The real threat to our national security, as I kept hearing from each witness as I watched the televised impeachment sessions, was their lack of trust in our senior government leadership. Almost every day, the news is replete with yet another example across all aspects of society including, Congress, Departments of Defense, State, Justice and the White House.
I served 33 years in the military, retired as an Army major general and continue to work in business. I am a veteran of 2 wars. I am the only Army general officer in the past 25 years who on a command-wide basis, used trained investigators to interview all potential sexual assault/misconduct victims worldwide, identified perpetrators and then successfully prosecuted them for sexual misconduct. (And authored “The GAMe: Unravelling a Military Sex Scandal” about the Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD story.) Thus, here lies the problem.
What is the threat? In my opinion, we are watching our country’s senior leadership focusing on protecting their organizations’ brand, then themselves and destroying the messengers. In my extensive military and business experience having been involved in all aspects to actually establish a “Zero Tolerance” against sexual assault for over 25 years, we are very close to the day when a leader stands up, in the face of the enemy, orders “follow me!”, and his/her soldiers say “I don’t think so!”. Our leaders have lost our trust.
Lying to the public is not new and continues daily. For example, on September 11, 1997 the Secretary of the Army and the Chief Staff of the Army, in a nationally televised press conference, lied to the American people. Secretary Togo West said, … “what happened at Aberdeen was an aberration. The sexual abuse — is not endemic in our Army.” The truth, 25 years ago, was sexual misconduct was endemic worldwide. The other truth: within this leadership are the perpetrators who were and are protected and condoned.
The direct consequence of this lying is senior leadership demonstrates that it is acceptable and prudent for their careers and livelihood to throw subordinates, who are trying to do the right thing, under the bus. This leadership philosophy and behavior results in undermining the American ethos upon which our country and institutions are founded. Who is protecting our country’s interests and inherently, the American people?
This betrayal of trust results in both national public policy and personal consequences. As a result, sexual assault/misconduct since 1996-1997, there have been an additional half a million victims and counting. Many of the perpetrators were, and continue to be the very leaders, who are entrusted to protect America’s sons and daughters placed in their care.
As a result of exposing this Army-wide abuse of soldiers, my career was effectively ended. I would not change any decisions I made to protect my people. We must be able to depend on our Leaders to do the “hard right, not the easy wrong.” Tragically, we are seeing just the opposite of this behavior in all aspects of our society.
Unfortunately, our senior leaders continue to refuse to learn from the past. They continue to repeat the patterns that further erode the confidence and trust of subordinates. When do we demand that the character of our leaders reflect this Nation’s true values?