did not treat their religion with the tedious respect they demand.

Our troops, of course, are not supposed to mind that the practice of Christianity could bring a death sentence in that country.

We tear their families apart with one deployment after another.

Karl Marlantes was a U.S. Marine grunt in the mountain jungles of Vietnam. He wrote an excellent novel from his experience, “Matterhorn,” a book I would recommend to you.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Marlantes spoke of a soldier he encountered recently at an airport, exchanging tearful goodbyes with his toddler and pregnant wife. When he wasn’t intruding, Marlantes asked the man if this was his first deployment to a war zone.

The man replied proudly, “No, sir! This is deployment number seven.”

Marlantes said to Charlie Rose, “Seven. How can we call ourselves a republic when we demand so much of them while we ... do ... nothing?”

Recently there have been unsettling events in Afghanistan, like our Afghan counterparts turning on the American troops training them and sending more than 50 Americans home this year in flag-draped coffins.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta responds to such wrinkles with concern they could upset negotiations with the Taliban, our enemy, as coalition forces try to make arrangements to pull out U.S. troops.

Of course nobody believes the Taliban will keep any commitment they make, not even Panetta, but the window dressing is necessary so we can depart as scheduled to save political face for our president.

Maybe we should start a betting pool on how long before the Taliban resumes executions in the Kabul soccer stadium to entertain the public, punishing offenses such as wearing shorts or listening to Western music.

There is one very important point here about similarity to the Vietnam War. While our White House and Pentagon are engaged in breathtaking stupidity, it is our troops who faithfully carry the load, pay the price and they still fight with honor, skill and courage. They deserve our admiration.

Give a thought to this disparity. While these troops are fighting with one arm and one leg tied behind their backs, while their families at home are paying the price of separation, again, the White House was recently unable to find the courage to admit the attack on our Consulate in Libya, and murder of four Americans, was an act of war, because doing so might open them up to criticism for not being properly prepared.

We expect our troops in combat to obey layers of rules that elevate the risk to their life, while our politicians are too cowardly to admit the simple truth that is obvious to everyone else.

So, how are we treating our troops? Just fine, if you listen to speeches of politicians wrapping themselves in the flag.

But when you peek behind the curtain, we treat them like mercenaries; overwork them, underpay them and ignore their sacrifice because, after all, they are volunteers.

I ended my recent talk this way. “I hope the next time you see a man or woman in the uniform of our armed forces that you take the trouble to shake their hand and thank them. You could even say, ‘We don’t deserve you!’”

We don’t.

[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is]


96ironman's picture

Completely agree and beautifully written as always.

Just one small item: Great Lakes Naval Hospital is in Illinois, just north of Chicago.

Live forever or die trying.

tgarlock's picture

. . . He lives in Minnesota now, maybe that's how I got it wrong.

Terry Garlock

Terry Garlock, PTC

SPQR's picture

its stupid, it's unjust. The troops have always been treated badly and bore the brunt of incompetent leadership. Sometimes more so than others. BUT in this era at least their all volunteers.

birdman's picture

I have to wonder where you were 10 years ago when we began this "adventure." It wasn't any different then, except who put us there with little forethought of the ramifications. Your letter, to me, seems to point blame at the current administration. Our military has been burdened since day one with stupid political influence, stupid ROE's, and the demand by the nation that "no innocent" be harmed. But this is not new, it is how it has been for our entire lives. The last "unconditional" war was WW II. Since then we couldn't go over some parallel or DMZ, or whatever. Why suddenly now (unless I missed your outrage over the last 10 years) do we suddenly blame the govt. that withdrew us from Iraq and has set a drop dead date to remove us from Afghanistan? Where is your outrage at lack of commitment by anyone but our troops? No "war tax," no draft, nothing other than the rest of us go about our happy lives and "don't bother me with dead soldiers, it'll interrupt my SEC Season." Where has your outrage been?
In 2008 Obama campaigned on withdrawl from the Mid East wars. McCain said it would "embolden our enemies." We should "stay until the job is done." I don't seem to remember you supporting the "withdrawl" plan. Where was your outrage?
In 2002 I vocally opposed the invasion of Iraq. I was called many nasty names by too many. "Traitor," "Terrorist Lover," "Saddam Lover," etc. All by people who served exactly NO time in the military, and, at the time had exactly NO kids serving. I am a 20 year retiree and my son has served (and continues to serve) since 2000. But, like you, I saw the political handwriting on the wall. Yet it was me who spoke out against it, where were you? I don't remember you writing anything back then about the foolish rush to war in Iraq. Did I miss it?
I have great respect for you and your articles. I may not agree, but you are honest, upstanding, and a true man of principle (something rarely found in the Citizen). But it seems to me you are insinuating in your article that it is all the fault of the "liberals." Yet it wasn't the "liberals" who caused it, supported it, or did anything more than say what you are saying. We only said it 10 years ago.

