""A bedrock principle of our military system is that we empower commanders with the responsibility, authority and resources necessary to carry out their mission," Gates said. "With responsibility comes accountability."
His comment suggested that senior officials in the Army chain of command would not be immune from disciplinary action.
Gates announced that two former Army secretaries, Togo West and Jack Marsh, would head an independent panel to review treatment and administrative processes at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md. Gates said the group has been asked to report its findings publicly within 45 days.
"After the facts are established, those responsible for having allowed this unacceptable situation to develop will indeed be held accountable," Gates said, adding that so far no one involved has offered to resign.
"We are not going to wait 45 days to begin addressing these problems," he said. "And so there have been some people who are most directly involved who have been relieved. But we will be looking and evaluating the rest of the chain of command as we get more information."" AP – Burns
Gates could not be more right. What happened to convalescent soldiers and marines at WRAMC and perhaps elsewhere must not happen again. Unfortunately, the only way that officers, SENIOR OFFICERS, and their civilian political and bureaucratic associates can be taught a lesson about bureaucracy, obstructionism, indifference to the suffering of soldiers and neglect of duty is to "lop off" a few heads.
Up until now in this "War on Terror" generals and admirals have been immune from punishment. They have not been punished for failure. No, they have been rewarded for failure. "Screw up and move up" has been rule of the day. The sole exception was that hapless woman reservist Brigadier General in the Abu Ghraib mess. I guess she just wasn’t well connected enough.
In the 18th Century, there was a famous incident, satirized and therefore immortalized by Voltaire, in which a British admiral, John Byng was court-martialed and shot for a failure in command.
Voltaire mockingly recounts his view of Byng’s death by having a character in Candide remark that; "in this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others" (Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres).
In fact, Byng was executed because a naval lieutenant had been executed a year or so earlier for much the same crime, and the British people and parliament demanded equal justice for equal crime in the Byng case. The example set is widely credited with having contributed mightily to the future performance of the Royal Navy.
Let us hope and believe that Gates is serious and that his "panel" does not decide to let the malefactors and indifferent "off the hook" with a slap on the wrist.
As the sage of Secaucus, New Jersey (Imus) sputtered in rage last week, "Who are these men to say that they will ‘accept responsibility for this.’ They already have the responsibility…" pl