U.S. Army Rangers are the most highly motivated and best-trained soldiers in the
world. They volunteer four times: They volunteer to be soldiers. They volunteer
to be paratroopers. They volunteer to serve in one of three elite Ranger
battalions. Then, they voluntarily stay in a Ranger unit despite grueling
physical and emotionally draining assignments.
They are kept in places like Panama, England, Korea, Egypt and Thailand for
weeks at a time. They can walk away and join a less demanding assignment any
time - no questions asked.
They are a national treasure. I'm proud my son chose to be an Army Ranger. He
died in the arms of the finest soldiers this nation ever produced. I only wish
I could have been there to fight at his side. But now, I'm questioning why he
Last December, we sent 21,000 troops to Somalia to provide security for a
humanitarian mission. Once that was completed, all but 4,700 came home. Of
those 4,700, only about 300 were combat troops - including 145 Rangers who were
sent there in late August. And, suddenly, with this bare-bones force and no
American armor or mechanized equipment and troops, the mission changed to one
of very direct combat.
Who changed the mission? The United Nations? The multinational commander on the
ground in Somalia?
Who in the American chain of command concurred? The president? The secretary of
State? The secretary of Defense?
From all we've learned since the tragic events of Oct. 3, the senior American
military officers - including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.
Colin Powell - requested tanks and armor-protected troop carriers from Secretary
of Defense Les Aspin. They were repeatedly rebuffed. Why?
Rangers are highly mobile because they travel lightly. This means they are
lightly armed. Light infantry should never be committed with no means of
Did Maj. Gen. Thomas Montgomery, the senior American officer in Somalia, demand
U.N. reinforcements be assembled and placed in reserve? The Pakistanis and
Malaysians had tanks and armored personnel carriers, but it took them over
three hours to make the decision to move. They arrived 10 hours after the
battle began. Did Montgomery make their ready involvement a prerequisite for
using our Rangers? If not, why not?
Now a question for President Clinton. Why is Les Aspin our secretary of
Defense? Why is a man who made a career of criticizing and reviling the
military put in charge of the military? This makes as much sense as appointing
an atheist to be a cardinal.
I've spoken to parents and loved ones of other Rangers who were killed or
wounded in Mogadishu. I've spoken to several Rangers who served with my son -
some of them were wounded. I don't want to suggest that I'm speaking for any of
them, but maybe I am.
I certainly think it's reasonable to ask for them and for all concerned
Americans that a thorough investigation of this debacle be conducted
immediately, and the results be made public. Those who are responsible must be
Mr. President, start with Aspin. He is too uncaring and too incompetent to
command the most precious resource this nation has. At the very least, Mr.
President, seek advice on military affairs from the professionals in uniform
who are eager to serve you - not from politicians or people who are experts in
manipulating public opinion.