Editor’s note: Eilhys England contributed to this column.
Bad outfits – military or civilian – are all about bad leadership: the top being out of touch with the bottom, not setting the example or leading from the front. It’s a major reason why we lost the Vietnam War, why we’re in such a mess in Iraq, and why most of our senior Army leadership stinks – and, incidentally, why so many of our country’s corporations are going down the drain.
The widespread atrocities in Iraq would have ended with the first dog attack or the first camera shot had Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and the brass hunkered down in the Green Zone, bothered walking with and talking to their troops, applying the best incentive in the world – the boss’ footsteps.
And other roiling issues, such as the wave of mass rapes against American female soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq, wouldn’t have reached numbers so shocking that the top Pentagon brass are still retching in recoil.
The current Army promotion system rewards mainly careerists like Sanchez – well-educated, corporate-type slickies with MBAs in sucking up. The Army general in Afghanistan who turned Tora Bora into a Waterloo, for example, has been promoted and now runs the Army’s personnel system.
Then there’s Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, the commanding general of 13th COSCOM in Balad, Iraq, where morale is lower than clam dung. Chambers’ latest exercise in nonleadership was to have a unit in his command reschedule a memorial service for a dead soldier originally set for Aug. 13. The reported reason: The superstitious general was not about to incur bad luck by flying on the 13th.
I’ve previously blistered Chambers’ command in this column for proposing to charge soldiers three bucks a head to see movies at the newly rebuilt base theater and nine uxorious bucks for a pizza while meanwhile failing to ensure truckers had sufficient armor on their vehicles to protect them from guerrilla attacks.
Apparently, these probes are beginning to get to Gen. Jimmie, who recently put out the word reminding everyone serving under him of the “regulatory requirements for Information Security and proper Public Affairs information release and dissemination,” according to a source who’s asked not to be identified for fear of being burned at the stake. “I immediately thought, ‘I’ll bet this is because Hack nailed ol’ Jimmie again,’” the whistleblower writes. “Then this morning one of Jimmie’s deputies said at a staff meeting, ‘It’s to remind people they can’t be writing to Hackworth and s–.’ I guess ‘and s–’ includes any attempts to exercise their rights under Article One of the Bill of Rights – as well as embarrassing their CG.”
Jimmie’s big into protection – not only of his career, but also of his own precious butt. To secure the latter, he had a ring of huge, concrete barriers erected around his VIP trailer complex quarters a full two and a half months before even 10 percent of his soldiers had any mortar or blast protection around their digs. The “Texas barriers” were placed with no gaps between them except for two breaks to allow the residents a walk-through – while nowhere else on this general’s base are any other soldiers afforded this airtight quality of force protection.
Nope. Gen. Jimmie’s soldiers try to survive with only one large ring – with many gaps – around minizones consisting of some 40-50 trailers. So only one side of any trailer on the perimeter gets any protection – unless you’re lucky enough to live on a corner. The rest of the trailers are shrapnel magnets, and – since attacks against American forces across Iraq have increased from 25 a day a year ago to 100 a day – enemy mortar attacks are an almost daily event.
Then there’s the goat. One of the general’s entourage introduced the animal into the general’s personal fortifications to keep the grass neatly trimmed around Jimmie’s headquarters. Things went trimmingly well until a troop complained, citing the “no pet” rule, and the goat was relieved of duty and sent out to less safe pastures.
All of the above might be somewhat amusing if these poorly led troops were at Fort Hood and not in Iraq, where bad leadership can get our country’s daughters and sons killed in the flash of an incoming round!