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John T. Reed’s review of The Cost of Loyalty by Tim Bakken

Posted by John T. Reed on

I got my copy of West Point whistleblower Tim Bakken’s book The Cost of Loyalty. He was a law professor at West Point for 20 years and because of his official whistleblower status is still a law professor there in spite of being in the doghouse with the brass.
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I just read the preface. He is an excellent writer and I agree with everything he said. I am very hard to please, but he managed not to gave me anything I could quibble with.
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Two of the things in the preface were facts that I cannot confirm or deny—a computer failure at West Point in May 2019 and a study that says females at the service academies are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than at other colleges.
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I HAVE written that sexual assaults at West Point and in the Army seem an intractable problem. The solution I recommend is to go back to separate, but equal chains of command that we had when I was in the Army. The females then were nurses and secretaries and their chain of command was female. The most famous example was Nurse “Hot Lips” Hoolihan in MASH. She commanded the nurses and although she was subordinate to the battalion commander, her career path would not be to become battalion commander of a MASH unit. Rather, she could have been promoted within nursing.
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Should females have the same career opportunities as males in the Army? No. They have females in the NFL front office and coaching and officiating, but not as players.
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I looked for my name in the index. “Jack Reed p. 159-160.” But not me.
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https://www.johntreed.com/blogs/john-t-reed-s-blog-about-military-matters/69900739-yes-i-am-a-west-point-airborne-ranger-named-jack-reed-but-no-i-am-not-that-jack-reed?_pos=1&_sid=bfc5dac48&_ss=r
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West Point professor Tim Bakken’s The Cost of Loyalty book thoroughly denounces America’s numerous failures to prosecute a successful war since 1945.
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He especially rips General Douglas MacArthur as an obvious total incompetent. I studied him a fair amount. He first became famous as a freshman (plebe) at West Point. There was an 1899 hazing scandal at West Point. MacArthur was the plebe chosen by the Academy to testify in front of Congress.
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He protected the upper classmen and the Academy; did not snitch.
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He graduated first in his class of 93 (’03) and was the First Captain (commander of all cadets). I vaguely recall hearing that his performance at West Point was so close to perfect that he set records that stood for decades.
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He served in WW I where he was extremely popular with his soldiers and was known for fearlessness almost to the point of recklessness. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor several times, and got three DSCs (second highest bravery medal) and seven Silver Stars (third highest bravery medal), a Bronze Star with a V, and two Purple Hearts.
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He was the youngest this and that including general and Superintendent of West Point and chief of staff of the Army. He led the military effort to drive the Bonus Army (43,000 people demanding extra pay for having served in WW I) out of DC, violating the orders of the president who said not to be so tough.
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He was head of the court martial that forced General Billy Mitchell (Father of the US Air Force) to retire from the Army.
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MacArthur was head of the US Olympic Committee in 1928.
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At the time of Pearl Harbor, MacArthur was the military advisor to the government of the Philippines, which was a US territory like Puerto Rico. The Japanese attacked Americans under MacArthur’s command there resulting in the Bataan Death March.
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MacArthur did a lousy job there, letting the Japanese destroy his airplanes on the ground. He also went to Corregidor, a fortress island. He should have gone into the jungle. He escaped in a sub and PT boat with his wife and son just before the Americans surrendered.
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He went to Australia, proclaimed “I shall return” and was given the Medal of Honor. He did not deserve that medal. Probably should have been court martialed or at least retired. His pledge to return was typical egomaniacal and theatrical. His return to the Philippines later in the war was a waste of American lives and treasure. We should have bypassed the Philippines.

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We should have let the submarines and Army Air Corps win the war in the Pacific, not let MacArthur island hop, which was unnecessary. He is one of five men to have been five-star generals in US history.
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He presided over the surrender of the Japanese on the battleship Missouri and ruled the occupation of Japan after the war. He was extremely popular with the Japanese.
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When the Korean War broke out, he was named commander of the UN forces. Initially, the UN forces were almost forced out of the peninsula. But he did a surprise landing at Inchon which totally reversed the course of the war, driving the North Koreans out of the peninsula into China. Then the Chinese joined the war and pushed the UN back to the pre-war border. Along the way, MacArthur demanded authority to use nukes and raised hell when refused. He was fired for insubordination, appropriately.
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He was welcomed home as a hero to ticker tape parades and a joint address to Congress i which he said “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”
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He made a very theatrical and very good “Farewell Address,” without notes, to the Corps of Cadets at West Point when he won the Thayer Award in 1962. We were required to listen to recordings of it.
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https://www.west-point.org/real/macarthur_address.html
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He was an egomaniac and a theatrical general. He was quite good at making an impression on people, less good at waging war at the strategic level, and insubordinate throughout his career.
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I call him a mixed bag and pretty unique—Pattonesque. Bakken writes him off as an incompetent and insubordinate product of the insular U.S. military mentality. There is evidence to support his view, but there is additional evidence as well.