tgarlock's picture

. . . is that you're wrong, my comments about the troops are not politically motivated and they have been screwed by both Dems and Repubs. But maybe you do have a point, because we are all creatures of our undeniable biases, and I do think Obama is a zero, or less, where the military is concerned.

I can list how Dems have failed our troops, same for Repubs, and if I do I'll have to observe, honestly at least in my mind, that the Dems failures are far more egregious. But maybe all that misses the point, at least for me.

Here is a paradox that requires a little reflection to understand, but as an ex-military guy you will get it quick. While I learned to love the soldier, I also learned that above a certain level I despised the brass. The root of that is human nature, I suppose, to lick the hand that feeds you. Even generals and admirals pay close attention to who controls their paycheck and next promotion and lick accordingly.

Therein lies the answer to the question of how, when our troops fought with honor and courage in Vietnam and too many died from the sheer stupidity emanating from the white house and pentagon, not one general officer resigned in protest. The question needs to be asked today. We had one general sort of speak up, McChrystal, and Obama had his head on a spike even though from a military perspective Obama couldn't shine his shoes.

But the rest of the brass toe the line and our troops pay the price.

With a big salute to all our troops who fought there, I thought Iraq was a mistake, but most of my yelling was at my TV. I'm not a protester, not my style, and while our troops are in harms way I refuse to encourage an enemy watching closely.

So I take my shots where it feels appropriate to me. I criticized GW Bush in this paper plenty and decency won't let me say here what I really think of Obama.

I'm sure good, honest, patriotic people, maybe like you though I don't know who you are, can find lots to criticize about me and some of it is likely valid. That's the best I can do for tonight.

But I have often and will continue to try to get people to think about the sacrifices our troops make on our behalf, and that we don't do nearly enough to return the favor.

