Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

A Marine officer inquires: Hey, what’s the story with accountability in the Army?

Here’s a new study of Army leadership. I haven’t read it yet because in my book project (a history of American generalship since 1939) I currently am working on the late 1980s, so I put this report on the pile of stuff to read when I finally get to the 21st century, probably sometime this ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Here's a new study of Army leadership. I haven't read it yet because in my book project (a history of American generalship since 1939) I currently am working on the late 1980s, so I put this report on the pile of stuff to read when I finally get to the 21st century, probably sometime this fall.

That's by way of saying we have a commentary right here that questions Army leadership. Read on, Garth:

By "A Recent Marine Rifle Company Commander"
Best Defense department of helpful Marine commentary on the Army

Here’s a new study of Army leadership. I haven’t read it yet because in my book project (a history of American generalship since 1939) I currently am working on the late 1980s, so I put this report on the pile of stuff to read when I finally get to the 21st century, probably sometime this fall.

That’s by way of saying we have a commentary right here that questions Army leadership. Read on, Garth:

By “A Recent Marine Rifle Company Commander”
Best Defense department of helpful Marine commentary on the Army

After reading Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick I was upset by the lack of accountability for the senior enlisted and officers in the chain of command of that platoon and company, believing they were responsible for the environment that led to the crimes committed.

Today I read the article below about the alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan by members of the 5th Brigade, 2 ID in late 2009 and early 2010. The allegations were already public knowledge by the summer of 2010 when the below article states Capt. Roman Ligsay was promoted. Other press accounts state he was removed as platoon leader during the deployment for his poor leadership of the platoon. He admitted to violating orders by posing for a photo with a dead Afghan.

I understand granting immunity from prosecution to gain testimony against others, but what does it say to every enlisted member of the U.S. military that an officer can still be promoted after apparently failing as a leader, knowingly violating regulations, sacrificing his integrity for immunity, and creating or failing to prevent an environment that led to murder?

Given the leadership discussions on your FP blog over the past few months, I thought you might wish to add this item to the debate.

I am a Marine infantry officer who served in Iraq as a Lieutenant and in Afghanistan as a company commander. I am not trying to single out the Army. All services and organizations have their share of problems, but I am having a great deal of difficulty understanding the actions taken in this case.

The Haditha case offers a contrasting example of accountability. The battalion commander was forced to fight to retire with his rank. Four additional officers from the battalion were passed over for promotion which ended their active duty careers. The RCT CO, Division Chief of Staff, and Division CG were also censured.

By Adam Ashton
McClatchy Newspapers
Published: June 24, 2011

Some of the first images in a set of notorious photographs showing soldiers posing with dead Afghans were taken with a sense pride that the Army was fighting and killing its enemy, a Stryker officer testified Thursday.

Capt. Roman Ligsay told an Army investigator at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that he posed for one of the pictures in November 2009 even though he knew soldiers were ordered not to take photos of casualties for personal use. He said he felt a “sense of accomplishment” when he saw an Afghan who was killed by an American helicopter.

To him, the image showed “we were fighting the enemy. We weren’t just out there on patrols every day and not seeing the success of those patrols.

 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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