To use the well-worn phrase of Colonel David Hackworth, many of the leaders of the Pentagon are coddled, self-important, caricatures of spoilt children. They have a sense of entitlement grossly at odds with their contributions and qualifications. They are civil servants, paid for by our taxes, and not our masters or guides; even when a five-time draft dodger puts them into his Cabinet.
I was appalled by the intervention of ex-General Kelly in the matter of the condolence call to the grieving widow, especially when he lied about the Florida speech by the Congresswoman and when he said that he would take questions only from those members of the press who had a personal connection to a fallen soldier, followed by those who knew a Gold Star family. What bloody arrogance and overweening sense of his moral superiority because he had at one time ordered ordinary grunts to go into harm's way at his command.
I was reminded of my experiences inside the Pentagon. The University of Maryland used to run courses inside the Pentagon. I was frequently asked to give lectures to the military as part of their education as a guest lecturer on international affairs. I remember the lessons well. It was bizarre for me to have a dialogue with the class as they spoke by descending rank. Everyone waited for his superior officer to comment before commenting themselves. They heartily disliked almost everything I had to say to them as I was critical of the military support for its role in Latin America's war training college in Panama; their support for Big Minh in Vietnam and their support for South Africa's war against the forces of liberation in Africa. I explained the the UAW (auto worker's union) for whom I worked was sending supplies of medicines and printing presses to the African liberation movements; sending support and training to many Latin American unions to build their resistance to the multinationals and the military governments there; supplying aid and assistance to the Social Democratic unions in South Vietnam to enable them to compete with the other union centres which were supported by the U.S. military and embassy; assisting the anti-government unions of the Philippines and Indonesia as they struggled to survive in a hostile political climate of military dictatorship, etc. They had never heard any opposing views than that taught by the military and this was startling to them.
One day I was in the Pentagon waiting to go to my lecture room. In the Pentagon building there are kiosks and shops. I went to buy a newspaper because I had time to kill. I went to the news stand and got in line behind some others waiting to buy papers. All of a sudden some guy in uniform with chicken-shit and bling all over his uniform walks to the front of the line to buy a paper. I was angry and said "Hey, buddy, there is a line here. Get in the back of the line!" The guy turns on me, furious. He says "Do you know who I am? I am a major-general in the U.S.Army and this is my building. If I want to go to the head of the line I can do so." I said, You may well be a major general in the U.S. Army but I outrank you". He retorted, "You outrank me?" I said "Yes, I am a civilian. I pay your f--ing salary, you work for me, so go to the back of the line". He turned red and left. The funny part was that there were several others in the line turning red with trying not to laugh. There were two bird-colonels in front of me shaking and sputtering, trying not to laugh. Strangely enough I was never invited back to the Pentagon to lecture.
The U.S. military, especially the Perfumed Princes, has never been highly regarded socially in the U.S. since the Civil War. In pre-Civil War, the U.S. had a caste of soldiers who were socially acceptable; much as they were in the UK. However, many of the elite of soldier hood came from the South, especially Virginia. They represented, in West Point at least, the top of the military class. It was no accident that Robert E. Lee graduated top of his class and Ulysses Grant near the bottom. When the Civil War started most of the erstwhile military elite fought for the South. The others led the Federal forces. They were not among the social elite of East Coast America. They never have regained much of a status or position except among themselves. They are certainly not role models for a democratic society, whatever their contribution, nor are they entitled to an air of superiority towards civilians who aren't in the people-killing business.