Terry Garlock

Terry Garlock, PTC

birdman's picture

your comments do seem politically biased. That isn't unusual. Mine certainly tend to be also. But I strive very hard to hold both parties to the same principles. To debate your entire response will be way to complicated. Needs to be done over coffee someday. Certainly I understand your opinion of Obama. Yet I see it differently. For example, early in his Presidency we had a U S ship hijacked. Obama authorized release of deadly force resulting in a spectacular example of Seal capability, and a message to the pirates. Early in his presidency Obama made Bin Laden a number one pursuit target. Bush had called off the search in 2005. Obama made a very difficult decision, one that most advisors recommended against, and launched a Black Ops raid into a sovereign nation at great political risk, and Bin Laden is finally sleeping with the fish. Obama has authorized many Predator raids into Pakistan, and at least 14 Al Qaeda leaders are now dead, including an attack on an American born Al Qaeda member, which the Republican pundits questioned the legality of. So... is Obama a zero on military? Guess it's in the eye of the beholder.
Bush launched an unadvised (imho) preemptive invasion of a sovereign nation, with no exit plan. Result..... a 10 year violent occupation installing a puppet democratic government that will, no doubt fail. Yet your original article seemed to blame Obama for the nation building.
The invasion of Iraq was on our timeframe. Yet Bush and his team chose to send troops who were unprepared in terms of armor, etc. Do you remember that for nearly 2 years troops were armoring their own Humvees at their own expense? Do you remember the $87 billion Kerry "voted for then against?" That was supplemental funding to provide flack vests, among other things to our troops. How could that be? And the list of stupid decisions goes on and on. Yet you don't call Bush a "zero" on the military, or a "nation builder."
I agree the military is overstretched. That is my whole point. But this has been the case since 2002. Rumsfeld's plan was to eliminate most of the mechanized military and replace it with only Black Ops forces. Yet it was the M1A1 tanks that rolled unopposed through Iraq.
The military, like during Vietnam, is to politically controlled. On that point we truly agree. War should be unlimited, fast, and devastating. The way you win a war is to eliminate the desire of the other nation to continue. That is how we won WWII and the North Vietnamese won the Vietnam war. That is how the Taliban will win this one. But a point... our argument wasn't with the Taliban. We simply went to Afghanistan to get Bin Laden. The Taliban said no, so we invaded. Bin Laden is gone. So why are we still there? The mission as outlined by Bush has been accomplished. We got Bin Laden, secured the nukes, WMD's, and terrorist training camps in Iraq (even though they didn't exist). So why don't we withdraw?????
As I said this is a long and complicated answer. But a few facts... It took 4 years for the Govt. to recognize brain trauma as war wound. It is the number 1 war wound but the Republican Govt. did nothing for it for 4 years! How about the horrible treatment of our troops in Walter Reed for the first few years of the war? And I could rattle lots of items. Yet you say "Dems failures are far more egregious." How so? It's the Dems in this country who have fought vocally to end the war. That IS support of the troops. It was Obama who set timed withdrawls, not McCain. Many Dems have fought in Congress for support for our wounded, Including Max Cleland. Michelle Obama has worked very hard the last 3 years in support of the military family.
Again... support is in the eye of the beholder. My response to you was because I do think you are an honest and reasonable person. But I disagree.... we can all sit back and say " while our troops are in harms way I refuse to encourage an enemy watching closely." I didn't sit back during the run up to war, I spoke out loudly. If you are suggesting that we protest by "yelling at our tv," then why this article blaming our current govt.? Do you not think it that it "emboldens our enemy" when the conservative voices in this country so openly and noisily attack the Obama administration with comments like " do think Obama is a zero, or less, where the military is concerned?" Or when people like Strom Thurman came out and stated the President Clinton wouldn;'t be safe on a military base? There has been lots of negative comments regarding Obama's military leadership, yet you, to this day, have not come out in response of these comments with the very argument you use to explain your silence as to the absurd invasion of Iraq. Robert McNamera said the same thing about his failure to advise Johnson that the war in Vietnam would not be won. Silence isn't golden, its tacit support.

tgarlock's picture

. . . for no reason. You assume my op-ed implied Obama is the culprit on nation building, but that finger is pointed at Bush for both Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe you're gazing at your navel too long.

Obama is the idiot who dithered publicly for weeks while the world and our enemy watched the indecision over the surge. Obama is the idiot who finally decided on a compromised quantity of surge troops, but split the baby by announcing to the world when our troops would quit the fight in an attempt to satisfy his liberal base. Obama is the shameless creep who takes credit for the laudable work of our special ops teams nailing Bin Laden. Obama is the dunce who releases far more details to brag about nailing Bin Laden than he should just to thump his chest. And the decision to nail Bin Laden was VERY easy for any president who calls himself an honorable man because the goal is far more important than his political skin.

Bush is the idiot who somehow believed we could and should reinvent Iraq and Afghanistan.

You really drank the coolaid on the unarmored Humvee blame game. When Rumsfield said "You go to war with the equipment you have" he was exactly right. Wars are full of deaths that could have been prevented, if only . . . One of the first three things we learned in the Army were (1) there is never enough of anything, (2) bitching is universal, worry most when the bitching stops, and (3) adapt, improvise and overcome.

