This just in! For immediate release from the Obvious Desk over in a dark corner of my National News Center: Outgoing Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta is making major moves to have himself remembered as Secretary of Defense with the worst track record since former shoe-clerk Robert McNamara and his corporate Whiz Kids substituted systems analysis for military leadership back in the sorry-ass 1960s.
It’s getting so I can’t get a good night’s sleep without worrying about what new bone-headed military personal policy this lame-duck SecDef is going to implement by reveille the next morning. One night I go to bed happy to hear Uncle Leon is leaving his cabinet post as senior civilian in our military hierarchy. Then I wake up horrified to discover he’s been burning the midnight oil with social engineers in the White House and decided to lift the gay ban throughout the ranks. While warhorses like me were still shaking that one off, Panetta drops the other boondocker and declares that direct combat billets will now be open to females. I launched a blog-rocket about that one recently wondering why the hell America would need—or want—to do that and evincing some hope that there are still enough brains remaining under the current crop of brass-hats to avoid gender-norming the qualifications for direct combat outfits.
In the meantime, our military leaders seem to be joining hands and dancing merrily around the PC flagpole so the jury is still out and the troops are still being used as lab rats in ongoing social experiments. And you thought our hard-earned tax dollars went to maintain a military designed to kill people and break things? Shows what you know.
Now comes a bulletin indicating Panetta has approved a high-ranking medal for drone pilots and other uniformed techno-geeks that have never set foot in a combat zone, never smelled cordite or gagged over freshly-spilled blood much less even seen an enemy combatant except on a computer screen. Combat veterans worldwide are clasping their dog tags and heading for the fainting couch over establishment of a new variety of military fruit salad called the Distinguished Warfare Medal. This is just wrong…in so many ways.
Take the title of the new bauble for starters. Makes it seem like this is a gong given for taking part in a Distinguished War. As opposed to what: An Undistinguished War like World War II, Korea or Vietnam? But that’s a quibble compared to what Panetta and his PC cronies have announced concerning the precedence of the new medal for absentee participants in ultra-long distance battles that pose no more threat to them than a chronic case of carpel-tunnel syndrome.
According to Panetta’s tub-thumpers—as interpreted by uniformed spokesmen speaking through clenched jaws—the new medal will rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross in order of precedence which means it will out-rank the Bronze Star with Combat V for Valor in direct combat and the Purple Heart given for wounds received on a genuine battlefield. Let me say this as clearly as possible: As a guy who wears the Bronze Star with V and three Purple Hearts, this totally pisses me off. Had I known then what I know now, I’d have been way the hell out of Danang and over there at Creech slinging those drones at the guys who were trying to kill me and had an even chance to do so.
The Pentagon people I spoke with concerning this latest Panetta travesty were a little unclear on the concept but they did say publically that the primary beneficiaries of the new medal would be aircrews who did something really neat and heroic from places like Creech Air Force Base, located about 45 miles from Las Vegas, while piloting a drone flying at altitude over Afghanistan, located about 7,000 miles from Creech Air Force Base. Other potential decorated heroes of the non-fight would be “offensive cyber-war experts” whatever the hell those are.
Unofficially, those same Pentagon contacts told me some of the pressure for a new medal of such questionable necessity came from factions in the military—particularly the U.S. Air Force—who thought they were going unrecognized for their long-distance, safe, sterile and sanitary eight hour shifts staring at computer screens and keeping those all-important drones flying over battlefields being steadily deserted under orders from an administration that promised to bring the boys—and girls—home regardless of strategic consequences. They also held their collective noses and referred me to the SecDef’s comments in announcing the Distinguished Warfare Award.
“This award recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare that we’re engaged in the 21st century,” Panetta said of his reasons for the new medal. In what seemed like an after-thought—or an attempt to duck the fire he knew would be aimed at him by decorated real combat veterans—Panetta added “Our military reserves its highest decorations, obviously, for those who display gallantry and valor in actions where their lives are on the line, and we will continue to do so.” Yeah, right…and tell that to the people wearing Medals of Honor, Navy Crosses, Distinguished Service Crosses and Silver Stars for heroic actions above and beyond the computer screen. What about the Army, Navy and Air Force Commendation Medals or Achievement Medals already in existence that can be awarded with a Combat V? Why gin up some super-gong for the Cyber Corps that makes them look like decorated combat vets that risked it all in close-range fights and ran a more than even chance of winding up dead in the effort?
Seems to me our outgoing chief Pentagon bureaucrat is recognizing a few at the risk of insulting the hell out of whole bunch of genuine heroes. Panetta did two years in the Army back in the 1960s (remember McNamara?) and was assigned to Military Intelligence. Perhaps the old cliché about the apparent oxymoron might apply here. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what Chuck Hagel brings to the table. At least he was a 9th Infantry Division grunt in Vietnam. If he’s got an ounce of Mekong Delta mud left in his craw, the first thing he’ll do is tell the PC-Nazi’s and social scientists to go piss up a picket rope.