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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]
[Gordon Cucullu] 7/13/05
“I’m on base,” the slower kindergarten kid says, “and
you can’t tag me.” The faster kid chafes with frustration but often
grudgingly accepts the terms dictated in order to continue with the game. Sometimes
political interactions assume similar contrived kindergarten playground characteristics.
On the one hand it might be a way of informally handicapping the game; on the
other it masks the truth: the kid hiding save on base really could not compete
fairly without the imposition of artificial restrictions. In the political battlefield
we occasionally a particular phraseology unfairly removed from terms of discourse
by one party.
“You are questioning my patriotism!” is the latest
adult manifestation of the kindergarten “base” concept.
By classifying patriotism as an unchallengeable characteristic,
one side gives itself free reign to say anything regardless of
how egregiously damaging to our country. When called to account
for their statements, the parties then assume the mantle of aggrieved
victims. They seek refuge on “questioning patriotism base,” defying
anyone to tag them as unpatriotic. As ridiculous as this posturing
might seem, so far it has worked. People, including elected officials,
have called the president, the vice-president, other officials,
American service men and women, and our country in general the
most repulsive names.
Senators like Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy have
ghost and resurrected the Cambodian killing fields and the Soviet
gulags in order to destroy the image of the American military
around the world. They have impugned the integrity, honesty,
and loyalty of every American military member and of the entire
chain of command from President Bush down to the newest-minted
muddy boot grunt. Nor have such statements been, as they are
occasionally rationalized, a mere “misstatement” or
slip of the tongue. Such men as the above named Senators, Congress
members like Nancy Pelosi, Charles Rangel, un-elected officials
such as Howard Dean, and former officials like Al Gore, all have
contributed to the hyperbole of the accusations all the while
adroitly dodging personal accountability for their statements
by using the “questioning by patriotism” dodge.
So, okay, let’s break the kindergarten standards by which
they and others have managed to slip the bounds of responsibility:
When people of their stature and position make the kinds of statements
that they have done, flinging wild, unsubstantiated, false accusations
at the American military and leadership in time of war they are
not patriots. And no level of caterwauling about “questioning
my patriotism” is going to remove them from the hook of
personal responsibility upon which they have hanged themselves.
It’s time to get down to basics: people are accountable
and responsible for their actions and words, and in almost all
cases the latter are more explosive than the former.
If a loopy former Klansman like Senator Robert
Byrd stands in the well of the Senate and denounces President
Bush for lying
to the American people and the world, our enemies rejoice. When
former vice-president Al Gore thunders that the president “betrayed
us!” it makes the lead story on al Jazeera. When Ted Kennedy
denounces the war in Iraq as a “hopeless quagmire” the
terrorists knuckle down for a bit longer knowing that like the
North Vietnamese they can wait out America’s impatient
appeasers. When, in a nationally televised debate, former Reagan
appointee Larry Korb says that “we are losing the war in
Iraq,” the terrorists smile. And when Dick Durbin accuses
American GIs of crimes equivalent to those of the SS Todenkopf murderers, jihadist recruits flock to join bin Laden and Zarqawi’s
So we are faced with the reality of the situation: these people
want to have a free pass to make the most egregious, unsubstantiated
accusations against the military without bothering to fact-check
themselves. When Durbin unleashed his most recent venom about
the handling of the facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba the administration
and the military organized fact-finding trips and arranged Congressional
visits (on which Durbin, Kennedy, Byrd, Pelosi, Rangel and the
other critics were conspicuously absent). Like it or not, Americans
and the world look to these people for the truth. Do they not
want to know the truth?
Politicians have to answer to key questions such
as, Senator, do you want America to win this war or not? Those
be ducked by phony protestations of innocence couched as apologies.
In fact most have not apologized at all. Kennedy, in a stunningly
shameless display, had the temerity to ask Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld “how many strikes should a secretary of defense
be given?” Well, Senator, that question applies more properly
to you. How many mistakes are you allowed before being held to
accountability? Citizens of Palm Beach and the Kopechne family
might supply some polling data.
Understand that we’re not talking about stifling reasonable
dissent here. Rational, civil discourse is essential to the democratic
process and a fundamental right and protection granted by our
Constitution. If someone disagrees with policy that is legitimate
grounds to debate the issue. But once joined, the discussion
must be kept to a higher plane or it degenerates into accusation,
name calling, and fear mongering. That is exactly what is taking
place, and one does not have to be capable of designing machines
to launch into space to figure out the motivation. The over-the-top
rhetoric is strictly designed to undermine the political stature
of the administration and pave the way for a change of leadership.
Politics is hardball not beanbag, and the give and take in American
politics has historically been tough: verbal fights on the Senate
floor historically escalated into thrown inkwells, a fist fight,
a horse-whipping, or a challenge to duel. Some of today’s
statements make one nostalgic for those days of very personal
accountability when a loose word might earn a well-deserved punch
in the nose.
Even respecting the sanctity of free speech, it has become tradition
since the early days of the 20th century to rally behind the
president in time of war. That does not mean or imply blind acceptance
of presidential policies but studious avoidance of tendering
loose statements that offer aid and comfort to the enemy. Since
the Vietnam War such niceties have unfortunately fallen by the
wayside. Not only does it make the task of the country that much
more difficult when we give the impression to the enemy that
we are weak of resolve and ready to quit, but it is grossly disrespectful
of our serving men and women who risk life on a daily basis to
win a war that they hear called illegal and immoral.
As we’ve just celebrated 229 years of Independence
it is well to gut check our resolve and recognize the fact
just as our soldiers take risks so do loose-lipped politicians
and their followers. It is time we call shots maturely. If that
treads on some sensibilities then it is about time. If their
statements and behavior hurt this country then let us question
their patriotism, and demand consequences.
God bless our troops and God bless America. tRO
about North Korea? Learn more in Gordon’s
best-selling book Separated
at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin became
the Evil Twin, Lyons Press available at bookstores now.
Gordon Cucullu 2005