And BirdM, as a military man, you should know as any 7th grader does, when you go to war you don't announce an exit plan unless it is victory.

Do you think John Kerry was being genuine when he said hundreds of times in 2004 that Iraq was the wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, that Afghanistan is where we should be concentrating our forces? Of course not, he was creating distance between himself and Bush for the campaign, differentialization in marketing terms, "I'm not Bush, vote for me." As for what Obama said then, it is irrelevant to me, Obama had not even run so much as a hot dog stand at the time.

Personally, if I were king I would bring all our troops home, use remote weapons to the extent possible to harass enemies in those countries, and keep our maps of Afghanistan handy in case we ever need to surface-test a nuclear weapon again - just kidding but not by much. I would keep our troops at home securing our borders with deadly force, and when our national security is threatened, squash the enemy like a bug quickly without too much concern for collateral damage. The world will be safer once our enemies fear us again, and our friends respect us again. They don't, thanks to Obama and the other wimps who preceded him.

Finally, I don't know who you are, but my goal is not to make you happy by becoming an anti-war protester when you think appropriate. I didn't advise yelling at the TV, I admitted doing that myself, and it was just as productive as it sounds. That's only one of my many flaws.

We could argue forever. Better that you follow your conscience and I'll follow mine (not yours). The reason my name is on my columns is I am expressing my opinion, not trying to express yours.

Terry Garlock

Terry Garlock, PTC

Both of you gentlemen have made honest points, My turn !
There is a realistic simple solution to America's Defense over-spending, wars
without end, (Korea) and at the same time securing the Country to the point not even a 1 Billion man army of China would consider getting us upset.

Follow the US Constitution !
ONLY congress can declare war and until such declaration has been made the President is NOT the Commander in Chief, with invasion being the only exception, Also, under appropriations for the military the Constitution is VERY clear, congress can only schedule money for the Army, and Navy in advance by 2 years, these 15 year "contracts" are guess what? UNConstitutional.

Fixing what ails America is simple either Follow the Constitution OR
be honest throw it out and then Honestly follow the Communist Manifesto

This middle of the road, sitting on the fence, is NO WAY TO LIVE, plan for life, or for that matter know HOW to be a good citizen


birdman's picture

didn't mean to upset you so. Apparently I hit some unintended nerve. Sorry. I guess you aren't quite as principled as I thought. My bad. Maybe you've been around the Citizen columnists too much. Trust me, I am not trying to change your moral direction. Trust me, you won't change mine. I do take exception when you, Rush, Sean, Bill, etc. all say Obama gets no credit for the "very easy" decision to get Bin Laden. Do you remember Desert One? Do you remember who was held accountable for it's failure? I do. In fact Jimmy Carter, to his credit, told the nation that he was 100% responsible. A bold statement that contributed greatly to his failure to get re-elected.
The Commander in Chief is the Commander in Chief 24 hrs. per day 365 days per year, not only after declaration of war as Quallacherokee states. When decisions are made at the presidential level, then the president making the decision lives with the consequences. You can deny that all you like, but it happens to be fact. History has born this out this since 1776. I promise you, had the raid to get Bin Laden ended up like Desert One, you, Rush, Bill, Sean, etc. would all be screaming for Obama's head on a platter. Yet because it was successful, you deny him any credit. So be it.
I agree, your columns are simply "your opinion." But don't dare try to suggest you aren't trying to influence MY opinion. Of course you are. Otherwise why would we waste time simply reading the opinion of someone with no real background or knowledge?
You are right, you don't know who I am. Apparently you don't care too. No problem. But I'll tell you this... I am more patriotic than anyone you know. And as I am sure you're rolling your eyes at that, know this, I don't give a damn what you think. As you served, so did I. I paid for my right to have and express my opinion. I paid with years of my life too. And that's all you need to know about me.
I am sorry I upset you. It wasn't my intention. Too bad. I always thought you would be one open to reasonable discussion of differing view points. Guess I was wrong. Disappointing. I won't bother you again.

