Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last week ,our nation’s capital, the news media, and most of our allies were captivated by the sacking of a four-star Army general commanding thousands of troops in the Afghan war. The Commander in Chief did the right thing in sacking him and Gen. Stanley McChrystal did the right thing in acknowledging his mistakes and exiting quietly. This was a positive example of leadership, accountability and transparency. Unfortunately, these same attributes were not apparent in a much less publicized decision by senior Army leaders dealing with their own subordinates. On July 13, 2008, as many as 200 insurgents attacked a virtually indefensible position without even minimum logistical or tactical support by its higher commands at company, battalion, or brigade levels. The attack at the village of Wanat near the Pakistan border left nine U.S. soldiers dead and 27 wounded. Comprehensive investigations into the incident found that the three commanders at the company, battalion and brigade were guilty of “dereliction of duty” and negligence. Shockingly, Gen. Charles Campbell cleared the three officers of all charges and told the families of the nine dead soldiers that “punishing the three would have a chilling effect on other battlefield commanders who have to make crucial decisions.” No reprimand, no court martial, no discharge from the Army for these three “leaders.” This decision’s chilling effect will be on soldiers, their families, and all Americans who are aware of this institutional dereliction of duty.

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