This past week’s spectacle of National Guard troops first forced to sleep on the hard marble floors of the Capitol for photo ops, then evicted to take up residence in an unheated parking garage was heart-rending for all but the least patriotic of Americans.
However, it was far from the most egregious abuse our soldiers suffered during their highly irregular duty safeguarding Washington, D.C. against dudes in Viking hats.
And while Dr. Jill Biden, Ed.D., at least had the good sense to run a couple baskets of chocolate-chip cookies out to the parking garage, (60 cookies, 25K soldiers, but a nice gesture), the gravest insults—and the most dangerous abuses—originated inside the Capitol building itself, issuing forth from the fevered imagination of the Honorable Steve Cohen—one of the least commendable members of America’s most mediocre institution.
First off—if you’re unfamiliar with the Distinguished Gentleman, Steve Cohen, the U.S. Representative for Memphis, Tenn., is a porcine creature right out of Central Casting for the “slimeball politician” role. Perhaps you remember him, sitting there, the lights glaring off his bald pate, eating a bucket of fried chicken on the House floor in a stunt that even CNN declared crossed the “fine line between stupid and clever.”
So, for Rep. Cohen to call into question the loyalty, patriotism and mental stability of American soldiers serving honorably in the Army National Guard would take a lot of chutzpah. But unless you’ve been living under a rock the last two weeks, you are aware that is precisely what he did, insinuating patriotic white males in the National Guard were poised to assassinate Joseph R. Biden during the empty inauguration.
Given that Gallup, in an annual poll conducted last June and July, found that 72 percent of Americans had either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military as an institution—and in the same period, found just 18 percent approval for Congress—perhaps Cohen is actually an ideal poster child for Congress. So what the hell gives Steve Cohen the right to slander our troops, anyway?
It bears noting here that Cohen has never worn the uniform of this nation, opting instead to, ahem, “serve” the American people as a government lawyer and then a politician. So, for Cohen to question the patriotism of soldiers—and to discriminate, in particular, against white males wearing our nation’s uniform—is beyond the pale. Yet here it is in full:
“The Guard is 90-some-odd percent, I believe, male. Only about 20% of white males voted for Biden. You gotta figure that in the Guard, which is predominantly more conservative, and I see that on my social media … they’re probably not more than 25% of the people that are there protecting us who voted for Biden,” Cohen said Monday on CNN.
“The other 75% are in the class that would be the large class of folks who might want to do something. And there were military people and police who took oaths to defend the Constitution and to protect and defend who didn’t do it who were in the insurrection. So, it does concern me,” he said.
So, that’s it. That’s what Steve Cohen thinks of the men and women who take an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. The men and women who dutifully followed the orders of one Commander in Chief before noon on Jan. 20, and then another after, putting their personal feelings aside and honoring their solemn oath.
Why does this matter?
It matters because Cohen’s extreme comments drove Defense policy in the Swamp in the days leading up to the inauguration:
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller confirmed in a statement released by the Department of Defense that the FBI is conducting background checks on the National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C. to prevent any insider attacks….While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the Capitol.
Aside from just how appallingly insulting this is, let’s consider how potentially damaging this is for the men (and women) who put on our nation’s uniform to defend us.
Even though many of these soldiers have already undergone National Agency Checks to receive security clearances, or even more invasive background checks including investigators knocking on neighbors’ and coworkers’ doors to ask questions so they could be trusted with our nation’s top secrets, at Steve Cohen’s whim, they are now subject to some sort of political acid test as well.
There was no indicator what kind of thing might flag a National Guard soldier as a risk. Perhaps a meme on his social media asserting the election was stolen? A Trump sticker on his pickup truck? An NRA membership? Donating money to an unfavored political candidate?
Now, contemplate the impact being flagged for what was always benign, Constitutionally-protected behavior, might have on a soldier’s military career. Once flagged by the FBI, that officer, NCO, or enlisted soldier would no longer have been allowed to serve in any capacity that would put them anywhere near the Capitol, Mr. Biden, or other government entities. The chain of command would have been forced to reassign that soldier, either sending them “to the rear” or sending them home.
Such an action would certainly have adversely impacted the plans drawn up by a commanding officer and his or her Planning and Operations section. It would require shifting personnel into new roles, plugging holes, and disrupting the general flow of operations. And yes, that’s why commanders are paid the big bucks; but now, consider the downstream repercussions:
A soldier was sent home or to the rear because the FBI deemed that person a risk off of questionable, rapidly assessed criteria. At some point, that soldier will have an Officer Evaluation Reporter, Non-commissioned Officer Evaluation Report, or Enlisted Evaluation Report issued by his leadership. This is a document that will follow him or her the rest of his or her career. And the person writing his or her evaluation views him as the reason that operations ran less than smoothly. Heck, that superior probably even received a verbal dressing down from his or her own superior over the whole situation! (In the Army, we called them “ass-chewings.”)
Even worse, the flagged soldier’s chain of command now wonders if he or she actually is an extremist—something the military has cracked down on in recent decades. That soldier will now be scrutinized at every turn, all because an FBI agent ramming through thousands of impromptu background checks in a few days’ time deemed him or her a potential problem. And even if the chain of command is sympathetic, there are very few profiles in courage that will fall on their figurative swords to protect a soldier that they realize has drawn the ire of the government itself. Because of Steve Cohen’s need to hyperventilate on CNN, that soldier has become a liability to the careers of his superiors. And we all know how that story ends.
In all likelihood, that soldier will receive a bad evaluation, an F report card that will be used to determine whether he or she is promoted. And in the Army, not being promoted within an acceptable timeframe is a career ender.
For the last 11 months, we’ve watched politicians enact policies that destroyed thousands and thousands and thousands of small, family-owned businesses. Now, the politicians are defecating on our troops.
The U.S. Army’s motto is “This we’ll defend.” Who’s going to defend the troops?