Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Heroism

The year I turned 18 happened to be the last year of the Vietnam era draft. I was certain that the war was immoral, pointless, a world historic atrocity, that had been sold to the people by a pack of lies. I knew I could not be involved in killing Vietnamese people for the sake of Richard Nixon's phony macho image, which by then was all that was left of the case for the war . But I was also well aware that if I was drafted and I refused to fight, someone else would have to take my place. As I did not follow any organized religion, it would have been very difficult for me to win conscientious objector status (yes yes, a violation of the First Amendment, but that's how it was), and my likely alternative would have been prison. As it turned out, I drew a high lottery number and I never had to make that hard decision. But something like a million young men did.

One who fought was Col. David Hackworth, who is one of the most decorated war heroes in our history. His funeral is tomorrow, at Arlington National Cemetery, but the nation's top military leadership will not attend. Col. Hackworth was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor, for riding a helicopter into the middle of a battle and running repeatedly through a wall of fire to carry wounded men to safety. But he never received the award. In fact, he spent much of his life in virtual exile, in Australia. Reporter Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe explains why:

Hackworth's most enduring foe was not the communists he fought. He earned a a chestful of medals, including two Distinguished Service Medals, 10 Silver Stars, eight Bronze Stars, and eight Purple Hearts. His adversary became the US military bureaucracy, which he railed against for 30 years on grounds that it failed to put the troops first. He also opposed military action in Bosnia, Kosovo, and especially Iraq.

But while the military leadership may be absent from the funeral, hundreds -- and probably thousands -- are expected to attend. The numbers would be larger, except that many who consider him a hero aren't in Washington. Hackworth became a touchstone for soldiers in the Middle East who questioned the Pentagon but didn't feel comfortable raising complaints with superiors.


Col. Hackworth threw his purple hearts away. I wonder how the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" feel about that?

I have no right to presume how Col. Hackworth would feel about it, but personally I am very glad that the cowardly liars who are today sending young people to the slaughter for the sake of their megalomaniacal fantasies will not be at his funeral. They would profane it.