Ignoring the fact that the Admiral subscribes to the Bill Clinton school of national security decision making and has been an outspoken critic (and here) of the Bush Administration, he's comparing apples and oranges.
Last August a four-star general was fired for having had an extramarital affair [front page, Aug. 10]. Yet the day before, a Pentagon spokesman gave a limp explanation for why no two-, three- or four-star officer had been reprimanded for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. One does not have to condone adultery to sympathize with the general who was a scapegoat for the military's failure to exercise discipline in the prison cases.
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence T. Di Rita said that "the two most senior people responsible for the prison were admonished in career-ending actions" [letters, Aug. 8]. That would be a one-star general and a colonel. Mr. Di Rita does not understand the military's concept of responsibility if he believes they were the "most senior people responsible for the prison." The buck for such errors stops at the Oval Office. The blame for Abu Ghraib should have been levied closer to the president than the brigadier who commanded the prison.
It is true that a number of very senior flag and general officers have been relieved and forced to retire in the recent past (here and here), but the admiral's conclusions are a non sequitur. These generals were not fired and retired for something their subordinates did. They were sacked for their own personal behavior. The admiral anticipates this argument, but tries to counter:
Other military spokesmen have argued that more senior generals were not responsible because they did not know what was taking place at these prisons. That attitude is antithetical to the ethical fabric that holds a military organization together. The job of senior officers is to know what goes on in their command.But this argument clearly has its limits. It is reasonable for one to expect a commander of a smaller unit to be very knowledgeable about his command, and officers are routinely held accountable when they fail. But, one cannot expect a combatant commander or theater commander to know all and see all among the potentially hundreds of subordinate units and hundreds of thousands of personnel under his command.
I guess the pointed question for Admiral Turner is this: do you, admiral, think you should have been relieved and disciplined every time systematic misconduct occured while you were commander of U.S. forces in Japan and Korea? My guess is, the answer will be "no."
Open posted to Mudville.