Beret lieutenant colonel, Gordon Cucullu is now an editorialist,
author and a popular speaker. Born into a military
family, he lived and served for more than thirteen years in East
Asia, including eight years in Korea. For his Special Forces
service in Vietnam he was awarded a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross
of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Commendation. After separation
from the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian affairs at both
the Pentagon and Department of State as well as an executive
for General Electric in Korea. His first major non-fiction work,
at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin, is
based in large part on his extensive experience in
Korea and East Asia as a governmental insider and businessman.
[go to Cucullu index]
America’s Rough Men…
[Gordon Cucullu] 6/1/04
sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men
stand ready to do violence on their behalf.’ George
Orwell said those words several decades ago but the truth they
capture will endure far beyond our short lives. We hope the ‘rough
men’ protect us and our families from the barbarians who
slaughter innocents by sawing off heads with knives. Over the
years we Americans have become increasingly indebted to these ‘rough
men (and rough women)’ because we have distanced ourselves
from personal sacrifice, accepting protection in return for tax
This has been an acceptable norm in US society since the early
1970s when Congress made a decision to use a fully professional
military - active, Reserve and National Guard - in place of universal
military service requirements. From the mid-1970s to present
day the nation has placed its trust in the all volunteer Army,
along with Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps which had been staffed
largely by volunteers for some years.
We have now had more than 30 years of experience with the volunteer
system. Interestingly, the national conscription phase lasted
30-plus years too. So we have approximately equal blocks of time
for comparison and evaluation. Is one better than the other?
It depends on perspective.
of acute crisis such as World War II we had to field a force
millions, far larger than could be raised through
volunteers alone. The institution of a draft meant that the slots
in the infantry and combat arms units would be filled if necessary
with conscripts while the pressure of the probability of such
assignments generally swelled the ranks of services such as the
Navy and Air Force considered by some to be less dangerous or
uncomfortable. Novelist Herman Wouk in The Caine Mutiny captured
the sentiment when he described his protagonist as ‘preferring
to go to the Pacific wearing blue rather than to Europe wearing
Nowadays such mass mobilization is not necessary. Technology
has helped, so has use of outside contracting support. But compared
to WWII days military service is proportionally rare. Indeed
enlistment in the military is considered so bizarre by certain
elements of our society that other parents will express shock,
concern and sympathy for parents whose sons and daughters choose
to serve their country. This is especially so in bastions of
liberalism but not exclusively.
no longer share military experience hence have become distant.
When Pat Tillman was killed in action recently
he was jeered by some who considered him an ‘idiot’ and ‘patsy’ for
turning down a lucrative football contract to serve. Yet during
WWII and even the Korean War athletes and stars were proud to
serve. Joe DiMaggio, James Stewart, Ted Williams lead a list
longer than this space. They were cheered by fans.
time the country soured on war - during Vietnam - it became
acceptable to duck and dodge service.
Cassius Clay changed his name to Mohammad Ali, converted to Islam,
and ‘floated like a butterfly’ away from the draft
so that he could continue to ‘sting like a bee’ for
cash. He was largely applauded for his action.
When the war on terror came fully home on 9-11 we looked in
desperation to our domestic first responders and to our military.
Please save us, the nation begged. And they did. Police, firefighters,
EMS personnel stepped up to the challenge at home supported in
many cases by Guard units. Responding, we deployed military to
distant, dangerous parts of the world to hunt down, capture or
kill those who had attacked us so brutally.
Amazingly, even from the early days of Afghanistan (remember
it?) those who opposed use of military or who hated George W.
