Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"War Czar" Hurts Peace Loving Reputation


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- President Bush's newly-created "War Czar" position bothers me. It's not so much for the usual reasons: no three-star general is going to get the Pentagon, State Department and four-star generals in the field to listen to him and, besides, the president can't delegate that authority.

      What I don't like is what it does to our image as a peace loving nation. Maybe that has been fairly well destroyed already, but having a war czar doesn't help.

      In 1949, our national leaders decided that Department of Defense would be a better name for the Department of War, which was created way back in 1789. After all, we weren't a warlike nation. We had a military in order to defend ourselves, not to make war.

      But now our peace loving generation, which knew the horrors of war has been replaced by a generation that grew up on violent videogames, violence on television and in the movies, outrageous rap and hip-hop lyrics and mood altering drugs prescribed for children.

      It is a desensitized generation that Barbara Walters describes as "being offended if it is not offended." It is a generation that is not interested in anything but its little world of I-Pods, Blackberries and MP3s. 

      They don't care if we are at war. It's fine with them -- as long as the draft isn't reinstated. If that were to happen, they suddenly would become extremely engaged. And so would their friends and families.

      Can you imagine today's teenagers storming the beaches at Normandy and Iwo Jima or enduring the prison camps of Bataan, Manchuria or Hanoi?

   Yes, teenagers. The average age of the Iwo Jima invasion force was 19 years. They were drafted right out of high school, given a few months of training and sent off to war. Some of the 1800 New Mexico Guardsmen who went to the Philippines were still in high school.

   One young man who did care about the war was Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh, a 2000 graduate of the now-defunct Native American Preparatory School near Pecos. He participated in a war protest, clad in fatigues with his name tag and other insignia removed.

   After he was identified in a photo caption in the Washington Post, he was notified that he was in violation of a rule prohibiting troops from wearing uniforms without authorization. A hearing board last week recommended that his honorable discharge following a tour of duty in Iraq be reduced to a general discharge.

   The military's authority to rescind an honorable discharge already granted results from the fact that he still had two weeks left on his eight-year obligation and that his civilian behavior could affect how people view the Marine Corps.

   If the Marines let him go before June 18, it could affect his health benefits and cost him some money. It seems like harsh punishment for participating in a protest. It's reminiscent of the Nixon years when photographs were taken of Vietnam protests.

   A corporal's protest against what is happening in Iraq certainly doesn't rise to the level of several retired generals' statements about the conduct of the war.

   One of those generals was among the several four-star generals who turned down the president's request to become war czar. In fact, he was a Marine general and he wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post.

   It also might make some of us wonder if we ever wore our old fatigues when we shouldn't have. What veteran hasn't kept his old fatigues around to wear? Those things are tough. Mine may have lasted a lifetime except that they kept having more and more difficulty getting around my waist.

   I guess I could have bought another pair at an Army surplus store. They probably sell them everywhere now. Camouflage has become very popular. I even saw camouflage Easter eggs this year.

   I wonder if Kokesh could have beaten the rap if he'd said he bought his fatigues at Wal-Mart?

MON, 6-11-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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