Bad Apples

The Independent posted a Nov. 15 story regarding allegations of sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers. The Ministry of Defense is investigating 33 new torture cases. Human rights groups caution that the British army may face hundreds of claims of sexual and physical abuse.

The Independent outlined details more sordid than we need to repeat here, but suffice it to say that some sick British puppies pulled stunts that compare to what we know about our own shenanigans at Abu Ghraib and need to be put down.

How do these things happen in supposedly disciplined armed services of supposedly civilized, enlightened nations?

There is a depraved, bigoted, small-minded segment of every society, and any country’s military is bound to reflect that. Take a look at how successful right-wing hate radio and Fox News are in America. Lamentably, the people who fall for the fear-and-loathing media madness tend to be the people who line up to join our military.

Militaries also tend to foster a sense of moral irresponsibility. Decisions concerning life and death and war and peace get made "above my pay grade." Questioning ethically iffy policies isn’t good for one’s military career. A lot of congenital bullies achieve high rank (one might well argue that being a congenital bully is a requirement of achieving high rank). When the boss is a bully, being the bully’s accomplice becomes the key to success.

The military’s senior officer corps, by and large, is a moral morass. The Pentagon’s military analyst program is a perfect example. Retired senior officers with financial ties to the military-industrial complex teamed up with the Pentagon to sell the case for war on the major news networks.

One wants to say that the vast majority of the rank and file is on the up and up, and I believe that is the case. Ultimately, though, the rottenest apples are at the top of the barrel, and that’s certainly the case in the military. The men involved in the military analyst program were, by and large, retired generals, many of them retired four-stars. They were sending American kids into harm’s way to line their own pockets.

Where do we find such men?

We don’t so much find them as make them. We have military academies where cadets and midshipmen spend their first summer learning a laundry list of senseless rules and spend the next four years learning to break them without getting caught. You couldn’t design a better system to foster moral ambiguity. That Christian fanaticism is promoted at the academies makes things even worse. (A senior Catholic chaplain told me, when I was a senior officer, that going to mass and receiving sacraments would "enhance" my military career.)

Whether fish rot from the tail up or from the head down is perhaps moot. But leaders are supposed to lead, and the military leaders we have now are leading us down the road to ruin.

Sun Tzu told us more than 2,000 years ago that "No nation ever profited from a long war." Yet a Long War is precisely what our current military mafia – which includes Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. Ray Odierno, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal – wants us to buy into.

These brass-hat cats are up to no good. They’re trying to keep us bogged down in Iraq as long as they possibly can. With the help of Petraeus’ media tent lad, Thomas E. Ricks, they’ve converted the oafish Odierno from Desert Ox to the Erwin Rommel of the surge in Iraq. Odierno is dumber than a truckload of landscape pebbles. When Col. Timothy Reese noted that the Iraqi government and security forces were incompetent, corrupt, and lazy, Odierno replied that those problems were mere "tactical issues."

Odierno is the essence of our militaristic cognitive dissonance, in which reality and perception differ so drastically that insane behavior erupts. Odierno, like most of the rest of our military and, unfortunately, most of the press, has a stake in clinging to the fantasy they created through media manipulation that the surge in Iraq was a success.

I’ve been listening to bloated right-wing hypocrite Bill Bennett making the argument on CNN that it’s in our vital interest to make a major military commitment to Af-Pak. Why Bennett, a proven neoconservative lunatic, still gets a microphone in the mainstream media is beyond reckoning. (He thinks Sarah Palin is good for the Republican Party. Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.)

McChrystal’s media blitz against President Obama was a buck-naked attempt to subvert the constitutional authority of the commander in chief.

It pains me no end to say these sorts of things. I loved the vast majority of the people I knew and worked with in the military. They were selfless, energetic, enthusiastic servants of their country. But those people didn’t become four-star officers who defied civilian authority and tried to lead their country into everlasting, counterproductive armed conflicts.

Former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld blamed the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere on a "few bad apples." The baddest apples in the barrel were Rumsfeld himself and Dick Cheney, who set the tone that led to prisoner abuse and extrajudicial assassinations of "suspected" bad people. Mentally challenged Pvt. Lynndie England spent years in prison over Abu Ghraib. Rumsfeld, who was fired after the 2006 election took away the GOP’s majority in Congress, lives in a multi-million dollar home on the Eastern Shore by his pal Cheney, who is to date the greatest villain of the 21st century.

"King David" Petraeus, the four-star shaman who created a false perception of success in Iraq by bribing bad guys not to shoot at us, runs our military now, and for all practical purposes, dictates our foreign policy.

We need to wrest control of our policies and our government away from our military, or we’ll go down the road of the Prussians, who eventually spawned Nazi Germany. President Dwight Eisenhower, who as a five-star general guided us to victory against Germany during World War II, warned us that the "unwarranted influence" of the military-industrial complex would persist, and it has.

Our military’s influence on the country has sprinted amok. Our country’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are being led by careerist cronies who are dedicated to preserving a perpetual state of conflict overseas that contributes nothing to national security.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.