Rant: and there on the 911 panel was my dear little SecNav (long)

I really don’t know what to think about Richard Clarke’s breast-beating. Frankly, after William MacNamara, I could never give my heart to another mea culpa artist again, anyway.

But there on the panel grilling Clarke, his feet barely touching the floor, was former Secretary of the Navy, Johnny Lehman. So many the miles and years from those pre-scandal Tailhook conventions, when the flyboys would call to each other “come in her – you gotta see this!” with John Lehman laying flat on the floor, a twenty in his teeth being plucked by the muscular cat of a working girl, just like the peso shows enjoyed by his boys in the Philippines.

John Lehman was the mean little prick who pushed for the build-up a 600-ship Navy during the Reagan administration. This was the great poker game where we bankrupted the Soviet Union by buying the pot. Never mind that for far less blood and money, we could have had a modern, efficient navy that would have given the Soviets just as much trouble. You see, five-foot not much more inches John Lehman was something of a size queen, and volume equates to political power.

So a lot of rotten old ships were patched up and a lot of incompetent officers were given command stars, and sent out to bluff the Soviets. When we steamed past Camh Ran Bay, the Soviets sent out a few jets to check us out, and our captain freaked out and ordered our weapon systems to lock on target. Since that’s considered an act of war and easily detectable by the target, we ignored him.

Marines being Marines, they didn’t ignore the order in Beirut against keeping live ammunition in their rifles, so 220 Marines and 21 sailors got blown to flinders. John Lehman had been so impressed by mere appearances that he must have thought our fanatic enemies would be too.

Ever the paper tiger, Lehman also brought a pair of antique battleships out of mothballs for some useless showboating. By 1989 Lehman had moved on, but his philosphy continued, so the captain of the Iowa was only concerned with blasting impressive chunks out of Puerto Rico. When turret #2 exploded, the best course of action was to pick one of the 47 dead sailors and carve “killer queer” on his gravestone.

Without a draft, a big, cheap military build-up required we recruit young women. I remember how, compared to the guys, how proud and serious these women felt to be in uniform. I also remember how, if they were raped or sexually harassed, their complaints would be judged on the military value of their accused assailants. Then the victim would be given a psychiatric discharge, out of uniform and all alone to put her life back together.

My general quarters battle station was three decks below the water line. I’d listen to the watertight hatch being dogged down tight above me, knowing that if the shit really hit the fan, nobody was likely to come back and un-dog it. I’d recall some of the things my dad had told me about military virtue as he learned it in his day:

An officer does not eat until he sees that his men have been properly fed. He does not sleep until all sentries have been properly posted. The citizen soldier is not sent by a free nation to serve at the whim of a little tin god.

But by my day, “toga, toga, toga!" had replaced the officer’s creed

Nobody will believe what the generation in uniform between the Vietnam and First Gulf wars experienced. But we knew at the time that nobody gave a shit. Without an actual war, neither tragic nor flashy, there will never be any monument to all that waste and bullshit. That’s a disappointment to me only because it means there won’t be a statue of John Lehman so I can go spit in it’s eye.