Thursday, May 05, 2005

David Hackworth is dead, and it's a real loss. The AP obituary is here, from Newsday:

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. His wife, Eilhys England, was with him....

Hackworth, a Newsweek correspondent during the Gulf War, worked in recent years as a syndicated columnist for King Features, where he has been highly critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war....

Hackworth ignited a national debate last year when he reported that, rather than personally signing condolence letters to the families of fallen soldiers, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a machine.

Rumsfeld later promised to sign each letter be hand....

He didn't just "report" that, as Stars & Stripes noted:

He called the fake signatures "like having it signed by a monkey."

Well put.

There's more in the obituary that appears at Yahoo News and on Hackworth's Web site.

...He was put in for the Medal of Honor three times; the last application is currently under review at the Pentagon. He was twice awarded the Army's second highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, along with 10 Silver Stars and eight Bronze Stars. When asked about his many awards, he always said he was proudest of his eight Purple Hearts and his Combat Infantryman's Badge.

A reputation won on the battlefield made it impossible to dismiss him when he went on the attack later as a critic of careerism and incompetence in the military high command. In 1971, he appeared in the field on ABC's "Issue and Answers" to say Vietnam "is a bad war ... it can't be won. We need to get out." He also predicted that Saigon would fall to the North Vietnamese within four years, a prediction that turned out to be far more accurate than anything the Joint Chiefs of Staff were telling President Nixon or that the President was telling the American people.

With almost five years in-country, Col. Hackworth was the only senior officer to sound off about the Vietnam War....

Hackworth was instrumental in bringing the Abu Ghraib photos to light:

Ivan Frederick was distraught. His son, an Army reservist turned prison guard in Iraq, was under investigation earlier this year for mistreating prisoners, and photographs of the abuse were beginning to circulate among soldiers and military investigators.

So the father went to his brother-in-law, William Lawson, who was afraid that reservists like his nephew would end up taking the fall for what he considered command lapses, Mr. Lawson recounted in an interview on Friday. He knew whom to turn to: David Hackworth, a retired colonel and a muckraker who was always willing to take on the military establishment. Mr. Lawson sent an e-mail message in March to Mr. Hackworth's Web site and got a call back from an associate there in minutes, he said.

That e-mail message would put Mr. Lawson in touch with the CBS News program "60 Minutes II" and help set in motion events that led to the public disclosure of the graphic photographs and an international crisis for the Bush administration.

...Mr. Lawson said he sent letters to 17 members of Congress about the case earlier this year, with virtually no response, and that he ultimately contacted Mr. Hackworth's Web site out of frustration, leading him to cooperate with a consultant for "60 Minutes II."

Hackworth paid the ultimate price for soldiering, according to his site:

The cause of death was a form of cancer now appearing with increasing frequency among Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliants called Agents Orange and Blue.

...[His organization] Soldiers For The Truth is now working on legal action to compel the Pentagon to recognize Agent Blue alongside the better known Agent Orange as a killer and to help veterans exposed to it during the Vietnam War.

We "support our troops," but the government does have an unfortunate tendency to screw them, doesn't it? Hackworth knew that.

He'll be missed.


(The link to Hackworth's site is now fixed, belatedly.)

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