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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Permission to Speak Freely, Sir

I am sorry that high school and college kids no longer have to face a couple of years of mandatory military service. That may be a strange thing to say for a guy who protested the draft back in the '60s. Maybe it's the inevitable aging process. Or maybe it's the perspective you get from the higher altitude of experience.
What got me thinking about this were the extraordinary statements being made by recently retired U.S. generals. Those who have never served in the military don't understand how extraordinary it is for career military officers to say the things these guys are saying about their former civilian superiors.
I hit Marine Corps bootcamp on July 7, 1965, a wimpy kid from suburbia. The first thing we were told was that we were the lowest forms of life on earth -- and that meant lower than civilians. I was to learn as time went on that this was not just drill instructor blather. It was a genuine, deeply ingrained belief that permeated the highest ranks of the military for civilian control. We were repeatedly told that the lowest civilian we met on the street outranked the highest grade military officer. And that was not show. They believed it, not just as a principle, but a sacred trust.


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