Academies not selective

Tim Bakken’s book says West Point and the other service academies are not hard to get into. The notion that they are comes from high ranking academy officials lying to the magazine surveys.
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Bakken names the names and ranks of a half dozen or so colonels and generals who falsified the number of applications. They add more than ten thousand kids who merely made an inquiry or to whom literature was sent or who attended a summer camp at West Point. They claim these people applied. The actual definition of an application is what you would expect: filled out the multipage form, paid the fee, and received a thumbs up thumbs down, or wait list.
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When Bakked and another civilian instructor whom he names pointed out that the application number were far higher than the truth, the various mostly West Point grad colonels and generals said not me, not me and blamed others Then they got the response that is pretty standard in such corrupt bureaucracies: they were accused of “not being team players.”
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That is in my web articles about military integrity. I refused to sign false documents. In my “counseling sessions,” I got that and several other standard bullshit arguments. It is in a table in my article Is military Integrity a contradiction in terms?
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https://www.johntreed.com/…/61085187-is-military-integrity-…
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Bakken said West Point tells US News, etc. that they only accept 11% of applications. Bakken says the accurate figure is 56.7%. He said the accusation he and the other civilian teacher made went all the way to the dean, whom he names (not my classmate and roommate of two years). The dean denied the lie and promised to confirm that in a letter—which never arrived.
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Bakken says that Bruce Fleming, a civilian instructor at the Naval Academy made similar accusations there and was similarly received. I believe wrote about Fleming a couple of years ago.
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http://www.johntreed.net/Naval-Academy-professor-denounces-service-academies-as-infantile.html
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And Bakken confirms the accusations made by Robert M. Heffington in 2017. I DID write about Heffington’s accusations, which I found credible. He is a West Point grad who taught at West Point just before he retired. He wrote a scathing “open letter” after he retired.
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https://www.johntreed.com/…/comments-on-the-ltc-heffington-…
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I have recently praised Army head football coach Monken for his turning around the team, but I made it contingent on Heffington’s accusations being investigated by an honest committee and made public.
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I am no longer waiting for that, which appears not in the offing. I retract my praise for Monken. It would appear that West Point has become a total fraud admitting athletes who are not qualified and falsifying passing grades to keep them eligible. And it would appear that the non-athletes are also far below what is depicted.
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It is noteworthy that three of the officers at Annapolis and West point accusing the academies of lying are civilians who did not go to any service academy, thereby missing the much bragged about honor code training at the academies. Heffington is the only product of the honor training behaving like he believed in it—AFTER he retired.
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I posit a theorem: The incidence of integrity in any give alumni group is inversely proportional to the number of times they have carved the word “honor” on the walls of the college or on the rings of the graduates.
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I am pissed.
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Bakken says the academy prep schools are for people from the Army and other branches to get academically beefed up to go to West Point. I knew that.
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He also says they are used to beef up the academics of recruited athletes. They also do that at my son’s Ivy League football team. Navy and NFL legend Roger Staubach, who QBed Navy when I was a plebe (we won) went to NM Military Academy to take remedial courses before he went to Navy. So I sort of knew that.
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But Bakken also says that starting in 1995, they have been using the prep school to get minorities into the academies. He quotes a WP grad instructor at the USMA Prep School saying that.
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That same WP grad said the prep schoolers are far below the direct admits (I was a direct admit) in terms of SAT scores and such and that they get distinctly lower grades when they go to West Point after their 13th remedial K-12 year at the prep school.
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The poop schoolers, as they were called at West Point, are now even markedly below persons who applied to West Point directly and were rejected. If you have to be say a 4 to get into West Point directly, you have to be a 3 or lower to get into the poop school. Yes, you have to prove you’re too dumb for West Point to go to the West Point Prep School. It is a sort of academic laundry for dumb athletes and dumb minorities. They do not want to waste one on decent white students who could get in without it or almost get in without it.
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Rehabbing and jury rigging dumb minorities and dumb athletes is more important to West Point than admitting better qualified, but less dumb whites and non-Division I athletes. If the defense of the nation were the most important thing, they would not do that. But the most important thing is to have lots of blacks in photos and to win intercollegiate football and basketball games. Requiring them to wear large numerals with their SAT scores on them would really screw up the Academy brass who want to you to see their skin color or yards gained, but not the content of their character or their application or rap sheet.
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Page 67: 25% of the students at [the service] academies are in the bottom 40% of all the high school students who take the SAT. Also, about 39% of the Naval Academy prep school graduates who enter the Academy a year later flunk out in the ensuing four years. They rejected better qualified white non-athletes who would have graduated to produce those 39% wash outs.
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It might go without saying, but the purpose of West Point and the other academies is to win wars (so said MacArthur). Unbelievably, the academies are placing more importance on winning college teams and lots of cadets of color to take photos of to show off diversity.
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MacArthur also famously said, “Upon the field of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields, will bear the fruits of victory.” That is on a plaque in the West Point gym.
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It may be true of the academy INTRAMURAL programs—which MacArthur started when he was superintendent—but it is the opposite of the truth regarding the intercollegiate sports. Those dummies being admitted to make West Point look good on ESPN are likely to bear the fruits of DEFEAT in post-West Point wars.
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Bakken quotes the book of another WP grad regarding the intercollegiate athletes at WP. Their SAT scores are about 130 points below the non-recruited athletes (I was one of those) and the athletes were generally in the bottom of each class.
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By every longitudinal mesure, after graduation, the intercollegiate athletes left the military in greater numbers and earlier, they peaked out at lower ranks, fewer post-West Point Army schools completed, fewer graduate degrees obtained, and less success as measured by overall officer performance during their post-West Point Army careers.
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In other words, generally, the worst West Point grad officers are the intercollegiate athletes in the graduating classes.
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If Army dropped to a lower intercollegiate competition level—I would recommend D-III, e.g. Williams, Amherst—the academy would produce better, longer serving officers. That being demonstrably the case, the continued competing by service academies at the top FBS-type level is indefensible.
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Amazingly, cadets today are more fit as freshman that as seniors after four years of mandatory PE and mandatory intramural or intercollegiate sports. Furthermore, the rate of smoking or vaping or using chewing tobacco is greater among seniors than freshmen.
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When I was a cadet 1964-8, virtually no one smoked. My only smoker roommate was the #1 seed on the tennis team. Once, an instructor talking to my entire class needed a match for a demonstration. Not a single member of my class there had a match or cigarette lighter. Corps definitely has on that score. I suspect that the number of cadets in my class who smoked when we entered went down over the four years.
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The star QB on the Army football team in its heyday, Ahmad Bradshaw, is the subject of two pages of honor violations, a rape accusation and other violations. In the 60s, you would need something like 15 or 20 different bad cadets to commit all those offenses because each one would have gotten the cadet in question expelled.
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I disagree with Bakken on one item he describes. He say the class goat (last man in the class academically) gets a big cheer at graduation, indicating we cadets celebrate mediocrity. That is bull.
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That goes back to my time and before. Custer was a class goat, He was also a decorated cavalry leader in the Civil war before his infamous demise.
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The class goat gets a cheer because he has endured a harrowing four years constantly flunking out and having to take turnout exams to get back into West Point.
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He is sort of the last man standing from a group of maybe a hundred guys who were also constantly taking turnout exams and getting tutoring and extra instruction. The other 99 were also hanging on by their fingernails except for one moment along the way when they lost their grip. The affection for the class goat stems from the fact that we knew the guys who were in the 99 “academic body bags” lying all around him in our x-ray vision of his accomplishment. The place was hard enough without constantly being afraid of flunking out all four years.
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This is an example of Professor Bakken not understanding what he is seeing as a result of not having been a cadet rather than just teaching cadets.
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He says that 49% of active duty military today come from CA, GA, NC, TX, VA. He also says four of the five states that contribute the most 18-to-24-year-olds are in the Confederacy: FL, GA, SC, VA. I have complained bitterly about that and cited it as a reason to bring back the draft. The military is also more evangelical Christian than the nation as a whole.
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https://johntreed.com/…/66448067-should-there-be-a-military…
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On page 83, Bakken gets into a pet peeve of mine. US military are quite willing to risk their lives, but there may not be a single officer in the Army willing to risk his career, or even risk his civilian career after a brief time in the Army by pissing off a military superior. They have physical courage in abundance, but they are devoid of moral courage. More soldiers have died because if the lack of moral courage of the graduates than because of their lack of physical courage—like 58,000 in Vietnam.

No medal for moral courage

There is no medal for moral courage. No one would want it if there were. It would inevitably be called the whistleblower’s medal. Bosses almost by definition absolutely do not want a whistleblower under them.
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You can name the US Army officers with moral courage on one hand. General Billy Mitchell (father of the US Air Force) and Hugh Thompson, Jr., the warrant officer chopper pilot who stopped the My Lai massacre. Mitchell was court martialed and force to retire. Thompson got a Soldiers Medal which is for saving someone’s life—but 30 years after the massacre!

The Cadet Prayer

it’s not like moral courage is unknown to West Point. It is well discussed in the Cadet Prayer, which I love.
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“O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of human hearts, help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth. May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural.

“Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretence ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy. Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer. Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country. All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of all.”
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Bakken quotes an officer named George Packer who said,
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“In the military, intellectual candor [makes] professional advancement less likely.”
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That’s the freaking understatement of the year.
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Bakken calls it “survival of the loyalist.” Good way to put it. I would add that also applies to politics and sports coaching—any field where the new boss replaces everyone when he arrives.
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One general point I disagree with Bakken on is he seems to attribute all these problems to military values and the military separating itself from the general public. It’s simpler than that. The military is run at the top by civilian politicians. The military brass simply mimic the political nature of their Congressional and presidential leaders. Lying and coverups and all that are typical of politicians, not just the military.

‘Civilian’ professors at West Point

Various outside forces have ordered West Point to have more civilian professors, like Bakken, to lessen the inbred nature of the place. Guess how West Point complied with that mainly? They have lots of “civilian” professors who are, in fact, retired career military officers who graduated from West Point. Plus a handful of senior officers’ wives who are hired as “civilian” instructors.
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On page 95. Bakken says those young officers who spend the most time and money becoming officers—West Point and ROTC—spend the least time in an Army officer career. Well, I was one of those.
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I remember being amused in the Army at the OCS and ROTC guys. They seemed to be enamored by the novelty of the military life compared to civilian life. We who had $250,000 of the military life shoved up our asses a nickel at a time for 47 months lost any novelty benefits long before graduation. We kind of looked on ROTC and OCS guys getting a kick out of getting saluted and wearing Corcoran Jump Boots and all that as childish. They also seemed perplexed at our lack of infatuation with the minutiae of the military. They assumed we would be the most gung ho about all that. Familiarity breeds contempt.
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Bakken also talks a lot about most top officers being academy grads. Not when I was in. There were 2 million men in just the Army then. Now it’s more like 1.3 million in the entire US military. My class was only 704 lieutenants, a distinct minority of all the second lieutenants in the Army then. We were a discriminated-against minority from my perspective. And the non-grads hated WPers like me who made no secret of eagerly looking forward to getting out. They would give their right arm to be a West Pointer and but I could “not wait to throw it away.”
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Bakken says it is now common at West Point for officers to enter a cadet room with a drug-sniffing dog. When I was a cadet, there were no drugs in the barracks. We would have winced at the very thought of such a thing. The use of drug-sniffing dogs, I think, would have been considered implying that the cadet would lie. That was frowned upon severely.

