"QUESTION: And, General Pace, what guidance do you have for your military commanders over there as to what to do if — like when General Horst found this Interior Ministry jail?
PACE: It is absolutely responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don’t see it happening, but you’re told about it, is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago. There was a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was a possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it.
So they did exactly what they should have done.
RUMSFELD: I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it, it’s to report it.
PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."
OSD Press Conference 29 November, 2005
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) occupies a special place in the minds of the members of the US armed forces. Contrary to the assumptions of many civilians, service in the military is not just a job, or even worse an occupation taken up as an escape from disadvantage. For professional soldiers of the kind who now populate our armed forces, life in the military may start that way, but the ethos of military life and the bonds of loyalty and service that tie soldiers together quickly push motivations like that to one side, to be replaced by a code of honor and "stand up" responsibility that becomes more important than anything else. It is not for a job that soldiers are willing to risk death and maiming or to kill as necessary. No, it is for a vocation, a "guild," or perhaps even an "Order." If that characterization is correct then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could be thought of as "Grand Master" of the Order and custodian of its honor and values. The Chiefs of the Service Staffs used to perform this function but in recent years, law and reality have brought the Chairman into everyone’s awareness as the man who speaks for all. As the most senior "soldier" of the United States he has the responsibility to defend the right, to speak without fear. He is, in a special way, the voice of those who have no voice, those who are forbidden by law and custom from expressing their inner feelings and opinions with regard to US government behavior and the policy that it represents. This silence is the price that soldiers pay in accepting their role as apolitical servants of the state. In return for this silence the soldiers expect that the government will not take up policy positions that violate the code of the American soldier.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff speaks for the soldiers. Yesterday, General Peter Pace USMC effectively rebuked Donald Rumsfeld in public when Rumsfeld implied that prevention of abuse of prisoners by Iraqi security forces was not a responsibility of American soldiers present at the commission of such crimes.
"..sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."
With these words Pace began to meet his obligations to everyone who ever wore our uniform. Just after the war in Indochina, I witnessed the humiliation of a former Chief of Staff of the US Army at the Armed Forces Staff College where I was a student. This man had been chief of staff when Lyndon Johnson decided to put major US forces into Vietnam. In a lecture, he described the process by which Johnson bullied the "Chiefs" into accepting his decision to do so. The general said that he had known at the time that it was a catastrophic decision but that he had accepted it. My classmates were all badly "bloodied" veterans of what Johnson had set in motion. When the general stopped speaking, one of them stood to ask why he had not resigned in protest rather than be part of what had happened to us all. The general said that he could not have stopped Johnson and thought that if it were to be done, then he should do it.
Thee were no more questions. There was no applause. They would not stand for him when he left. They would not even look at him.
He had not met his obligations, had not paid the required price. He had failed us all.
Perhaps General Pace has heard this story.