"Command is a sacred trust, that’s the nugget of it. Regardless of any other considerations or challenges he may have faced Walter Reed’s commander had a duty to serve those placed in his care. No excuses. You don’t get to blow that off because it’s hard work. You don’t get to blow it off because actions in the furtherance of that duty might upset someone above you in the chain of command or damage your career. You don’t get to blow it off because some decision made by some yo-ho in the executive branch or congress has made the job more challenging. Those people who have been entrusted to you come first. Period.
The failure at Walter Reed was a failure to grasp and act on this fundamental-as-breathing concept.
That we are not hearing similar stories out of Bethesda is telling.
I’d also like to add that personally, I’ve had just about enough of "accepting responsibility." Those are weasel words, nothing more and they screech in my ears like nails on a blackboard. If things have reached the point where you are forced to accept responsibility you no longer should be allowed the privilege of holding it. At that point the only thing you ought to be allowed to accept is the consequences.
But having said all that, I do think that a concern about privatization is not wholly fueled by the dreaded Bush Derangement Syndrome. I’m trying wicked hard, Col. Lang, to be objective in this. To me the issue is one of exacerbation. Privatization appears to have been, from the information generally available, a multiplier. It may have made the results of failed leadership worse even as failed leadership may have worsened the results of privatization. Each fed on the other to the detriment of vulnerable people. Proper leadership would have prevented or swiftly corrected the situation. That’s what should have happened, ideally that’s what should happen in the future. But in the event that it may not, I can’t help but to want to look closely and carefully at all the factors which may have led to the mess at Walter Reed.
I hope that’s reasonable. I hope that’s fair.
Amen brother. pl
Errr…sister actually Col. But thank you very kindly.
In Japan, the words “I accept responsibility” are always followed by “please accept my resignation.”
My apologies, ma’am. pl
How can people down the chain of command be expected to act with honour after doing a half arsed job, when the Commmmander in Chief and associated gouls invade a country for half arsed reasons, carry out the war in a half arsed way, then lose said war, in a complete catastrophe, are not expected to fall on their swords.
I find it a hollow ring to the cries for honour, while the main bunch of Bannanas still ripen on the tree.
To reclaim their place at the roundtable of nations, America must take a deep breath and impeach Bushney.
“Honor is the most sublime word in the English language.”
“Honor is the stern daughter of the voice of God.” pl
It is the sad truth, for some officers careerism and Republican kissassism far outweigh duty. You never struck me as one of those folks, that must be why you aren’t welcome at the White House.
Nonetheless, where are you peers?
I know General Clark and I’ve listened and read you.
Where are the other 100,000 Army officers cowering?
Persons down the chain of command are expected to act with honor because they have free will. They have a choice. That it may not be an easy, politic, or popular choice does not change that.
If the person above me fails in his duty it does not relieve me of mine. To claim otherwise is the mentality of the Nuremburg dock.
Does climate of command matter? Yes. Is it unfair that consequences land on some deserving, too many undeserving, and far too few more than deserving? Bigolly yes. But the only fair you’re guaranteed in this world comes at the middle of August every year in Des Moines, with black walnut taffy and pork chops on a stick. If you’re looking for some other kind of universal lodestone standard of “fair” (or lack of “fair”) so as to point the direction of your ethical decisions for you then you need to step away from any group bigger than yourself alone. You’re dangerous and there’s far too many of you out there with far too much power as it is.
Does this mean that I shouldn’t expect better of everyone; that I have no duty to help create a climate of honor by demanding the best of those above me? No, of course not. Part of the failure at Walter Reed was the safe silence of people who should have been howling out at every available listener in defense of their charges. Had they spoken out changes would have happened up and down the line. The same can be said of other recent failures of leadership as well (I don’t think I need to detail them) But in demanding better of others I should never demand less of myself.
My soul is my own to guard and keep. I’ll not give it away in order to score myself some transitory ease.
Thank you Col. Lang and thank you Cornfed for introducing the word “honor” into this discussion. If you take responsibility and immediately resign, you have lost everything else, but you have preserved your honor. If you do anything else, you have dishonored yourself and your country.
That is all we really have to know about any of these situations.
Most of us are never called upon to show the physical courage of a soldier under fire in combat, but one way or another we all face situations in our lives, both personal and professional, where the courage to risk something significant by doing the right thing is required. Leadership is more than simply fulfilling the expectations of one’s superiors. Sometimes those expectations are in conflict with a leader’s responsibilities to his or her job and the people affected. It takes courage to recognize and embrace that built-in conflict.