Lack of a liberal education

Bakken speaks much about the lack of, and need of, a well-rounded general or liberal education to deal with the complex 21st century wars. He thinks the service academies overemphasize STEM subjects. When it started, civil engineering was the raison d’etre of West Point. They cling to that history.
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So I may have a warped perspective. I graduated from West Point in 1968 and Harvard Business School with an MBA in 1977. Those are two unique degrees and experiences. They both produce rompin’ stompin” hard chargers. They are both extremely practical and results oriented.
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I see STEM as real education and non-stem as bull sessions with pretensions and degrees that imply more rigor than exists.
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I also think everyone ought to study basic engineering to improve logical thinking.
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But I must say that the liberal education is for me a road not taken so I am not well situated to argue with Bakken about whether liberal educated officers would make better generals. Certainly there have been zillions of ROTC officers. Look at their careers and see. The ROTC guys did not impress me when I was an officer. Their liberal educations just seems to cause them to be more ivory towerish.
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Bakken cites a survey of West Pointers about whether they thought the guys who stayed in the Army for a career were the best of each graduating class or the guys who got out ASAP were the best.
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93% said the best guys got out of the Army ASAP. I agree. The Army is a bureaucracy where generally everyone gets promoted on the same day. Starting with the rank of major, a handful of each West Point class gets promoted to major and lieutenant colonel a little early. Mainly that just identifies whom the Pentagon thinks are the crown princes of that class.
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Who wants to hang around such an organization? Hard chargers want to be they are rewarded for taking risks and succeeding. So they get out of the Army. I was one of those although the Army would say I was fired. I gave five years notice that I would be leaving the Army ASAP as soon as my five-year commitment was done. They essentially said, “you can’t quit. You’re fired” when I had about eleven months left.
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Bakken says in so many words that competent civilians outside the Army get the responsibilities of a general or admiral about ten or twelve years earlier in life.
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I would also note that much of US military service since Vietnam resembles being a fireman with no fire. Yes, there are occasional deployments. But American politicians now treat “wars” as a sort of part-time national hobby. Before Vietnam, a war was a national mobilization and sacrifice. In 1941, America went to war. In 1969, I went to war in Vietnam, but America went to the mall.
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I would agree with most of Bakken’s analysis, but I would state it simpler. The Army is a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies suck. The best leaders do not stay in a bureaucracy. They leave. The guy who stay are not likely to be great combat leaders. More like future pensioners which is probably an opposite type of person.
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Bakken mentions Ltc. Yingling. He like me, Bakken, Bruce Fletcher, Tom Ricks, Leonard Wong, Stephen Gerras, and Heffington are a collection of independent, staunch critics of the academies and the career military. Here is a link to my Yingling discussion:
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http://www.johntreed.net/Yingling.html
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Roughly speaking, we are all pretty much saying the same things—independently—which should give each of us more weight.
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I note that I have not yet seen the word “inbred” in Bakken’s book. He is sort of saying that over and over in almost identical words. Over the years I have seen and heard that word many times in discussions about West Point. When I was there, I think 90% of the instructors were WP grads.

Loyalty

Chapter 4 is titled “Supreme Values—How loyalty creates dishonesty”
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Ah! That is a big point of mine. Everyone epsouses the same values: honesty, diligence, kindness, empathy, loyalty, and so on. The key to such discussions is that you must create a HIERARCHY of those value. That hierarchy tells you how to resolve conflicts between two values.
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The word “loyalty” stems from the word “royalty.” We did away with royalty in 1776. And good riddance. When you think about it, the “customs and courtesies of the service” are a vestige of medievil royalty: calling superiors “sir” and saluting them.
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I have often said I was thrown out of the Army not for doing anything wrong but rather for lese majeste.
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Lèse-majesté (/ˌlɛzˌmæʒɛsˈteɪ/ or /ˌliːz ˈmædʒɪsti/;), a French term meaning "to do wrong to majesty", is an offence against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state. This behaviour was first classified as a criminal offence against the dignity of the Roman Republic of ancient Rome.
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In ancient times, it was not a crime to call your peer stupid, but saying the same thing to a member of the royalty WAS a crime.
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And the hierarchy of values regarding loyalty is already spelled out in the oath of office officers are required to take: The oath says you will be loyal to the Constitution of the United States, period. If you are loyal to the battalion commander, when there is a conflict between being that and being loyal to the Constitution—like signing a false document because not doing so would make the colonel look bad, you ought to be shot for violating your oath.
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The German SS had a saying that said, “My loyalty is my honor.” The Nazis all swore an oath to Hitler. That is profoundly immoral.
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But I was chewed out repeatedly for not being loyal to the company commander battalion commander when I was in the Army—for not signing false documents, not giving my “fair share” and pressuring my troops to pay their “fair share” to United Fund, not going to “command performance” (another phrase from royalty) weekend parties hosted by the battalion commander or brigade commander.

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Loyalty, when used in the context of government service or coaching or politics is almost always referring to DISloyalty to higher principles like the Constitution or the owner of the company or the interests of the party because it is used to elicit violations of the hierarchy of values.
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And I will note that this discussion goes way over the heads of the stupid people in the military and in coaching. All they know is loyalty to the boss and covering up his malfeasance, misfeasance, negligence, and screw-ups is the way you have to behave to prosper in the military or whatever other scummy organization you are in. They are too stupid to know right from wrong.
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To my amazement, Bakken says there is a list called“Seven Core Army Values” which lists loyalty first and is INTENDED to be a hierarchy. It defines loyalty as “true faith and allegiance to the IS Constitution [good], the Army, your unit [meaning the commander of your unit] and other soldiers. Bakken notes your fellow citizens—the civilians—are not in that definition.
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On pages 104-5, Bakken says,
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“When loyalty is the supreme virtue, then everything that is done in aid of it, including lying, becomes more easily accepted, even sanctioned.”
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Exactly! In fact, in the Army, loyalty means protecting your commander from any accountability for what he does or fails to do that he is supposed to do. The Constitution is an abstractions to most soldiers. And so is the Army. Your fellow soldiers are not abstract, but they are outranked by the commander, so Army loyalty means protect your commander, including breaking the law if necessary.
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Chapter 4 contains lie after lie from the Vietnam war in quotes with the date and the author. In most cases, the liar was a West Point grad and Bakken gives the name and class of each.
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He also notes that many Watergate miscreants were military veterans, although I must note that almost none of them were CAREER military. Something like 14 million Americans were US military veterans in the 1970s. None of the Watergate burglars or cover-uppers were service academy grads.
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In the more recent Iran-Contra scandal, three of the miscreants WERE career military Naval Academy graduates: Oliver North who graduated from Annapolis the same day I graduated from West Point (he started there two years before me). Robert MacFarlane, and John Poindexter.

Pat Tillman

Bakken also writes extensively about all the West Point and other career officers who lied about the killing of Pat Tillman. I wrote extensively about that. Google his name and johtreed to get links to my articles about him.
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Since the Korean War, generals and admirals who failed, were promoted, not demoted: Westmoreland '36, Abrams '36, McChrystal '76, etc. etc. Most of the main liars in the Tillman scandal were West Pointers. Abizaid and Kennsinger were also West Pointers mentioned in the Tillman incident. Congress subpoenaed Kennsinger. He hid from the process server and thereby avoided testimony.

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Some, not Bakken have said that President Bush ordered the cover-up regarding Tillman’s death. I doubt that would be possible. If I understand correctly, Bakken thinks the cover-up started several days after the death.
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I was not there, but I read everything I could get on it and saw the documentary movie about it. I assume that the officers and NCOs at the scene instantly decided to cover up what happened because they knew from decades as lifers that anything with the slightest possibility of embarrassment for the brass must instinctively be covered up and lied about.

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Bakken seems to be trying to make a comprehensive collection of all prominent lies by military brass. Great. I have also talked about many of them but Bakken is better about exact quotes and footnotes (78 pages of footnotes in the book). And he has gathered them into one place. One he missed, but belongs, is the recording that was made of a marine officer telling his men to falsify maintenance records on the troubled Osprey vertical take off and landing aircraft.
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https://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=94342&page=1

Intentional

A recurring theme in Tim Bakken’s book is that those culpable for incompetently killing Americans, allies, or innocent civilians are always exonerated on the grounds that they did not do it intentionally.

