The VigilanceVoice

Friday-- February 23, 2002
—Ground Zero Plus 165

"Vigilance With Attitude..."
The Marines Have Landed!
--In Two-Boots Montana!!!

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb. 23--"Vigilance With Attitude" is the catchword of the Marine Corps' new anti-terrorism brigade.   I love it.  I hate it.
         A former U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondent with over 100 combat missions in Vietnam, I have a deep love and affection for the Corps. 
       The Corps taught me manhood when I thought I was a wimp.  It gave me courage when I was afraid of what I wasn't.   It taught me conviction when I cowered with self-intimidation that I was a "wandering generality rather than a meaningful specific."   And, it obliterated my complacency to stand up for what I believed by teaching me how to fight and die for something bigger than myself.
        It also taught me how to kill anything that moved--without, of course, blinking an eye.
        Now, there's a 4,800-strong brigade of Marines ready to be deployed anywhere in America to "kill the evil ones."  It's called the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB Anti-Terrorism).
        Brigadier General  Douglas O'Dell commands the force.  In an official Marine Corps news release on October 17, 2001, he stated:

 "The activation of the 4th MEB puts the world on notice that there will be Marines guarding our nation with increased vigilance and attitude as we have done for 226 years."
        I love that part about "vigilance." 
        I hate that part about "attitude."
        The trouble with deploying the Marines as a fighting unit within the United States is like unleashing hungry pit bulls in a school playground.  
        Man for man there is no better fighting team than the Marines.   We learn how to "kill" with the same aplomb as breathing, or swatting noxious mosquitoes buzzing about.   We also like to "hunt down" the bad guy and rush him or her, guns blazing.  We are trained not to flinch when our buddy next to us gets his head blown off.  We "take the objective" at all costs.
         Back in the "old days,"

the Marines picked up the nickname "Devil Dogs" because we were trained to yell and scream as we attacked.  Our attitude was that we were invincible, fearless of death.   To an enemy not as convicted as we that "death was ultimate honor," it was intimidating.  Thus, the name Devil Dogs.
         The mascot of the Marine Corps further exaggerates our tenacity--it's a bulldog.  One of the greatest warrior leaders of the Marine Corps was a man named Chesty Puller who looked like a bulldog and acted as one might.
            He ferociously locked his jaws on anything in sight and shook it until it was dead.   He is the most decorated Marine in history because he led his men to kill more enemy than anyone else.
         This history of "killing" is the "attitude" that bothers me about deploying the "bulldogs of battle" in the streets of America.  
        It bothers me because Terrorism doesn't show its face the way conventional enemies do.   Terrorism skulks in the shadows of a community.   It assumes the countenance of the civilian population.   It infiltrates the neighborhood.   Its shadow walks with the innocent.
         Firepower has always been the key to the offensive success of the Marines.   We are trained to lay down a wall of lead so thick that if not by intention, then by accident we would kill more of the "evil ones" than they killed of us.   Even if we were wounded we still pulled the trigger, sending our last gasp of defiance in the form of hot lead toward the enemy.
         General O'Dell made a couple of comments that underscored his mission of killing comes before the mission of vigilance.  "These Marines are bad dudes," he said.  "They're being trained to be badder.  We're not in the business of killing 14-year-old, rock-throwing boys.  We're in the business of killing these evil men who are dressed up in the clothing of terrorism."
          The "clothing of terrorism?"  What's that?  A uniform and sign that says:  "Shoot Me!  I'm a Terrorist!"
          Real terrorists in a community don't dress any different than we, the average citizens.   As I recall  from my Vietnam experience, the age of an enemy had no limit.   A young boy or girl running at you could be wearing a satchel charge full of C-4.  You shot first, regardless of age.  Vigilance came after the fact, if at all.
        I also remember why we lost the war in Vietnam, in part because we couldn't distinguish the "good guys" from the "bad guys." 