IF you did serve, then YOU took an oath, and it's on YOU that YOU didn't KNOW what YOU took an oath to defend ..

United States Constitution Article 2 Section 2
"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;"

See that word/phrase ,,WHEN called into ACTUAL service? now I ask you, Constitutionally WHO or WHOM can "call into service'" the military or militia?? the President,,or Congress ??? ( except in times of invasion)

Now let's talk about that OATH you defend........

NUK_1's picture

Tone it down several notches and maybe you'll have people listening instead of tuning you out.

You picked a fight when there isn't seemingly a major disagreement between what you and Terry Garlock posted and then you want to wonder why he didn't post something many years ago on the Internet? I think you need to back it up a bit and think about it again, in depth, before going 911 and posting a lot of your self-righteous crap here about how "purer" you are than Terry Garlock who seemingly didn't post something publicly many years ago to earn his credentials that meet your standards.

birdman's picture

then I'm done. My post to Garlock was not meant to insult him, pick a fight, etc. In fact I remarked how I felt he was upright and principled. For some reason he didn't like that and got all "pissy." I am tired of the constant finger pointing by the right wing with no blame accepted for the first 8 years of this decade. How all of a sudden Obama is blamed for everything from the market crash to the wars. How Obama has accomplished absolutely nothing. Just simply not true. The market is up 70% under Obama, we have added jobs for 31 months, Bin Laden and 14 Al Qaeda leaders are dead, we are out of Iraq and leaving Afghanistan. You don't have to give him credit for a single accomplishment, that is certainly your right, but facts are facts and history will bear the truth.
The great hypocrisy is how the conservative mindset is that Democrats "hate" the military and conservatives "love" the military. Yet facts and events don't bear that out. I could give you lots of examples, but it'd waste my time. You, like me, certainly have your right to your beliefs. That is the beauty of this country. However I am tired of being insulted and debased simply because I have a different vision. I think reasonable debate is healthy for this country. But it seems the intention of the Citizen is to simply spread right wing rhetoric while ignoring facts and history. I thought Garlock aimed to be above that, but apparently I was wrong. I thought Garlock attempted to foster reasonable debate of views, but I was wrong. Like the other hypocritical pundits he simply wants to throw his "opinion" on the world and accept only accolades for his "foresight." Right, wrong, factual, unfactual, doesn't matter to him. It's, in his words, "[his] opinion." Well.... good on him. He can certainly write his opinion and I won't waste any more time trying to discuss it with him, as that is not his point or desire. His point is simply to "opinionate." Since that is his wish, I will honor it. My wish is he would go back to sharing his opinion with his TV. That way no one will challenge it.

tgarlock's picture

. . . about blaming the president for a failed op, but in ascribing that attitude to me you are dead wrong. Just last week, in fact, one of my buds and I disagreed about President Jimmy Carter being at fault for the desert disaster. I don't blame Carter for that at all. In fact, I would blame him if he DID NOT attempt a hostage rescue, and I do find fault that it didn't happen earlier. There were some planning failures on that op to lay at the feet of the brass who cut corners, but Carter gets credit (from me anyway) for trying.

Similarly, any president who passed up an opportunity to nail Bin Laden after 9/11 would deserve a public whipping in my view, and all the noise about Obama making a "gutsy" decision is just political wind. This is just personal opinion here, but I doubt Obama even knows what gutsy means.

You also assume too much when you lump me, Hannity and Rush all in the same pile. I'll share with you that I do listen to Rush now and then even though I disagree with him often and think he discredits much of his message by going over the top. He's often right, too. I have a hard time listening to Hannity, I like balance and reflection in my programming, which is what's wrong with media nowadays. I won't assume you watch MSNBC, but the same applies to the left there.

If you want to have coffee sometime, you know how to reach me. I know I could converse with you and find some common ground, the flip side is up to you.

Terry Garlock

Terry Garlock, PTC

birdman's picture

perhaps some time we could meet for coffee. You'd see that I'm not a tree hugging tofu eating welfare loving liberal. You'd probably be shocked at our common ground.

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