In fact, neither civilian nor military law requires criminal intent. Negligence and recklessness are also crimes, as in civilian first-degree murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, and so on.
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You know who IS punished? Those who investigate and dare to name the guilty. They always get retaliated against.
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When I was staying at The Union Theological seminary one weekend in conjunction with visiting my oldest son when he was at Columbia University in NYC, the clerk checking me in and I got talking about this sort of thing. He said, “If you SEE the problem, you ARE the problem.”
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That is exactly the way the US military operates in investigations.
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I am a case in point. I refused to sign a false motor vehicle report in my unit in Vietnam. Signing false documents is a routine daily practice on all weekdays throughout the US military worldwide. So what happened when I refused to go along? They prevented me from being promoted to Captain. They discharged me a year early against my will. (honorable discharge with severance pay—I did not want to stay in the Army, only to fulfill my five-year commitment from graduating from West Point.)
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In between my refusal and my discharge, they punished me by sending me to a more forward unit and had me ride up and down 60-mile Route 13 in III the Corps area.
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Once, my platoon sergeant and I drove through a North Vietnamese ambush. I concluded, and my sergeant apparently agreed, that my battalion commander was trying to get me killed or captured—and could not care less if the sergeant was also killed or captured in the process.
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They overdid it by making me drive in a lone jeep. The NVA let us pass and ambushed a truck convoy behind us.
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When we got back to base, my sergeant invoked sole-surviving son and was immediately sent home. His replacement never had to drive me on that road. The new drill was the bn commander would take me out to Fire Base Wade 5 km from the Cambodian border in his chopper, then he would fly back to the battalion with empty seats in the chopper and make me hitchhike the 60 miles back to battalion. It took me three days each of the many times he did it. It was kind of a skill, like being homeless, and I got better at it on each trip.

‘Vague’

Bakken says the brass at West Point declared all sorts of vague things a person might say as illegal. The words used were extremely broad and vague. Vague laws are unconstitutional. They are also favorites of dictators.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagueness_doctrine
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I was thrown out of the Army for “defective attitude.” When they handed e those papers, I went straight to the post UCMJ law library to see what the definition of “defective attitude” was. There was no definition.
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I could have appealed the verdict to a US District Court, where I would have said “defective attitude” has no definition. It is a blank check clause to get rid of whomever they want whenever they want. But in the event, I decided I wanted to get on with my life and did not want to have to pay a lawyer for years of litigation. And I could not win any money other than perhaps about one year of first lieutenant pay, which is far less than attorney pay.
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The other things I was accused of were “failure to keep pace with contemporaries” (not getting promoted to captain How do I prove I WAS promoted to captain?), a “downward trend of overall performance indicating the officer has reached the zenith of his potential” (actually OERS of 60, 40, 9, 7 and 92 indicate the raters all hated your guts, but since the last one was 92, it would appear just going on the scores, that I had made a spectacular improvement in the most recent months) and “unwillingness to expend effort.” In view of the fact that I was a West Point grad, airborne, ranger and the three board members were none of the above, and I also volunteered for a LRRP unit in Vietnam and volunteered for Vietnam itself, I thought it was so nice of them to find me “not guilty” of unwillingness to expend effort.”

On June 6, 2019, a cadet was killed in a truck rollover at West Point Bakken says the Superintendent immediately slapped a gag order on everyone at West Point. At the time, I was outraged, reading between the lines of the limited public reports based on my knowledge of West Point, I said it sounded like an irresponsible jerk enlisted man was hot rodding in high weeds on a firebreak in a deuce and a half and that he drove off a cliff or steep hill because he could not see the ground where he was driving. The cadets had admonished him to knock it off.
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Apparently, I was right because the driver was charged with involuntary manslaughter in September 2019.
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In October 2019, a cadet checked out an operable military rifle from the museum and disappeared. The academy slapped a gag order on everyone and said he was not a danger and probably has no ammo. He came back to the academy and shot himself dead with that gun. I never previously heard about that one.
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Bakken tells how two civilian instructors at the Naval Academy, Bruce Fleming and James Barry were retaliated against by the brass there for complaining about misbehavior at the academy.
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He also told of a civilian instructor Chris Mullin at the US Air Force Academy who complained about four dozen instructors there not having masters degrees in the subject they were teaching and about evangelicals proselytizing cadets and others. Mullin got fired and filed lawsuits. His service dog was poisoned while the dog was locked in his office. The Academy had to admit falsifying the credentials of the four dozen and replace those instructors. Mullin was ordered to be rehired, but that did not work out and he agreed to an out-of-court settlement.
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On page 159, Bakken tells about Petraeus (West Point class of 1973) lying about revealing secret documents to Paula Broadwell (West Point ’95) his lover and biographer. The two lovers were also married to others at the time. Petraeus did not lose his $220,000 military pension. Broadwell got demoted to major in the reserves.
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A gaggle of service academy types produced the light punishment of Petraeus and Broadwell: John McHugh (West Point board of visitors member for 14 years), Stephen Hedger (WP '99), Senator Jack Reed (WP '71), Senator John McCain (USNA '59). I was Senator Jack Reed’s platoon sergeant in July 1967 when he was a New Cadet.
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https://www.johntreed.com/…/69900739-yes-i-am-a-west-point-…
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Bakken reports that, in spite of his admitted lying, Petraeus is still revered by West Point and that cadets on official trips visit his civilian offices in DC and attend lectures by him in NYC. Petraeus also visits West Point and has official interactions with cadets in an instructional manner.
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Bakken relates how Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki honestly saying how many troops were needed in Iraq and promptly got urged to retire, which he did. Shinseki was a senior at West Point when I was a freshman.
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I have raised hell against Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson (WP '33) for not resigning in protest over the way the Vietnam war was conducted. His son was one of my classmates. At graduation, General Johnson was the speaker and handed me my diploma. Bakken reports that Johnson admitted profound regret over his lack of moral courage during the Vietnam war.
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He claimed he was being patriotic. I said he was protecting his status as a big shot general. Tens of thousands of Americans died in Vietnam as a result, as well as millions of Vietnamese on both sides.
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https://johntreed.com/…/79773507-the-november-1965-momentar…
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Lieutenant General Henry R. McMaster was Trump’s National Security Advisor briefly. The impression of why McMaster left was that Trump did not meet McMaster’s high standards. He wrote a book that I like based on Bakken’s description. It’s called Dereliction of Duty.
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It says the greatest sin of the Vietnam war was LBJ and Secretary of Defense imposing a no-win strategy on the military. I agree. And he says the second greatest sin was the joint chiefs not resigning in protest. That is what I said in the link two paragraphs above.
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But I gotta question for Lieutenant General (three stars) McMaster (West Point ’80) and for Colonel Stephen Gerras (West Point ’80) and Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Wong (West Point ’82) who wrote the book Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession, which I think is great.
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So how the hell did you three guys reach the ranks of Lieutenant General (O-9), Colonel (O-6), and Lieutenant Colonel (O-5)? I could not get past O-2. We were told informally at West Point that we could not take the honor code with us into the Army. I resolved that I would defy that advice. I did not even get promoted to captain which was automatic after two years then.
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I will answer my own question. You guys played the freaking game, the game that I was ordered to play, that I steadfastly refused to play. And playing the game means you did precisely the stuff you so correctly condemn in your books.
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Better late than never, but your self-hagiographies are missing required confessionals.
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Around page 166, Bakken has a collection of high ranking retired officers who very much regret sinning by silence when they should have protested. They regret all the guys who died. How nice of them.
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I have no such regrets. I also never had captain’s bars. I just had my little silver bar of moral courage: my first lieutenant’s bar.
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I have a suggestion for them. Put on your uniform which you are entitled by law to wear if you retired, and volunteer to be a survivor assistance officer. Those are the guys who go to the door of the next of kin of a KIA or missing military person and tell them their next of kin is dead or missing. You guys are responsible for the deaths of a prior era. Stop making lieutenants do it.
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I never had that duty. Maybe they were afraid I would not be inhibited about what I said. But most of my classmates had it. Maybe if generals had to do that once or twice, they WOULD stop sinning by silence when they should protest—instead of waiting until they got all their promotions and pension to confess their culpability is thousands of deaths.

Chapter 6 of Tim Bakken’s book.

