Monday, January 10, 2005


The news that CBS canned four of its employees, including producer Mary Mapes for their conduct in the Bush/Air National Guard memo story is the big story of the day. The internal investigation report's failure to cite the role that the blatant partisanship of those involved in the story played in the scandal was no surprise to me. I hadn't been paying too much attention to the story today. Until I read this.
Mapes said that she asked Colonel Hackworth to “look at the back and forth” in the Killian documents because he had worked in the Pentagon and knew about Pentagon politics. Even though Colonel Hackworth was never in the TexANG, did not know Lieutenant Colonel Killian or any of the other relevant individuals, had no personal knowledge of President Bush’s service in the TexANG and had no personal knowledge regarding the Killian documents, he reached some highly critical conclusions in his interview regarding President Bush’s TexANG service based solely on the purported authenticity of the Killian documents and his general knowledge of the military.

First, Colonel Hackworth concluded that the documents were “genuine.” He reached this conclusion by relating his own experience at the Pentagon during the Vietnam War when he was running the “Army input system for . . . basic training.” Colonel Hackworth said that, while in that post, he received and refused requests by members of Congress and generals to assign certain men to particular units and wrote “cover my own butt” memoranda in many cases to document his refusals. Colonel Hackworth then concluded that Lieutenant Colonel Killian was “in the same kind of pickle that I found myself in” and proceeded to discuss what Lieutenant Colonel Killian was thinking at the time he wrote the memoranda.

Rather asked Colonel Hackworth whether there was any doubt in his mind that the documents were real, and Colonel Hackworth replied, “Having been down that road before I would say that these are genuine documents.”

Second, Colonel Hackworth concluded that, by not taking his physical, then-Lieutenant Bush was “insubordinate” and would have been treated more harshly had he been “an unconnected Lieutenant.”

Third, Colonel Hackworth stated repeatedly throughout his interview that then-Lieutenant Bush was “AWOL” and that a person would have to reach that conclusion when reviewing the documents “unless you’re the village idiot.” Colonel Hackworth appeared to be referring to the fact that he had seen no evidence that President Bush was “present for duty” once he left for Alabama in 1972, although he did not articulate clearly how he reached his conclusion. Finally, Colonel Hackworth concluded that “the bottom line here is – is the abuse of power.” He said that “[I]t’s how people up at the top can . . . lean on the little people.”

Rather thought Colonel Hackworth was a “strong and valuable expert witness.” Mapes also believed that Colonel Hackworth was important for the Segment and included excerpts of his interview in early drafts of the September 8 Segment script. These excerpts were ultimately cut from the final script by Heyward and West.

So, COL David Hackworth is an expert on the Air National Guard now? Obviously, he isn't. COL Hackworth served in the Army, not the Air National Guard. They are not then same - trust me, I've served in both. To the best of my knowledge, he isn't an expert in examining questioned documents, either. Hackworth must know his own limitations. Yet he had no qualms about going on TV and leveling a serious accusation against the President of the United States while our country is at war. Totally inexcusable. Thankfully, the segment he was in wound up on the cutting room floor.

I used to respect COL Hackworth. He is one of this country's most decorated soldiers. As a young soldier in the 80's, I read About Face, his book about what was wrong with the US Army and how many of the lessons of Vietnam have gone unheeded. "Here is a guy who gets it", I thought.

In the last couple of years, my respect for COL Hackworth has eroded. His criticism of the war in Iraq sounds startlingly similar to what is coming from the looney left. "Chickenhawk" (I hate that freaking word!) seems to be his favorite word when describing many members of the administration. Last year he wrote in a column that "green card holders" made up the bulk of our troops in Iraq (total bullshit, BTW). Around the same time, he wrote a column asserting that Al Qaida would sooner ally itself with Israel than with Saddam Hussein - a statement so ridiculous that it would be a waste of time to argue with the person who made it.

I've spent more than a little time wondering what happened to COL Hackworth. He spent the entire Clinton years criticizing the administration's military policy. Now the Bush administration is his favorite target. Originally, I came to the conclusion that the COL was nothing more than a professional iconoclast - making a living off the controversy he creates. Let's face it, controversy sells books.

As I thought about this story today, I began to consider a different possibility:

David Hackworth got his start in the controversy business in 1971 when he went on national television and predicted that Vietnam would be lost. He made this prediction while still an officer in the US Army. Anyone with any sense would know what a bad idea this was. After criticizing the US military operations in the Balkans in the 90's, he endorsed the presidential campaign of the military architect of our operations there; GEN Wesley Clark, a man Hackworth had previously labeled a "perfumed prince". This didn't make much sense to me. He followed this up by talking up John Kerry, a man who testified that troops in Vietnam were routinely committing atrocities. This also appears to make no sense.

Maybe COL Hackworth just enjoys being at the center of a controversy. Maybe he's desperate for the attention. If this is the case, he's found a way to get what he craves. The media loves retired military officers who criticize Republican Presidents; especially officers as highly regarded as David Hackworth.

Whatever the reasons for COL Hackworth's recent behavior, it is disheartening to watch. I'll always respect his military accomplishments - there's no denying he is a soldier's soldier - but I can't respect the man. Not anymore.

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