I gave the Gunny a lift home after the revival meeting. I was interested in how he thought we could get the police to help. I guessed the cops themselves would want to, but they worked for the politicians, who would probably want them to protect the scum from the Church Ladies.
His answer proved to be important beyond our fight to save one housing project. “A number of cops around here are former Marines. We’ve got a network set up among us,” he explained to me. “We’re getting together tomorrow night. Can you come?”
“Of course I’ll come. You think I’m some staff puke who comes up with a plan, then sends someone else off to execute it? I’ve done some thinking up in Maine. The real war is the war for our culture. This is a battle in that war. I’m in,” I replied. “Do you know a cheap place I can put up for the duration?”
“Sure, stay with us. My wife and I would be honored to have my old CO as a guest,” he said.
I was happy to accept.
The meeting with the cops was at the Tune Tavern, in Boston’s South End, the Irish ghetto. Nobody in Southie was likely to remember anything he overheard in a discussion among cops.
About twenty guys showed up, mostly city cops, with a few state troopers and even one transit cop thrown in. All were former Marines. I hadn’t known any of them in the Corps, but they knew who I was and why I was there and they had no problem with that.
Gunny Matthews was too smart to throw the problem on the table and hope somebody had a solution. The old Russian technique, “Let’s negotiate from my draft,” was more likely to result in action. So after outlining the overall scheme, the Gunny made a simple request: would at least one off-duty cop accompany each “swarm” that went after a scumbag? Off-duty cops were expected, by regulation, to be armed and to intervene when citizens were in danger, so no politician could go after them for that. But at the same time, no political sleaze-bag could order them not to be there, since they’d be on their own time. Lots of businesses hired off-duty cops as security guards; the only difference here is that we had no money to pay them.
“That’s not a problem,” said officer Kevin McBreen. “What you’re offering us is a chance to do the job we signed up to do, but usually can’t because city hall and the effing lawyers and judges won’t let us. We’re all willing to put some time into this.”
“Will it work?” I asked the question, even though the basic plan had come out of my brain housing group. These guys knew the local situation better than I did, and if the plan didn’t fit the situation, it was better to scrap it now than to see it fail later.
The cops were quiet. One state trooper finally spoke up, a former commo staff sergeant named Kelly (sometimes I thought half the Marine Corps was named Kelly). I found out later he’d been into Tactical Decision Games big-time, so he knew how to think situations through.
“As far as it goes, I think it has a reasonable chance,” he said. “In war, that is all any plan can promise. We’re looking for a breakthrough here, in that we’re trying to defeat not only the scum but their friends and protectors, the lawyers, judges, and pols. The rule in war is, small risk, small gain; big gain, big risk. The potential gain here is worth the risk.”
“My problem with the whole proposal is that it doesn’t go far enough,” he continued. “Down at 2nd Marine Division I sat in on a briefing Colonel Boyd gave. He said strategy is the art of connecting yourself to as many other power centers as possible, while separating your enemy from as many power centers as possible. It was the only definition of strategy I ever heard that meant anything.”
“We need some more friendly connections here. We need connections with the press. How this gets covered in the Globe and on TV affects the outcome. We shouldn’t leave that to chance. The same goes with the legislature. We should have friends there all set to go so the debate tilts our way. In other words, we need some strategy, not just good tactics.”
Trooper Kelly was on to something. When I was stationed at Quantico, I’d gotten to know a staffer on Capitol Hill. He explained to me that when the Senator he worked for wanted to make a major move, he had a meeting that included other Senators’ staffers, newspaper columnists, representatives from outside special interest groups, anyone who was in a position to affect the issue. Before the public saw anything, each of these insiders had his assignment: write a column, give a speech, organize a letter-writing campaign, whatever.
Then, when the Senator acted, all these other things happened as if they were spontaneous. But they weren’t. They were all arranged—“greased” was the term my friend used—beforehand.
“Great idea,” said one city cop. “But we’re just little guys. I don’t know how we make this happen. I can’t get through to a newspaper editor or a politician. Can you?”
