GIs: Quit yer bitchin or face charges!
When Erich Honecker (1912-1994) ruled East Germany, it was a crime to say or print anything critical of him. Now, we learn the U.S. Army has a Protective Battalion to watch over key active and even retired general officers. The mission of the Protective Battalion includes monitoring social media for "direct, indirect, and veiled threats" and identifying "negative sentiments" regarding the generals under its protection. Could Herr Honecker have desired anything more chilling?
Those who have served know that it is a favorite pastime of GIs to complain about military martinets, rear-echelon staff officers, and phony heroes like John Kerry and his paper-cut-Owie Purple Hearts. But now, if a GI e-mails his girlfriend to tell her his weekend pass was pulled because that jerk General X restricted everyone to the base, the Protective Battalion could charge that GI for calling General X a jerk. Actually, some are jerks.
I have to ask those of the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, and the Boomer Generation who, along with their families, sacrificed so much to defeat Communism and win the Cold War: Was this what we were fighting for? Did we and our families suffer the loss of loved ones and endure our own wounds and hardship so the U.S. Army could act like the former East German dictator Erich Honecker?
Granted the Ministry of State Media (MSM) will not dig into the horrifying implications of the missions assigned to the Army’s Protective Battalion, but where is the outrage from those of us who won the Cold War? Complaining to the Biden* White House will do no good. But is anyone contacting their Congressperson? If the GI’s right to bitch ("express negative sentiments") about those above him or her is not written in bold letters in the U.S. Constitution, it should be.
Okay. Was it really that bad behind the Iron Curtain? Or, was that just Hollywood hype, back when Hollywood was on our side? Wonder Wife and I were behind the Iron Curtain three times. Once, on the sealed, blacked-out, night-only Duty Train jolting on neglected tracks across East Germany to West Berlin. Twice via Lufthansa into the USSR and internally twice within the USSR via Aeroflot, the airline with the world’s worst safety record.
We know first-hand what it is like to live under 24/7 electronic surveillance, to talk only outdoors with brave (foolish?) locals who covered their lips to thwart lip-reading KGB or Stasi snitches. Yes, life within the USSR and East Germany was just as scary, sterile, and joyless as reported in the insightful novels by Joseph Kanon, John le Carré, and many others.
It is also shocking to learn that Pentagon officials think retired generals cannot take care of their own personal security. What kind of warriors are they? A better use of tax-payer dollars would be to allow generals to retain their issued sidearm, that compact automatic pistol that comes with their Flag Officer Kit. Or, they could exercise their 2d Amendment rights and buy something really useful like a M1911 or a Glock 17.
Protective Battalion nota bene: I did NOT say General X is a jerk.
* Election disputed.
Suggested reading: The Berlin Exchange by Joseph Kanon, 2022. Or, any of the espionage novels by John le Carré.
©2023. William Hamilton.