This is a list of one flag officer (general or admiral) scandal after another, many of them adultery or sexual harassment. The same pattern again and again. The military protects itself, punishment is zero to non-existent, and apparently there is no offense so serious that it takes away a general’s pension—typically around $200,00 a year.
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One scandal—named Fat Leonard after the nickname of the payer of the bribes—was massive and involved all sorts of naval admirals getting plain old bribes of sex and booze and concert tickets in return for approving padded invoices from an Asian supplier of services to US Navy ships in the Pacific.
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Vice Admiral Ted Branch was director of naval intelligence (all lower case in the book). He lost his security clearance but not his job. But he was unable to attend meetings or enter subordinates’ office until the classified information was hidden.
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WTF?
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He retired with no demotion in rank.
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Bakken, a lawyer and law professor at West Point, make much of the fact that the military has its own separate justice system where they are prosecutor, judge, and jury. He says the result is they soft pedal everything to protect the military reputation and to protect the pensions and other perks of being generals or admirals or retired generals or admirals.
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Letters of censure that are not made public unless requested under the Freedom of Information Act are a popular “consequence” of getting caught accepting valuable gifts, sex, lavish dinners, lavish travel, and so on.
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Furthermore, DOJ, not the Navy, did the prosecuting. One of the prosecutees, Vice Admiral Michael Miller, was promoted to superintendent of the U.S, Naval Academy AFTER being prosecuted! While he was superintendent, a change of command ceremony for the new Chief of Naval Operations took place at Annapolis, the alma mater of the old and new CNOs. Fat Leonard, the briber, was invited, attended, and was photographed palling around with the grads. The CNO is the head of the whole Navy.
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On page 178, Baken starts relating tales of public drunkenness in Moscow and a Swiss airport by the general in charge of nuclear ICBM. When drunk, he publicly brags loudly about how he is in charge of preventing nuclear war every day.
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Another scandal revealed that nuclear tipped missiles were maintained by technicians who cheated on their proficiency exams for decades. Seventy-eight sailors on nuke subs were found to be cheating on their tests.
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$100 million was lost in a recruiting scandal. $7,500 bonuses were paid to persons who recruited national guard members. What actually happened was that recruiters gave the recipients of the bonuses names of persons who joined on their own initiative and the bonus recipients falsely claimed to have recruited those persons and kicked back half of the bonus to the recruiter who gave them the recruit’s name.
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Female students at service academies are sexually harassed at a much higher rate than are female students at civilian colleges. I graduated from West Point in 1968. The first women entered the service academies in July 1976 and graduated in 1980.
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I was shocked that there was ANY sexual harassment at West Point. But having been told about it, I can see how the cadet chain of command might lead to it. Freshmen have to call upper classmen “sir” or “ma’am” and follow their orders. Upperclassmen are in positions like company commander, platoon leader, squad leader over freshmen and other upper classmen. Also, all cadets are rated by their classmates and upperclassmen in their company. Those ratings determine whether a cadet gets rank themselves during the four years and your class rank. West Point class rank—which is based on everything, not just grades in academic—affects you your whole career whenever you tie for something like getting post quarters.
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Bakken relates an Air Force Academy “jody cadence” in which cadets while marching chant in unison a ditty about using a chain saw to cut a woman in two and keep the bottom half and give the top to you. Later in the book he has three such misogynist West Point “Jody cadences.”
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Believe it or not, the service academies are not subject to TItle IX or the Clery Act. Title IX is about equal treatment of females and males. The Clery Act requires that all campus crimes be reported.
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Congress passed a separate law requiring annual surveys of female service academy students. In 2004, it showed that 10% of them had been raped! But only one sixth of them were reported as crimes. In 2019, the US military only prosecuted 300 of 6,000 sexual assault reports. And there is much reason to believe that a high percentage of sexual assaults are not being reported because of retaliation.
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I have written about the intractable misbehavior rates regarding sexual harassment and said they need to go back to separate chains of command for males and females as it was when I was in the military. The problem rate then was far smaller as far as I know. Co-ed chains of command simply have not worked in spite of 45 years of trying. Enough!
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Lawyer Bakken thinks the whole line of cases that give the military a separate legal system needs to be undone. A key decision is Parker v. Levy. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/417/733/
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According to 21st century DOJ and Pentagon studies, females at the service academies are five times more likely to be the target of a sexual assault than are females at civilian colleges. Compared with 2017-8, sexual assaults at West Point in 2019 went up 112% to one in every four female cadets.
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Bakken tells of an AFA cadet who became an undercover agent for federal investigators investigating illegal drugs, illegal drug dealing, and sexual assaults. While he was a cadet, a new Superintendent and commandant took over. After being briefed about his undercover work, they expelled him six weeks before graduation for violating the honor code—required by definition in undercover work and for getting into a fight. The fight was stopping a recruited basketball playing cadet from raping an unconscious drunk female cadet. The would-be rapist was convicted of attempted unwanted sexual contact and sentenced to six months in jail.
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One female AFA cadet who tried but failed to get justice after she was raped by a male cadet said, “My rapist is flying planes. I’ll never get to.”
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Throughout scandals at service academies, even going back to when I was a cadet, recruited athletes are disproportionately represented among the ranks of the miscreants. When I was a cadet, the scandals were only cheating on tests. More recently, they are more likely illegal drug use and dealing and sexual assaults. Honor code scandals have more or less disappeared because they became so numerous that the academies simply lowered the standards and made the punishments so lenient that they have been defined out of existence.
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On page 198, Bakken tells a very scary story about how he was suddenly hassled by a guard at the West Point gate when he drove on post. Frisked, threatened, falsely accused. Sounds like some harassment ordered by the professor’s superiors because of his various dissensions described in this book. It sounded like he was getting hassled by some border guard in a third world country looking for a bribe—and this happened across the street from the Hotel Thayer at West Point, the United States Military Academy. I shake my head at the reverence I had for that place when I entered at age 17.
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The part I am reading now suggest that former military are overrepresented in the ranks of the police and mass shooters.
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A. The US military MUST make its members violent as part of basic training, especially the Army and Marine infantry. When I was a cadet, the student body at West Point was a bunch of suburban teacher’s pets. A West Point platoon leader may have to lead his men in close combat against a military enemy including hand-to-hand combat, and win. Twenty of my classmates died in Vietnam, most in that scenario.
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B. We got the following to transform us from nice boys to killers: bayonet fighting, boxing, wrestling, hand-to-hand combat in PE, hand-to-hand combat at Camp Buckner, pugil stick fighting, qualifying on the M-14 rifle, familiarization firing of the M-16, AK-47, .45 cal pistol, .50 cal machine gun, M-60 machine gun, bazooka, howitzers, tank cannons, hand grenade practice, demolition, use of mines and neutralizing them. We also had a lot of training to build courage in survival swimming, the confidence course, slide for life, and gymnastics. We also conducted many infantry assaults against “aggressors” during summer training. That was altogether fitting and proper, and effective.
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C. The best test of whether US veterans are overly prone to inappropriate use of violence was the late 1940s. 13 million men were in the US military in WW II and they killed millions of enemy and civilians during that war. I was born in 1946 and I do not remember any of the mass shootings that we have had lately.
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D. The recent mass shootings have occurred simultaneously with a dramatic fall in other gun violence in the US. Obviously, the mass shootings are copy cat responses of losers with grievances who want the vast media attention they lately receive for mass shootings.
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E. To the extent that there is more inappropriate violence at West Point today, I would expect it traces more to admitting “at risk” youths for political identity group politics and to “developmental” leniency by Academy officials refraining excessively from expelling “at risk” project failures. “17 strikes and you’re out” is not working.

