I have long maintained that part of the reason why Afghanistan has been such a doomed mission is that high ranking military figures have faced zero consequences for their failed leadership. As just one example, John Allen faced no punishment when he offered the insane excuse that the rash of green on blue killings in August of 2012 was due to Ramadan fasting, even when it was widely known that clashing cultural values and the mere presence of Americans were the driving forces of the attacks. Allen did wind up retiring in disgrace, but only because he got caught up in the periphery of the panty sniffing surrounding the David Petraeus-Paula Broadwell affair. Until that point, Allen was scheduled to fail upward to NATO Commander.
That background makes last night’s announcement that two Marine Corps generals will be forced into retirement over their failures that led to the devastating attack on Camp Bastion last September a huge surprise. From the New York Times:
Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, formerly NATO’s regional commander in southwestern Afghanistan, was faulted for failing to properly assess risks posed by the insurgency operating outside the vast military base in Helmand Province that included camps Bastion, Leatherneck and Shorabak.
General Gurganus had been nominated for his third star and a senior leadership role at the Marine Corps headquarters at the Pentagon, but will retire instead.
Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant, the former commander of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing forces assigned to Afghanistan, was faulted for not having established an integrated system of security at Bastion airfield, and will also take early retirement.
Of course, a cynic might note that such severe consequences don’t seem to have been leveled due major loss of life, but was more likely tied to the loss of $200 million worth of aircraft and major damage to facilities at the base as well. There was also a huge chance for even bigger embarrassment from the attack, as McClatchy reminds us that the attack may have been aimed at Prince Harry, who was at the base at the time of the attack which hit just about two hours before his birthday.
Returning to the Times, we have this from Amos:
Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, announced the disciplinary action on Monday. He said the punishments were unprecedented in modern Marine Corps history and were an effort “to remain true to the timeless axioms relating to command responsibility and accountability.”
Hmm. Amos is telling us about “command responsibility and accountability”. I wonder if he feels that those concepts apply to him, as well? Amos has been at the center of not one, but two scandals in which he has been accused of applying undue command influence regarding criminal proceedings inside the military.
First, there are his comments on the prosecution of sexual assault cases. While it is laudable that Amos wants to see sexual assaults prosecuted fully, the way he has gone about it has actually made such prosecutions harder to carry out. From McClatchy:
The Marine Corps commandant wanted to snuff out rape in the ranks. However, his well-meaning but overly blunt talk instead complicated Marine sexual-assault cases worldwide and raised troubling questions about whether accused Marines will get a fair shake.
This week, for the second time in recent months, a Marine Corps trial judge found that Gen. James F. Amos’ forceful remarks on sexual assault earlier this year presented the appearance of unlawful command influence.
And just what did Amos say to cause the problems? Try this: Read more