Bush, or both, began to denigrate our military. At first it was
to question troop capabilities. How can we expect our people
to do what the British in the 19th century and the Soviets in
the 20th could not accomplish, they sneered. But our soldiers
destroyed the oppressive Taliban and broke up al Qaeda terror
training camps, eliminating more than half the leadership, chasing
survivors into caves. Afghanistan is still tough turf but we
are winning daily. What will emerge from the victory will be
a new Afghanistan never previously seen.
in Iraq the initial major combat was, by historical standards,
almost before it got started. Despite profligate
use of the word ‘quagmire’ and specious attempts
to make Vietnam comparisons, the fight was swift, sure and extraordinarily
well executed. Because of difficulties with an on-again, off-again
ally Turkey, we did not have all the troops in the fight that
were originally intended. The committed US units made up for
that by ferocity of execution and consummate professionalism,
exactly the qualities we hoped to attain 30-plus years ago when
we switched to a volunteer force.
So what seems
to be going wrong now? The US media has clearly declared war
Bush so it skews coverage of the real
war. The media is not so much pro-Kerry as it is ‘anybody
but Bush.’ In order to make their cause more effective
it becomes necessary to question, second-guess, and denigrate
any successes the administration achieves, especially in the
War on Terror since that is the defining element of Bush’s
way to knock the war than to knock the military? It is the
they employed in Vietnam. It worked then
so why not dust it off now? Start from the top down - attack
Bush’s Defense establishment and you attack Bush’s
best and brightest. So from the start Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz,
and their generals have caught heavy flak. Now it’s the
media ignore success, overemphasize problems and even fabricate
to make a point. The Boston Globe displayed
totally bogus photos taken from an Internet porn site and headlined
them ‘US Troops Gang Rape Iraqi Women.’ A lame apology
was the best it could do when caught lying. Virtually all mainstream
media has played and replayed the admittedly sordid prison photos
far, far beyond the essential story value. They then gave credibility
to the horrid murder of Nick Berg by justifying it as a ‘revenge’ act
for the Abu Graib prison abuses.
The terrorists don’t need excuses. Islamist
terrorists hate and despise our free and open system but are
quite willing to work inside it to overthrow our entire culture.
The media ought to be responsible enough to recognize this fact
and not muzzle itself but at least exercise a sense of intelligent
responsibility and decency before promoting a story. Instead
the media has become so highly politicized that they seem unable
to separate reality from a political agenda. If it hurts Bush
then it is sufficiently ‘real’ to run as news. If
it is seen as somehow assisting the president then it is buried
or ignored. But this policy - and it is a conscious policy -
is more shameful and harmful than merely attacking our wartime
president, as despicable as that is. In this case it harms and
shames our fighting men and women and for that reason is deplorable.
In Iraq, Afghanistan and other difficult places around the globe
where we are fighting terrorists our troops are accomplishing
what in other times would be considered virtual miracles. They
are doing much, much more than we have a right to expect or demand
with far too little in the way of personnel or equipment resources.
They are enduring stress from combat, family separation and extreme
environmental conditions without complaint. Everyone performs
Despite the unbalanced emphasis on a very few bad actors in
a single unit in Iraq our soldiers have exhibited acts of bravery
and courage that would be beyond the concept of most of us at
home. They have performed selfless acts of kindness and charity
to people who welcome and embrace them all the while enduring
cowardly attacks from masked, bitter terrorist elements.
But this is not what the media midgets want you to hear. With
the exception of Fox News Channel and talk radio all we hear
are bad things about Americans. Even casualty levels are highly
exaggerated and overstated. The professionals are not crying
or wringing their hands about casualties - it is the whiny stay-at-homes
who produce the most crocodile tears. War hurts. The troops know,
understand and accept the price for freedom.
It is time that we the people take back our military from the
media that cannot bring itself to respect them. As a people it
is our responsibility if we are not fighting for our own safety
to have a grateful, appreciative, supportive attitude toward
those who do. Right now we have a president and an administration
that is of, for and by the troops: foursquare, unswerving.
Our president and his cabinet are leading, not carping. Maybe
they made a few mistakes along the way but they were honest and
necessary: we are breaking new ground here and they are leading
us across dangerous ground against a desperate, vile enemy bent
on our total destruction. We need to cut them some slack.
goes double for the ‘rough men’ who put
everything on the line for us without complaint. Sleep well,
America. The ‘rough men’ are awake and alert. CRO
Gordon Cucullu 2004