Pillow fight ‘tradition’ quotes

Bakken relates a 2015 “traditional” pillow fight that injured cadets. That was not a tradition when I was there. Furthermore, the pillow cases originally contained soft things like pillows. In 2015, the cadets stupidly put heavier objects and those cadets who did or allowed that should have been expelled. West Point in the late 1900s and the 21st century is run too much to please the college ratings at Forbes and US News and they downgrade a college for too many freshmen not graduating. As a consequence, West Point is ranking higher as a college because it graduates more bums who should have been flushed out. Bakken says the authorities knew about it as evidenced by having ambulances parked next to the barracks in anticipation of the injuries.
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Just before I was a cadet, my uncle Jack was an assistant manager at the West Point Hotel Thayer. He once asked some cadets to help him move a sofa. An officer saw it and rushed over to order them to stop. He was concerned that one or more might be injured. So the officers at West Point have lost their minds if they are now encouraging traumatic injuries. They did NOT do that in the 1960s.
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Caslen was the superintendent for this and too many other misbehaviors. I have heard he was popular with cadets. My impression is Caslen’s relationship with old grads like us was one of mutual contempt and hatred. I would welcome his court martial but I will not hold my breath.
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Caslen said the pillow fight was never officially sanctioned—except for the ambulances?—but that it would have henceforth be prohibited.
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Bakken thinks concussions in boxing, which is required at all three service academies, mean boxing should be ended. I tend to disagree. Boxing teaches a crucial combat lesson: hit or be hit. There is no other way to teach it other than mandatory tackle football for all cadets. Football also has concussions.
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As far as I know, boxing has been required at West Point since the 1890s. Bakken says it results in some cadets leaving West Point due to the concussion. I have never heard of such a thing happening either when I was a cadet or before or after.
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Bakken mentions the hazing scandal of the late 1890s, where MacArthur testified before Congress. There was generally no hazing when I was there. The hazing that happened was individual upperclassmen misbehaving. Generally, I would expect they would be privately admonished to knock it off by their classmates. I was in Second Regiments which has a reputation of being the second easiest on freshman. Fourth regiment was supposedly the easiest and First and Third, the hardest. So my perspective might not be representative.
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So the 1890s were irrelevant to analyzing current West Point when I was there. Cadets are college kids, they must be supervised by officers or they will do stupid things like the “pillow fight.”
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Bakken sees the rapes and sexual assaults as part of a fondness for violence. I have zero experience with rapes and sexual assaults so I cannot corroborate or reject that. Hazing to me is just the  Zimbardo or Lucifer effect.
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lucifer_Effect
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Bakken criticizes former Army Quarterback Nate Sassaman who was a bad ass in Iraq. I did too,
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https://johntreed.com/…/63557123-john-t-reed-s-review-of-na…
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Bakken says out treatment of prisoners and others in the Mideast is a manifestation of too much inappropriate violence in the military and the Military Academy. I condemn the torture and mistreatment of civilians, but I see it as partly our fault for not controlling the behavior of our people enough, and partly the result of our merely being in a region—the Mideast—where we do not understand and cannot understand the culture. I have said if the MidEast was a person, we would institutionalize him. My simple solution is to remove all federal government employees including military from the Mideast. It is a dysfunctional tar baby. I am not aware of any systemic problems with the way our troops treat Europeans, Canadians, South Americans or Asians.
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I oppose torture and waterboarding and all that. Not interested in the “What if he knew how to stop an impending explosion that would hurt many?” In fact, no such situation seems to have happened. Instead, people get tortured on the suspicion or pretext of that. It does help terrorists recruit. I do not know if 21st century West Point is encouraging that behavior, but they are not doing enough to discourage it.

Abu Grhaib

Bakken mentions Abu Ghraib. That was awful. All the officers got off. Only enlisted men were prosecuted and they were punished for doing what their officers told them to do. Unforgivable.
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There was a rare instance of moral courage in Abu Ghraib: Major General Antonio Taguba. He investigated Abu Ghraib and delivered an honest report. He is not a West Point grad. The Army response, Taguba told journalist Seymour Hersch, “I’d been in the Army 32 years by them, and it was the first time I thought I was in the Mafia.” I know the feeling. So does Bakken.

No Gun Ri

Bakken relates the true story of No Gun Ri, Korean location where America deliberately killed lots of civilians on the suspicion that some might be enemy spies or saboteurs. It was a horrible war crime, originally denied for years by the U.S. I suspect the wide gap between East and West was a part of that and other massacres like My Lai.
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That is no excuse. It is a reason to keep US soldiers out of such places as much as possible. That is a two-way street. The Japanese treated our POWs and the British abominably.

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Another problem which Bakken may never have experienced is the problem of enemy and innocents intermingling. A US patrol goes out. Villagers wave at them in a friendly manner, suddenly, the Americans walk into a minefield and die.
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Do they want to kill the villagers who watched the mines get planted? Yep. Anybody would.You had this in Vietnam and in the Mideast. Bakken correctly recites our violations of the rules of war. Wearing civilian clothes as the enemy did in Vietnam and the Mideast is also a violation of the rules of war. We even have blue-on-blue murders in the Mideast, where one of our uniformed allies suddenly machine guns or blows us up. Again, my solution is for us to stay out of such regions.

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As elsewhere in Bakken’s book, the basic facts of No Gun Ri are followed by the now familiar denials, cover-ups, lies, lost documents, and reluctant grudging minimalizing admissions by the US Army.
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I also oppose strategic bombing—bombing cities—that we did in WW II in both Europe and Japan. However, we cannot allow our enemies to use hostages, human shields, and collateral damage to avoid our fire.
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In my Unelected President novel, “President Medlock” says to use the smallest munition adequate and available, but to disregard hostages, human shields, and collateral damage. “Smallest” is to minimize civilian casualties, but “disregard hostages, human shields, and collateral damage” because otherwise it is impossible to win wars.

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I saw up close the effects of our letting the enemy have sanctuary in Cambodia. I also saw the absolute cessation of all fire in my area—III Corps—after we did a surprise invasion of Cambodia. I heard enemy incoming and our outgoing fire regularly before we invaded Cambodia; nothing afterward.
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We had to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the Japanese gave us no alternative that would have involved fewer casualties. Those two bombs saved Americans from the Japanese and saved many Japanese from their own government’s mindless, stubborn, suicidal, Samurai virtues.

Anthony Herbert

On page 226 of his book The Cost of Loyalty, Tim Bakken cites Ltc Anthony Herbert as an honest reporter of misbehavior by American soldiers and a highly decorated soldier from the Korean War who also served in Vietnam.
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I remember him being on Dick Cavett and other TV shows. He seemed to make similar criticisms as I was making and exulted in tweaking the brass. My roommate at the time, who had also been my roommate at West Point asked me what I thought of the guy.
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“I agree with what he is saying, but how the hell did he get to be a lieutenant colonel?”
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As Bakken relates, 60 Minutes did an episode on Herbert. They also did an episode in 1986 using me about “Nothing Down” real estate gurus. My producer Norman Gorin was also a producer of the Herbert segment. I asked him about it.
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He said they believed him when they started and expected to make him a hero in the segment. But that they are solid journalists and check all the facts. They were shocked when the people to whom they talked refuted Herbert.
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I saw the segment and it was the most devastating ambush interview 60 Minutes ever did. They would ask Hebert about an incident. He would relate what happened, then they would bring from an adjacent room the junior officer in question, and he would refute what Herbert said. It just blew Herbert’s credibility to smithereens.
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Herbert sued in the case of Herbert v. Lando. It was dismissed by a federal appeals court who said the 60 Minutes episode was essentially correct and that the only issues in doubt were too minor to warrant a trial.
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Bakken claims Herbert was a truth teller and the Army discredited him. I do not know if Bakken saw the 60 Minutes segment. Or Herbert’s many TV appearances on various shows. I have no superior knowledge about the incident. I would refer Bakken to Norman Gorin if he has not talked to him.
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Herbert appeared on Groucho Mark’s TV show You Bet Your Life in the 50s, an early seeking attention. After the My Lai massacre got huge attention, Herbert reported a number of similar war crimes.
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Herbert, a non-college grad, said the West Point Protection Society did not receive his reports well. I never heard about the “Society” from West Pointers. I think non-WestPoint officer assume such an organization exists. When I was in, the first general promotion list with more non-West Point than West Point came out. I was never rated or commanded by a West Pointer as my immediate superior.
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The Army Chief of staff from 74 to 76 was a Cal Berkeley grad. The COS from 91 to 95 was from Norwich U. From 2003 to 2007, the COS was a U of WY grad. The COS from 2007 to 2011 was rejected by West Point and graduated from Georgetown. The current COS is a Princeton grad. So the WPPA is somewhat less powerful than one might expect.
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Bakken has looked into Herbert more than I did. Bakken is a lawyer. I am not. But I am as skeptical as Bakken of the Army. I found Herbert the frequent TV guest to be a bit too cute, a bit too anti-Army for a lieutenant colonel who had played the game for decades in the Army. My sense of him was he was an attention seeker and saw the My Lai scandal and an invitation for him to become an overnight media hero. His accusations may have been accurate, but his purity as a totally innocent witness who had no culpability I do not believe. And I have great confidence in Norman Gorin my 60 Minutes producer. I think Bakken should try to see all the TV appearances of Herbert. The overall impression is Avenatti-esque.

My Lai

Tim Bakken’s the Cost of Loyalty book covers the My Lai massacre which was worse than I thought, and I thought it was horrible. The platoon leader got life in prison, but the tp brass including the president kept reducing it. Why could they not just leave it alone?
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The whole platoon should have gotten life in prison.
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The Platoon leader Calley ultimately spent five months in jail and three and a half years in house arrest in a house at Fort Benning.
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Military author Tom Ricks said General Koster, the top cover-up guy in the My Lai massacre was the worst American general since Benedict Arnold. Koster, West Point ’42, was demoted to one-star general, fired from being superintendent of West Point, and stripped of the Distiguished Service Medal he was awarded for his command of the Americal Division, which did the My Lai massacre.
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The Army said his cover-up of the massacre was not intentional. That’s a goddamned lie.

