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May 07, 2004

President Bush and SecDef Rumseld Apologize « GWOT »

Okayfine. I guess I have no problem with that... The abuse of the prisoners in Iraq was a pretty horrific thing.

Accountability and responsibility are funny things, I guess. I mean, some people blame President Bush for 9/11. Like him, I think there were Muslim Extremist members of Al Qaida actually holding the boxcutters, and I don't think they were acting under President Bush's orders. Heck, President Clinton blamed Conservative Talk Radio for the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. John Ashcroft is being blamed for jack-booted thugs trampling on civil rights across the nation, despite a conspicuous absence of jack-booted thugs...and I have no idea what these same blamers think of the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, or they feel was responsible for that. Probably President Bush, I guess. Or a Republican somwehere, if they can manage it.

In any case, I have no problem with the Brigadier General in charge of the prison to be held responsible and removed from her position in the aftermath. You could as easily insist that only the people who actually did anything were responsible, and you can't blame the General any more (or any less, perhaps), than President Bush for 9/11.

Except that doesn't fly with me. There are tiers of responsibility, particularly in the military, but also in society. If a product doesn't ship on time, is it the fault of the person who boxed too slowly? The manager who failed to notice the person boxed too slowly? The CEO?

See, at some point, there is someone who is given full responsibility for making sure the product is shipped. That responsibility is a portion of the entire responsibility held by the CEO and/or President and/or owner and/or board of directors (can you tell I don't know much about business?). But since the guy at the top can't see/know/do it all, he shares in part of the responsibility, but at some point the main responsibility falls on the person who he gave the responsibility and authority to, who is also the person who accepted this responsibility.

In the military (something I do know), there are specific tiers of leadership, as well. Junior enlisted have little responsibility, junior non-commissioned officers (sergeants) have a little bit more, senior NCOs still more. One of the reasons even a 2nd Lt can make more than some senior NCOs (depending on time in service), is because even the lowest officer is held to a higher level of responsibility. It's his job to make sure his taskings are accomplished, but the junior NCOs will probably supervise/guide the junior enlisted with advice/support/expertise from the senior NCOs in accordance to the direction established by the officer. Company-Grade officers (Lts and Capts) have a certain level of responsibility, usually for a company-sized unit (up to 100+ people. Usually) Field-Grade officers (Majors and Colonels) have higher levels of responsibility, but also higher levels of authority. They can step in and make life miserable for any Company-Grade Officer that is not doing their job. General/Flag officers can do the same to Field-Grade Officers.

That's why some people never make it past Lt Colonel. They are considered to lack the "stuff" that would earn them the position in which they have total control and total responsibility and total authority over a full unit (Like a Division, Wing, etc). For the most part, General/Flag officers are told what the effect/position their unit needs to accomplish, and they are allowed to do whatever is necessary, within reason, to accomplish that objective. As long as the objective is accomplished without abnormal casualties or abysmal morale, no one jogs their elbow or looks over their shoulder. For the first time in your career, you are fully and absolutely judged solely by the accomplishments of the unit under your watch.

That is the authority and responsibility granted to by the President through the Secretary of Defense through the branch secretary through the Senior Military Leader of that branch. You accept that responsibility.

That's why the General in question is responsible. By accepting the star and taking the position, she was accepting that it absolutely was her job to know what was going on in the prison. Particularly since the opportunity for such abuse was quite available.

But President Bush and the Honorable Mr. Rumsfeld, while they can apologize for the poor judgment in appointing the people who appointed her, should not be held fully responsible because they had delegated the responsbility and authority to her, and while she could further delegate aspects of the responsibility, the authority of a General Officer could not be delegated any lower. Thus, while she should not get jail time for these horrendous acts because she didn't take part in them, she should lose her position, her rank, and probably her retirement because she did not fulfill her responsibility to any acceptable degree.

She failed, and failed badly. She failed her superiors, she failed her subordinates (who also failed her), but most of all, she failed those in her charge. Nice quotes notwithstanding, "the buck" stopped with her, and she knew it.

Posted by Nathan at 02:12 PM | Comments (1)

..exactly... Leaders should be leading... she was not...

Posted by: Eric at May 9, 2004 05:54 AM
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