The people responsible for this mess failed to stand up against the difficulties that impeded the delivery of proper care for the people in their charge. It seems that they accepted the status quo as a consequence of policy set by others up the chain of command. This was a failure of nerve as well as honor.
America and Australia’s honour has been besmirched by reckless ragamuffins, as the ship sails, so does the crew, to claim surprise at such journey, is no reprieve, for doth only serve to decieve.
For those witless warlords, are but us.
Thus the dreamers of death have their way.
“Trust” I understand, but why “Sacred”?
Those in command make life and death choices – if you hold life sacred then you truly understand the responsibility that is inherent in ‘command’ decisions.
Iraq, Walter Reed, habeus corpus, firing of US Attorneys…it’s time for Shakespeare:
Measure for Measure
Act 2, Scene 2
ISABELLA Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne’er be quiet,
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder;
Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.
Thank you for your reply.
But the business of armed forces is always to kill the other side – which means that only one side’s life is sacred.
Actually I have to call all of you on this, including you Col. Lang, you are wrong about the Commander’s responsibility for what happened at Walter Read, at least in one aspect, you are assuming he had complete control over the facility. The reality will be far from this for one reason – outsourcing and privatisation.
I have worked for a company that was once at the cutting edge of outsourcing and privatisation of services etc. Let me tell you how it works…..
You start with a low bid to win the contract, and you make your contract deliverables as wishy washy as possible. You fill your contract with weasel words.
The next thing you do is set up a multi-level marketing team, armed with lots of money. You target legislators, the Army chiefs as high as you can get, in fact the entire chain of command above the guy who is responsible for running Walter Read, you target him too of course.
Then you begin the sackings and cheese paring as fast as you like, your mission in this is to remove as much of the brains of the organisation as possible, that way there is no one left to complain about your shoddy standards of service delivery, or those that are left dare not complain.
After this is done, you start expanding the scope of the contract, pointing out all the “little” things that weren’t included in the original bid, but are obviously essential (like removing mold). You charge extra for these services, and when you present your invoice, you casually mention how the Chief of the Army Medical Service/ Chairman of Senate Committee/ whoever was your guest last night at the Opera/Concert/Football/ whatever..and you told him how well the contract was going.
In other words, you squeeze every last dime out of your contract and provide the minimum you can get away with, and threaten the incumbents career if he dares to complain. You do this with no thought at all for the soldiers because you are a lieing rat faced psychopathic weasel.
Now this is the trick…After about one or two years of this behaviour, someone will attempt to blow the whistle. Then comes the masterstroke, The lieing rat faced weasel then blames the Government for giving him the contract in the first place and the public swallows the bait!
And swallow it you have! The Army is being blamed for privatising Walter Read. Instead you should be focussing on the lieing rat faced weasels who reduced staff from 300+ down to 50! Your outrage is completely and totally misplaced!
Do you really think the army doesn’t want its soldiers to get the best treatement? My guess is that the Commander of Walter Read decided that he would do what he could, because he would have known that resistance was useless and would simply get him fired.
I confess to my shame that I was once a willing participant in a similar outsourcing process, though thankfully not involving providing care to patients.
Can someone explain to me any evidence to suggest that Bush, Cheney and convicted felon Elliott Abrams ever took command as a trust, or ever cared for any human life? I’m looking for any evidence that they even care for American lives, let alone Iraqi or Lebanese lives.
If the military obeys a civilian chain of command which does not honor the same code they honor, then what do they do?
Except for small and probably anachronistic pockets we have long sens ceased to live in “an honor” society. That probably was in great part gone by the time in the later 19th century when Jay Gould respoded to some scandal with the imortal words “nothing lost save honor”. However individuals may still be bound by personal codes of honor we have almost completely given that up on an organizational and/or societal basis. Unforunately in our present ethos honor is a burden and seen as a trap by many. It has become a “private’and dwindling virtue and seen by many, if not most, as a hinderance to being succesful. Even the facades have crumbled and most of life is dominated by “spin” or as a retired philosophy teacher from my university recently put in his book: It’s Bullshit.
If it were not for the “anachronistic” code by which soldiers live, you and all the other clever civilians would be “frog walking” around until given permission to stop by these simple minded soldiers. pl
Col. My point is not to belittle those who hold to suvh a code, I have my own and hav honored it. Rather to point out that those in the service who do, and I so not hink all do, are operating with in a larger system that doesn’t just not have that code , but which probably doesn’t understand it, much less value it. Note the earlier piece on contracting out which rings true to my experience in other parts of the government programs.