Kerrey’s SEALs at Thanh Phong

Bakken also says SEAL commander John Kerrey, later a US senator presided over a near identical atrocity at a village called Thanh Phong. I do not believe Kerrey or any others present were punished at all.
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In November 2018, SEALs murdered an American Green beret assigned to their team, apparently because he reported them for misbehavior and because he went to an embassy party and did not take them.
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In 2019, SEAL Eddie Gallagher reportedly murdered a boy. Another SEAL was given total immunity for testimony. That SEAL, after receiving immunity, said the HE committed the murder, not Eddie Gallagher, so Gallagher got off, as did the SEAL who had immunity. Trump released Gallagher from pre-trial confinement. Gallagher is the son of a West Point graduate.
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The Navy gave it prosecutors an Achievement medal for “expert litigation” and “superb results.” Trump rescinded them.

Thank God I was not around any war crimes

Reading Tim Bakken’s book is making me feel enormous relief that I got out of the Army without being involved in some war crime. It sounds like the more gung ho and the more elite the infantry unit is, namely regular infantry, marine infantry, parachute infantry, rangers, SEALs, the greater the chance the group will commit some war crime and kill you if you rat them out.
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I chose Signal Corps, but I also chose the 82nd Airborne Division and Vietnam as my four months later assignment. You need to stay away from the soldiers coming in contact with civilians. That is where the war crimes happen.
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So my first freaking assignment was communications platoon leader in the 3rd of the 504th INFANTRY. Fortunately, we stayed at Fort Bragg. We could have deployed.
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I then went to Vietnam. I was supposed to be in D company 75th Rangers, a long-range reconnaissance patrol unit at II FF. Did they commit war crimes? Probably not. They ambushed enemy on trails in the boondocks. No civilians around. But one of my WP classmates arrived the day before me. He got the slot I requested and was sent to Vietnam to fill. So they put me in a signal battalion at Plantation post. No war crimes. Rear area (corps headquarters).
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Then they sent me to a mixed heavy artillery battalion to punish me for refusing to sign a motor pool false document. I may have witnessed a war crime at the artillery battalion, but it was remote and I was not a member of that artillery battery. I was sort of a visiting radio repair guy.
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The bn cmdr made me stay overnight there just to harass me more. So this is Fire Base Wade 5 km from the Cambodian border in the Fish Hook area on route 13. You can google that and see war photos of it. About 4 self-propelled huge guns inside a berm and barbed wire. They only fired in the middle of the night—every night.
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Why are they firing? Because the corps artillery commander had bar charts showing how many rounds each unit fired. Each battalion commander wanted his bar to be the longest. In the mess hall, I asked another officer, “What are you firing at?” “H&I,” (harassment and interdiction—in other words, just firing into the dark on the off chance it might bother an enemy) he said, “But we can’t call it that any more.” Why not? “We have to say it’s a confirmed target like a bunker or enemy troops. We call the South Vietnamese Army for clearance, but they always just immediately say yes without making any effort to make sure there are no civilians there.” So you could be blowing up some farmer, his family, and his water buffalo? He shrugs.
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But we were not in the physical presence of the civilians which is where the war crimes are KNOWINGLY committed.