“I can, and so can you,” Kelly replied. “We can do it the same way we’ve come together here: through the Marine connection. A bunch of members of the legislature are former Marines. So’s an editor at the Globe. I know him, and I know one former Marine in the State House. He can put us on to others. There’s even a regular breakfast where former Marines now in politics get together. Most of these guys think like we do. They’ll help.”
At this point I got one of those brain farts where a whole lot of pieces from a bunch of different puzzles come together to make something new. Boyd called it synthesis.
“Maybe what we need is a new Marine Corps,” I said.
“What do you mean?” Matthews said.
“I’m not sure. Let me think out loud here. The Marine Corps we all served in is supposed to fight our country’s battles. Yet all the Corps is doing now is fighting ragheads. Those aren’t our country’s battles. They are just games the politicians and State Department types in Washington like to play to feel important and justify their salaries.”
“This battle, for this lousy housing project, is a battle for our country. It’s a battle in the real war, the one being fought on our own soil between the people who live according to the old rules and the people who want to break all the rules, and usually do. We need a Marine Corps for the real war.”
“I think we’re seeing that new Marine Corps in action right here,” I continued. “The battle we’re planning is just one of what will be many battles, many campaigns, in the war to save our culture. We need a force that doesn’t dissolve when this battle is over, that sees the war right through to the end.”
The cops were quiet. So was I. I knew what I’d just proposed was scary. I hadn’t thought it through; it just came to me. I didn’t know where it might lead.
The transit cop spoke first. “Would this be like one of these militias we hear about?”
“No,” I replied. “We’ve all run around in the boonies in cammies enough for that to be old. And we don’t want violence. Violence will almost always work against us at the moral level of war. Think of it instead as a general staff for whoever wants to take our country back, wherever we could make a difference. Like we’re doing here.”
Again, there was silence, a long silence this time.
Trooper Kelly spoke again. “I think you’ve hit on the answer to what’s been bothering a lot of us for a long time. We work for a government that doesn’t work. No matter how many arrests we make, it doesn’t make any difference.”
“The whole system is rotten,” Kelly continued. “The big boys, the politicians, the lawyers, the judges, the media types, they all live well off the decay. They are scavengers, parasites. But for real people, it just keeps getting worse and worse – crime, lousy schools, rising prices that make our pay and pensions worthless, it’s all part of the same picture.”
“I hate to say so, but I think this country is finished. It’s beyond fixing. We need something new. What you are proposing, skipper, is a start,” he concluded.
“In 1775, the United States Marine Corps was founded in another tavern, in Philadelphia,” I said. “I think it’s time to do it again, here in Tune Tavern. Who knows, maybe we’re making history once more.”
The transit cop spoke up again. “A new Marine Corps I can see. Nobody’s fighting the battles that need to be fought. But what Marine Corps? Nobody has written a new Declaration of Independence that I’ve heard of. What kind of Marines are we?”
“Christian Marines.” The voice was Gunny Matthews’. “That’s what we are, most of us. That doesn’t mean we’re fighting to spread a religion. But our faith is where our first loyalty must be, because it is the thing we believe in most deeply.”
“In 1775, a man could be both a Christian and a United States Marine. Now we have to choose. The reason the government we have doesn’t work is that it has thrown our whole Christian culture overboard. I don’t care whether someone goes to church or not. But unless people follow the rules laid down in the Ten Commandments, everything falls apart. It seems to me what we’re fighting for here, in this housing project, is to make the Ten Commandments the rules again. And that is what this new Marine Corps should fight for, wherever it fights.”
“Sign me up,” said the transit cop, Meyer. “By the way, I’m Jewish. You may remember we had the Ten Commandments before you did. But we’re all in this together. It’s the whole culture we have to fight for, our Western, Judeo-Christian culture. I’ll still go to synagogue, but I’m happy to be a Christian Marine. After all, Christ was a Jew, and so were his disciples.”
And so it began, the Christian Marine Corps, the general staff for our side in the second civil war. I still have the piece of paper that went around the barroom table that day. It has twenty-two names on it. Seventeen of those men gave their lives in the war that was to come. I’m the only one left, now.
But those who died did so knowing they’d made a difference.