Mr.Makkinejad, Why “sacred”? That’s a good question. I suppose ideally all trusts freely undertaken should be sacred to some degree. They ought to be venerated, valued, seen as a mirror of the divine and so particularly worthy of protection from defilement. So perhaps using the word was redundancy. I’ll confess that the familiarity of the phrase might have guided my choice, too.
But when I think about it I do believe that command (and it could be argued, any position where you are responsible directly for the lives and well being of others) is a trust above the standard. People have given a substantial degee of control over their lives to another person with the understanding that in exchange for that surrender of autonomy they will (among other things) be protected and will not have their vulnerabilty taken advantage of. When that trust is broken, because of the power dynamic that’s been established, the consequences are profound. It’s not just a breaking it’s a shattering. So while any trust (to my eye anyway) carries a spark of the divine, the nature of the trust involved in command merits the addition of “sacred.”
I hope that makes sense.
Thanks for making me think about this.
Let me first explain one thing, I am a service-connected disabled vet. I spent time in a “med-hold”. I was in another branch’s “flagship hospital”. I was NOT at Walter Reed, I want to make that abundantly clear. Yes, I have neurological impairments.They will be with me until the day I die. The strange thing is I would rather, they would stay with me, rather than give to somebody else. I’m going to write some things people will not like. TOUGH! First, there are all kinds of investigations about the situation at Walter Reed. The conclusions will be somebody else’s failures. You got it – CYA! 2nd, I want to make sure to not come out with a broad brush and paint everybody in the VA/DOD healthcare system in a bad light. This would not be helpful to anyone, there are people who really care. They do the best they can within the limits of their “budget”. With me, they have been outstanding. In the spirit of full disclosure, it is no secret, I have had my moments of being a “royal rectal discomfort”. By no means, am I proud of them.
In the “wisdom” of the BRAC Commission, it was decided to close Walter Reed. Hint: This closure during a time of war is WAY over my head. If we are going to close Walter Reed, fully fund it until the hour after the new facility and all of its support structures are up and running in a post shake-down status. After this status is reached, shift your patients to the new facility. Then, you rehab the old facility and its support structures as a hot or ready reserve status for the duration of the GWoT.
Honor is not, nor should it be, the province of the military services. Honor is a fundamental source of individual character.
Honor is sacred because it is the source of a shared trust that is required for all human beings to live together.
Let me remind everyone that the final words of the Declaration of Independence are “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
There is no better example of how honor provides glue that binds us all together. It also foretells the consequences when honor is no longer valued throughout our society.
I believe you meant to say “the SOLE province of the military.” I certainly agree with that. Unfortunately the military is one of the few places in our society where one can still find SOME people of honor. pl
I stand revised.
Thanks and understood.
Eliot Abrams was never sentenced for a felony. Thus he is no felon. He made a smart plea deal and admitted guilt for two misdemeanors. He’s a misdemeanant. Of course, he did most probably commit a felony, but that is something subtly different 😉
Scooter Libby on the other hand will be a felon once convicted as perjury is a felony.
Babak, I must disagree with your comment “the business of armed forces is always to kill the other side”. The business is to defeat the other side, not just kill them. Thus all the more responsibility on those who order the armed forces into battle – to do the killing, and dying the political leaders deem necessary. The failure of leadership in Iraq is with the political leadership that started this war, and with the civilian population that allowed itself to be manipulated. At Walter Reed the failure is both civilian and military.
“But the only fair you’re guaranteed in this world comes at the middle of August every year in Des Moines, with black walnut taffy and pork chops on a stick.”
“My soul is my own to guard and keep. I’ll not give it away in order to score myself some transitory ease.”
You have a lovely, refreshing way with words, Cornfed. Thank you.
“Obedience without question” is what I know and see and do. But the time and place is lost.
When you are in the heat of battle, obedience without question is a must have for success.
When you are at peace, this is the time when you drill, examine, examine and adjust.
The fundamental precision of a Military Machine should be afforded these maintenance measures, free of repercussions.
As soldiers, we trust the American public, and it’s representatives to endanger us only when absolutely necessary to defend the American People and protect their way of life.
It should be considered a crime when we are used to further the interests of private enterprise.
What are you so upset about? Don’t forget that all you know is from those biased media. That’s why maverick GOP congresswoman Jean Schmidt made an independent investigation. She visited Walter Reed. Her conclusion: “I found the situation at Walter Reed to be overblown by both politicians and the media”
See? Nothing there. It’s all a partisan smear campaign. The liberal media fooled you once again.