 The Viet Cong had a way of infiltration into the community that caused us to suspect the innocent as well as the guilty.   So we burned almost every village, assuming one rotten egg in the basket infected them all.
         Vietnam, like Terrorism, was a guerrilla war.  The enemy hit and ran.   The enemy had no "territory" and lived like the Terrorists, in caves and tunnels, moving itinerantly here and there, constantly covering their tracks.  They too had cells.
        When I saw pictures of U.S. Marines walking down the streets of America on practice night missions, hunting Terrorists in the dark while people walked their dogs and kids rode their bicycles, a shudder rushed through me.   I wondered how it could be possible to train a killer not to kill the wrong person.
         I remember the primary rule of combat:  "shoot first and ask questions later."
         That creed has never left me.
        In any combat situation hesitation can mean death.   And when you battle may be won, but its cost may exceed its victory.  When I returned   from Vietnam, many of my friends who were in the law enforcement field were awed by my battle experiences.   I would shrug and tell them how they had the toughest job. "You have much more courage than I," I would say. "You can't just pull out your weapon and shoot.  You have to wait and be absolutely sure before you pull the trigger.  I just fired at anything.   That took no courage."
         That's why I would feel far safer if the U.S. government were to form "community militia" rather than sending bulldog Marines into towns and communities with a thirst to kill.   At least the local militia might know that dark-skinned "Johnny" is the principal's son and not a terrorist.  The 19-year-old Marine who flew into town on quick response from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina may not know that about Johnny.
          This idea that conventional war strategy can fight unconventional tactics seems Hollywood to me--media hype to assuage a nation that isn't ready to fight Terrorism in its homeland.
           The formation and deployment of such troops seems to further the goal of Terrorism--it ferments the elixir of fear, it exaggerates Terrorism's goal of intimidation, and suppresses the need for each parent and citizen to become Vigilant himself or herself.  It presumes  that the "government," the "U.S. Marines," can protect America's neighborhood better than they can protect themselves.
         But in the absence of an aggressive national campaign of Community Vigilance, we settle for one of "Vigilance with Attitude."   We turn the safety of our homes, our neighborhoods and our communities over to a task force of young men who joined the Marine Corps as I did for one sole purpose--to learn to kill the enemy with the finest.
        Unfortunately, killing isn't an art form.   In the heat of any battle the ability to distinguish the innocent from the "evil ones" evaporates.   Anything that moves becomes an "evil one."   Ruby Ridge proved that.  Waco added exclamation points to it in Vietnam was the mother of all lessons. One million Vietnamese people died, some who were the enemy, most, however, were the innocent who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
        While I would be the first to throw the power of the Marine Corps against any enemy in any foreign land, I wouldn't sleep well at night knowing they were at the corner protecting my grandson or granddaughter from Terrorists.
         I would know they couldn't tell the difference between one of the "evil ones" and a high-schooler playing cops and robbers.  I couldn't in Vietnam.

  Everyone became the enemy eventually.   The killer instinct takes over when you're frustrated that you can't "pick out" the evil ones.

  Vigilance ultimately rides shotgun to attitude.
        For my more conservative friends who want to thump their chests and shout how wonderful it is to have 4,800 young Marines standing ready to make our nation safe, I caution you.  If you have children or grandchildren you might reconsider thinking I'm overreacting, or perhaps I'm some kind of peacenik seeking to disarm America, or that I'm anti-military.
       I'm none of those.
       I'm a Warrior of Vigilance.
      I'll fight to the death anyone who threatens my children, grandchildren, community or nation.   But, I won't let someone else do it for me.  I won't hire "trained killers" to come into my community and risk my children's or grandchildren's lives with a "Vigilance with Attitude" creed.
       Instead, I'll fight to make everyone vow to be a Citizen of Vigilance.  I'll struggle to knock them off the pedestal of complacency and take up their own arms.  My weapon for them is the Shield Of Vigilance, the one that converts fear to courage, intimidation to conviction, and complacency to action.   The oath I ask them to take is the Citizen's and Parents' Pledge of Vigilance.  The action I ask is that they form Parents of Vigilance Community Clubs, and Citizens of Vigilance Teams within their community.  To drive off Terrorism before it happens requires Vigilance.  Terrorism hates Vigilance, and shies from it.  Vigilance is the barbed wire that keeps it out.
       I'd also go so far as to have every citizen become a member of the Neighborhood Militia before I'd unleash pit bulls to protect a neighborhood.  I'd risk the accidental death of innocent people at the hands of local community members before I would young men trained to "kill for killings sake."
      And, if anyone reading this piece was ever in the Marine Corps, and further, ever in combat with 226 years of Marine tradition behind them, you know exactly what I mean.
       Instead of saying "Semper Fi" to unleashing Marines to protect us from Terrorists, I call for our nation to first cry: "Semper Vigilantes--Always Vigilant." 
       If we become Citizens of Vigilance, we can do without the Marines.
       If not, then we can't complain when the blood flows.

     Go To Feb. 22--Gun-To-The-Head Vigilance

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