Boots on the Ground: Walking the Talk
By Norman Ball
The recent ‘American boots’ committed to Syria seem tailor-made for walking in directions unknown. One hears the echoing footfall of ‘military advisers’ sent by Eisenhower to South Vietnam in 1955—a mission that crept like a snail into ignominy eighteen long years (and over a million American and Vietnamese lives) later.
Before a mission can creep though, it must first possess discrete coordinates to creep away from, some postulated line in the sand. Empires buffer themselves from internal contradiction by speaking clearly. Language matters. The term itself–boots on the ground–is a mystery wrapped in an obfuscation. Years ago, William Safire traced how, “the vivid figure of speech soon triumphed over the formal ‘infantry in the field.’” Here we find language itself conscripted into vague deflection and camouflaged action. Let’s not forget. There are Americans in those boots. Our fellow citizens.
As wary and engaged civilians, we owe it to our enlisted brethren (whose opinions are not sought in a military command structure) to hold our leaders’ feet to the fire, boots optional. When our brothers and sisters in the military do speak out, it is, of necessity, with anonymity. Almost certainly, it is a communication not undertaken lightly.
Though I can find no corroboration, Chip Tatum (a self-described former CIA operative) reports what was related to him on MacDill AFB from two U.S. Special Operations Command officials recently:
“Chip, we are concerned due to the scope of our mission there. We will be embedded with Syrian Opposition forces, we believe that many are al-Qaeda or ISIS sympathizers who are not actively engaged against the terrorist threat but rather in support of a regime change.
In this lies our dilemma. Russia is currently carrying their air war against both the terrorist threat and enemies of Assad. That places American Troops dead in the target sights of Russia.
We believe that we are being used as pawns and many will be sacrificed as a means to war with Russia. The defense contractors with whom we deal in contracts and purchases are gearing up for a war against Russian style equipment.”
If the mounting cynicism still surprises you, you haven’t been listening. You can always count on politicians doing one thing without fail: planting our kids’ boots anywhere necessary to cover their asses.
Hey people, what’s that sound? Here we go again. Boots on the ground…