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Dina Rasor Headshot

General Moral Courage

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Lt. Colonel Paul Yingling has just published a new article, "A Failure in Generalship" in the newest issue of Armed Forces Journal. He outlines how our current general officer corps has failed the military and the country much in the same way that they did during the Vietnam war era. From his article:

"While the physical courage of America's generals is not in doubt, there is less certainty regarding their moral courage. In almost surreal language, professional military men blame their recent lack of candor on the intimidating management style of their civilian masters. Now that the public is immediately concerned with the crisis in Iraq, some of our generals are finding their voices. They may have waited too long."

Yingling's full article can be found here.

There is one area where the general officer corps also failed in Iraq and hurt not only the war effort and the country, but the soldiers themselves. This week on May 1, my new book, Betraying Our Troops: the Destructive Results of Privatizing War, will be released. In the very first chapter, we tell a story of a manager for KBR, who was contracted to provide food, water, supply transportation and other services to our troops in Iraq. He told a general at his Iraq base that unless KBR was paid for their submitted invoices, his workers would stay in their housing containers and do nothing until the money was paid. In other words, KBR was threatening a work stoppage in a war zone.

This was not an isolated incident. Later in the book, my co-author and I verified that this was happening across Iraq at various bases as KBR approached or exceeded their "not-to exceed" costs. Since the Army had contracted with KBR to provide these services which had been traditionally done by the Army, they had no back up plan and paid the bills. These generals had to process these questionable billing demands up through the ranks of the general officer corps and the civilian managers to the high level in the Army, and they released the money to be paid.

It is very troublesome that these generals, who may have argued and jawboned KBR in meetings, were allowing "the intimidating management style of their civilian" contractors to run the logistics of their war. Since the supplemental money for the war was what is called "colorless", i.e. could be allocated for whatever was needed, there are concerns that the contractor bills took precedence over other traditional Army needs such as body armor, night vision goggles, and other critical combat equipment. The Congress has been voting more and more money to be sure that the troops have what they need and yet the Army has barely been able to supply the demand for this equipment.

The generals showed lack of moral courage to stand up to this contractor for the welfare of their troops. Surely one of the generals should have been willing to go eyeball to eyeball with the contractor and threaten to walk out and tell the Congress and press corps that this company was threatening not to feed the troops. I often wonder what General Patton would have done in this instance. I envision him leaping up across the table, grabbing the contract manager with one hand while sticking his pistol up the nose of the manager. He then would tell him that if the contractor employees were not slinging hash for his troops in the morning, that he would blow his nose off.

I am not suggesting that the current group of generals should resort to such tactics but surely they should have the moral courage not to allow a contractor to coerce generals in to paying inflated billings at the expense of supplying troops what they need to fight. As more and more of our war effort is reliant on contractor support, we need this type of courage from our general officer corps.

If you are interested in learning more on why the troops are not getting the support they need and the problems around the privatization of the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, visit the Follow the Money Project website at www.followthemoneyproject.org.