Stop Killing The Good Ones, Dammit!

Well, this came as a bit of a shock: David Hackworth, Vietnam Vet and Military Analyst, Dies at 74.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, a decorated Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war and later became a journalist and an advocate for military reform, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 74.
Hackworth died Wednesday in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was receiving treatment for bladder cancer.
A Newsweek correspondent during the Gulf War, Hackworth worked in recent years as a syndicated columnist for King Features, often criticizing the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war…
“Hack never lost his focus,” said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth, a California-based veterans group that Hackworth chaired. “That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That’s one hell of a legacy.”

I just tried to check Soldiers for the Truth’s site, but it appears to be slashdotted — go figure.

Hackworth was a unique figure on the stage of American defense policy — a decorated soldier whose Vietnam experience led him to stand for decades as a tireless advocate for military leadership that put the soldier first.

Long before you ever heard about unarmored Hummers getting shot up in Iraq, Hack was screaming about them — and about a thousand other issues that put the lives of soldiers at risk for no good reason.

That’s not to say Hackworth was soft on soldiers. One of his most frequent topics was on the need to train them relentlessly, to make them “hardcore”, to turn them into “snake-eaters”. Anything that got in the way of that process earned his enmity.

And he was a writer. His book About Face chronicled his Vietnam experience and how it changed him. The Vietnam Primer is the distillation of operational lessons in fighting guerrilla warfare learned in field by hundreds of riflemen — lessons that are still saving lives today. Hazardous Duty follows Hack across a range of ’90s battlefields and near-battlefields — Iraq, Somalia, Korea — to examine the gradual decay of the military as an institution that has been exposed so dramatically of late.

(According to Amazon, that last one has one “statistically improbable phrase” as its signature: “rat fuck”. This should give you some of the flavor of Hackworth’s candor.)

Hack pulled no punches and took no prisoners. He will be missed.

UPDATE: SFTT’s site is back up, and in their remembrance of Hack they charge that a likely cause of the bladder cancer that killed him was exposure to Agent Blue — a herbicide deployed in Vietnam to kill the rice that sustained the enemy, right alongside its better-known counterpart, the defoliant Agent Orange. SFTT is working on a lawsuit to force the Pentagon to recognize exposure to Agent Blue as a hazard equal to exposure to Agent Orange, and compensate victims appropriately.

If you want to help them carry on this and other projects in Hackworth’s spirit, you can make a contribution through their Web site.