Carol Platt Liebau: The Tillman fiasco -- Rangers fail to lead the way

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Tillman fiasco -- Rangers fail to lead the way

This is guest blogger Wile E Coyote

"Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don't never lie to a Ranger or officer." -- Standing Order No. 4, Rogers's Rangers

Republicans have been unduly silent over the long-running fiasco concerning the death of Ranger Pat Tillman. Democrats, meanwhile, have fixated on exposing a White House cover up when a larger and in some ways more important issue stares us in the face.

Recent findings by a four-star general, endorsed by the Secretary of the Army, identified numerous "mistakes" up and down the chain of command. Now, there are "errors of commission", when you try to do the right thing and you screw it up. "Errors of omission" are when you don't try to do the right thing. Efforts to alert the Pacific Fleet on the eve of Pearl Harbor exemplify the former. NASA's failure to deal with the known O-ring risk that eventually blew up the Space Shuttle exemplifies the latter.

Numerous errors of commission suggest process and training failures. Numerous errors of omission suggest failures of culture and leadership.

The Tillman case tells us there is something very wrong with the culture and leadership of the US Army officer corps. A bad tree is producing and nurturing bad apples. This problem is not soley the fault of this admistration, or the prior one. The problem is at least 30 years in the making. But we have to see the problem for what it is and to start fixing it now.


Blogger Kbobby said...

Carol don't throw the baby out with the bath water. One rotten apple may spoil the barrel but don't paint the whole officer corps with such a wide brush. There are bad apples in all organizations but that doesn't mean that the organizations themselves are bad. Overall we have a very competent officer corps and they have integrity and honor. I hate to see generalizations become the norm and in this case you are doing just that. I can understand the frustration of the family and the dismay they have towards the army but this story is now being used by the antiwar crowd and the Bush haters to further inflame the public.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

Wile E Coyote here.

This is not a case of one rotten apple. When an entire chain of command, from the company commander up to the corps commander, makes errors of omission, there is a serious institutional problem.

No group more eagerly wishes to see this problem addressed than the armey's numerous honorable and capable officers. We do them and ourselves no service by failing to admit the problem and to act decisively. Part of the reason the Democrats can inflame the public is that it is clear there is a problem and that the Republicans won't deal with it squarely.

10:55 AM  
Blogger birdie bob said...

Wile E, I don't know if there was a particular reason you chose a 30 year time frame but that would coincide with my timeline to prove that the military has improved greatly in that time. That was when the draft was jettisoned. A friend had experiences in both "eras". He went into the "draft" service after high school and he said the discipline, morale, etc. was horrible. After using the GI bill to go to college, he then served again (as an officer this time and in the post-draft era). He said the positive change in professionalism, integrity, and morale was simply amazing. Obviously there are going to be certain rotten apples in any organization but you prune those apples without cutting down the entire tree.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

Wile E Coyote here.

I am not suggesting cutting down the tree, but errors of omission up and down a chain of command should not be dismissed as "a few rotten apples".

The fact that the military is better than it was does not mean there is not still a serious problem.

If you care about the tree, then aggressively treat the disease.

1:24 PM  
Blogger One Salient Oversight said...

To me the issue is one of integrity verses loyalty.

Integrity means a person acts according to a clearly defined set of beliefs that apply to all in all situations. It was integrity, for example, that led Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson to tell those at My Lai that he would shoot any American he saw continuing the massacre.

Loyalty is slightly different. Loyalty can be a wonderful thing when applied rightly, but not when it is applied without integrity. If you're loyal to someone who is doing evil, then your loyalty is misplaced.

The cover-up of Pat Tillman's death has led some to wonder whether he was fragged rather than suffered from friendly fire. Conspiracy theorists even think Bush may have ordered it (though I doubt it very much... really I do!). Whatever happened, the fact was that the cover up by multiple people shows what happens when group loyalty is stronger than personal integrity - silence and lies were told to cover up an evil act (which is, to be honest, not so evil if it was merely friendly fire. The motive for such a grand cover-up is more likely if he was fragged).

5:29 PM  

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