Support branch

I thought about choosing a support branch at West Point I could have had the last Military Intelligence slot. The guy just behind me said he was ready to kiss me when I said “signal corps.” The problem with an able-bodied cadet like me choosing a support branch was that they almost certainly would have detailed me to the infantry for two years and that could have put me into a war crime. Cadets with permanent injuries could pick a support branch and go straight to it—no being detailed for two years to the infantry.
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If I had all that to do over, I would have picked Air Defense Artillery. They did not have to go to ranger. And I would have picked Germany as my first assignment. Choosing Germany would have delayed my arriving at the war or maybe even prevented it.
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No airborne—those “elite” morons are probably more likely to get involved with war crimes. 
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I was actually IN the only ADA unit in Vietnam to be their commo platoon leader, but they threw me out after 20 minutes. The battalion Commander told me about ten times that all the ADA officers in the Army wanted to be in that unit to get their combat ticket punched. Then he said, “Well, do you want the job?” I said it sounds like a career guy should get it and I was not a career guy.
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In Vietnam, they pointed their .50 cal and 20mm guns horizontal to the ground and put them on the corners of bases for defense against ground attack. In the states, ADA units then were in civilized places like El Paso and other major metro areas. As a young bachelor that would have been much preferable to Forts Benning, Bragg, and Gordon, although with the signal corps, I spent all my non-Vietnam unit time at Fort Monmouth, NJ almost within sight of NYC.
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Stay away from being a boot on the ground in a combat area. Especially stay away from boot on the ground in a gung ho unit like the SEALs, Marines, paratroopers. They seem more inclined to do macho stuff like war crimes.
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Air-to-ground weapons like helicopter gunships also seem to get into a lot of war crime and friendly-fire trouble. It is hard to verify targets a long distance away and they seem really trigger happy and too eager to shoot at enemy.
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I am also extremely grateful none of my three sons had anything to do with the military. I told them not to, but boys do not always listen to their fathers. Thank God they DID listen on that score.
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Let me make sure readers understand the problem. Units in combat danger on a daily basis and in contact with lots of civilians tend to regard the civilians as the enemy, which they may be, or accomplices of the enemy, which they also may be. American die and the surviving Americans get really pissed. The units are often too big on proving their manhood by killing people.
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So you want to do the right thing, but your buddies start shooting or raping. What do you do? Join in? If you don’t, they may ask what’s up with you and start wondering if you are going to rat them out as they would put it. They can kill you. They can get together and rat YOU out claiming that you killed the people that THEY killed. The war crime may have happened in the dark, or in a rural area where there were no witnesses.
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If you go to West Point, you could easily be swept up into such a situation. If you are already there, when you have an control over your situation, avoid combat areas and the infantry and the elite units where they have tattoos bragging about killing. e.g., “Killing is our business and business is good.”
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Tim Bakken’s The Cost of Loyalty is an indictment of West Point, where he has worked for 20 years, and the US military. It is extremely thoroughly documented. The text is 290 pages plus there are 78 pages of footnotes.
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One major shock to me is that the cadets at West Point now contain a lot of dummies and a lot of criminals.
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One of my West Point roommates asked if I thought things were the same when we were cadets in 1964-8.
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I do not. West Point was highly prestigious then. The movie The Long Gray Line came out in 1955. West Point had its own prime time TV series in 1956 and 1957 called West Point or The West Point Story. Each episode was a dramatization of a recent true story about cadets. Actors who appeared in the series included Chuck Connors, Steve McQueen, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Vaughn. Gene Roddenberry was one of the writers. Typically, Annapolis copied it with a series titled Men of Annapolis.
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Hollywood is not an objective academic standard, but it was a measure of the general status of the of the academies.
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When the subject came up when I was in high school, a lot of grown-ups seemed to know a grad who had been class president, football team captain, and maybe valedictorian in high school. Indeed, when I got there, my roommate was all those things. He later became the dean of West Point around 2000. Another of my roommates at West Point, my best man, was also captain of his high school’s cross country team, swim team, and track team. He was elected to the highest office boys could get at his school, 16th in his class, and “most likely to succeed.”
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West Point has an annual brochure about all those high school stars. And when I got there they were my classmates. So that was affirmation that the quality of the cadets was actually higher than we expected.
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My SAT scores then were 98th percentile. Just before graduation from West Point, we had to take the GRE. I got a 780 our of 800. I actually figured out the answer to the last question and was about to mark it when the officer yelled “cease work” which is an instant command there.
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My class rank in high school as 33rd I believe out of 388 at an excellent school. I later scored 99th percentile on the ATGSB (MBA) and LSAT (law school) grad school tests. My scores on those two tests made me eligible for Mensa, a club of people in the top 2% in IQ. But my high standard test scores did not keep me from being 473rd out of 706 at graduation from West Point. So I saw no evidence that I was with the sort of dummies depicted in Bakken’s book.
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We had a ton on bull sessions there. We literally could not leave the gates. We complained about all sorts of stupidity, like having to form up 20 minutes before each parade. But I never heard anyone say, “You know I don’t think the other cadets are as smart as I expected.”
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The closest we ever got to that was joking about the supposed “cut man” in each class—the dumbest starting football player. The rumor was if you did better than him you would not flunk out. But I must say that neither of the the two class goats I knew were football players.
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After graduation a ton of us went to grad schools and often top schools. I am one of 23 in my class to go to Harvard Business for an MBA. We have tons of classmates who went to Harvard Law, Harvard MPA, Stanford. So to this day I have never heard the slightest indication that our class was anything other than top high school students.
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Bakken makes much of the fact that our instructors were recent West Point grads who had gone to grad school and got a masters degree and were then teaching us the subject they got the degree in. He thinks it is terrible that they did not have PhDs and that they were only there a couple of years. I would protest that my Ivy League son had mass classes with grad students whose English was so hard to understand that he stopped going to those classes. At West Point we always had 10 to 15 to a class room and all they did was teach; no research or publishing.
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I do not believe there was any affirmative action for blacks at West Point when I was there. Only nine graduated in my class. I do not think they had affirmative action in admission or academics. I think my black classmates DID benefit from affirmative action in the 1970s and 1980s in the Army. General Colin Powell admitted that. Latinos at West Point were “white” in terms of any discussion. They were not believed to need any help.
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The affirmative action there now is so obvious and extreme that it is a joke among WP grads. We also had almost no blacks on the football team when I was a cadet. Zero when I was a freshman. I think a later class had one when I was a cadet. In fact, I do not know if it’s the same guy, but one of my Facebook friends has that guy’s name.
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We also had no criminals when I was a cadet. There was an honor scandal one year where a bunch of guys got thrown out, many athletes.
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So I do not believe the deterioration in the quality of cadets that Bakken depicts was the case in 1964-8. Bakken arrived at West Point in 2000. I would say the West Point of 1964 to 8—both the cadets and the institution—were as depicted in the West Point TV series (you can buy those episodes on a DVD—I have it) and in the movie The Long Gray Line. It was as advertised, as the American people believed.
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I will try to summarize Tim Bakken’s The Cost of Loyalty book. It is an important book.
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The service academies (West Point, Annapolis, and Air Force) student bodies consisting of smart top leaders in war is an outdated notion. The military officer corps and the service academies have morphed into unselective, insular, careerist, bastions of ineptitude where the highest virtue is loyalty to your boss and to the military lifer community.
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Compounding the problem is we have become a nation of draft dodgers who neither know the above nor are willing to criticize the military. Indeed, the military is now the most trusted institution in America. I could not find it in the book but something like 70% of Americans trust the military. Trust of the courts, Congress, President, and so on are way lower. Americans are wrong about that. The US military is corrupt and inept. What war have they ever won?
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The three service academies should be closed or repurposed. They take way too much time and money to produce second lieutenants and the officers thus produced are not perceptibly better than the ones produced much more cheaply and faster by ROTC and OCS. None of the sources of commission has won a war since 1945.
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Loyalty pushes out competence at winning wars and honesty about the performance of military career officers.
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This profound violation of the officers’ oaths is greatly aided and abetted the military being given its own judicial system where the lifer officers are prosecutors, judge, and jury.
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The paramount de facto goal of the military judicial system is to protect any high ranking officers from being embarrassed, protect the officer corps from being embarrassed, to protect officers from losing their pensions, protecting the the senior NCO and officer corps from ever being punished for anything. All malfeasance is excused as not intentional, even when it WAS intentional and offenses where the standard is negligence or recklessness are treated as if those standards do not exist.
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You saw that with Hillary’s emails. Comey said she did not have the required intent to expose secrets even though the statute explicitly said intent was not required. Carelessness was also a violation.
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The military career officer corps needs to be radically reformed to become transparent and competent and accountable for failure and misbehavior.
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Military leader ranks have been hurt by a significant lowering of IQ and behavior standards, especially among so-called “at-risk” low-IQ and criminal minorities recruited in spite of their lack of qualifications in order to fulfill Democrat party identity group quotas and to acquire football and basketball players who are competitive at the top NCAA level. but whom West Point and the other academies cannot recruit without accepting persons who are not officer material by virtue of low IQ and/or criminal records. “At risk” and “developmental” are new, euphemisyms for substandard IQ and/or behavior.
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The military has the wrong weapons, no coherent strategies for actual war fighting, and lacks the intelligence or motivation to correct the situation.
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Has anything worked in the military since 1945? Yes. The Inchon landing in North Korea. US airpower has generally produced air superiority if not air supremacy. US submarines work as a deterrent—I think. Won’t know until we try to use them.
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Smart bombs work. Drones work. Satellites and GPS and lasers work. Snipers work. B-52 Arc Light strikes work when we have air supremacy; not when the enemy can shoot down the B-52s. LRRPs worked in Vietnam. Taking away the enemy’s Cambodian sanctuary worked. (I was there.) Cyber warfare works. Financial sanctions work. Small unit stealth rescues or assassinations often work, e.g. bin Laden. “Clearing” houses in cities by flattening them works.
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What does NOT work. Navy surface ships are sitting ducks against a modern enemy. https://www.johntreed.com/…/65448643-are-u-s-navy-surface-s…
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Tanks don’t work. We do not even take them to war anymore. They only work in deserts and tree-less plains. Boots on the ground do not work. Fighting in jungle or mountains does not work. Elite units rarely succeed on the battlefield; they mainly succeed at hyping themselves in Hollywood, running for office, and becoming TV regulars. Clearing houses in cities with soldiers or marines does not work.
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Bakken is a civilian lawyer non-veteran so his perspective is most valuable when he analyzes the judicial aspects of the problem. And his twenty years as a West Point teacher has given him considerable understanding of the current cadets and training there.
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If West Point is to continue, it needs to change to the Division III athletic level so that it can stop recruiting dumb criminals to achieve otherwise unattainable athletic competitiveness. Their opponents at D-III would be teams like the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies and NESCAC teams like Williams and Amherst and teams like MIT and Johns Hopkins.
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The three major service academies really need to cease existence. West Point was created because America needed civil engineers and had to use Europeans for that. But warfare has long since stopped being about fortifications and America has long since created plenty of top engineering schools.
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There is no reason for the US federal government to operate, accredited four-year colleges with the possible exception of Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies because they teach operation of special purpose equipment not taught by civilian schools. There are about 2,500 four-year colleges in the US now. Also, has anyone ever considered whether a non-college grad can command a platoon? Last time we won a war, in 1945, the vast majority of platoon leaders were not college grads.
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West Pointers are disproportionately represented in the higher ranks of the Army, but not in the ranks of successful officers. There seem to be none of those. Neither the WPers nor the ROTCers have won a war since 1945. If they both suck, just do ROTC or OCS because they are far cheaper and take far fewer training hours.
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I support Bakken’s reforms of the military judicial system. Basically, repeal the UCMJ and have civilian DOJ lawyers and federal courts handle all litigation. No involvement whatsoever of the military chain of command.
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My solution to reform of the military is radical: Reinstate the draft and draft all ranks.
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https://www.johntreed.com/…/66448067-should-there-be-a-mili…
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Abolish career officers other than those who operate special equipment like fighter jets or submarines. Draft successful executives to command units. Lots of successful businessmen transferred laterally into the military during World War II. Also, the Navy Seabees operated like this. They were Construction Battalions made up of drafted civilian experienced construction workers.
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I also would use letters of marque, sort of bounty hunters who would be put into the military, but who would conduct their operations in whatever legal way they wanted. They would be exempt from such things as saluting and ranks and all that. They pick their own guys, equip themselves as they wish, and execute their own plans. They would have to abide by international law and US law, but no lifers would have any control over how they accomplished their mission.
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Bakken would reform the existing US military. I say, forget about it. Start over. We won our last victory with 13 million mostly draftees. They idea that a “professional” military is better SOUNDS logical, but is belied by the totally unacceptable results in 1945 and since. The competent people in America are in civilian life, not the military.
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My Uncle Jack was a high school dropout OCS officer in 1940. At one point, he was the youngest captain in the ground forces in the US army in Europe. He said we won the war IN SPITE OF the lifers, not because of them. He said the civilians knew how to get things done and after they realized the lifers were incompetent, they just ignored them and got it done.
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Result: VE Day and VJ Day. The only V Days attended by the lifers are Valentines Day.


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