“What can you do with a general when he stops being a general?” This lyric from the movie musical “White Christmas” has more relevance this season.
We like to think titles of general and admiral carry broad ethical leadership, but this isn’t uniformly true. Recall Admiral John Poindexter, a past National Security advisor, who created a disinformation campaign and was later convicted of lying to Congress. Donald Trump’s selection for this job, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, is well practiced in fake news and spreading false conspiracy theories.
Trump’s choice for secretary of defense, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, is a proponent of hazing, stating “It is not hazing if they learn a lesson.” Hazing in the Marines has resulted in numerous suicides, and military suicides remain unabated. Prior Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. James Amos, called hazing “a cancer” in 2012.
We must ask more questions of these retired generals. What was their role in 2003 in the Iraq stabilization force when Saddam Hussein’s weapons depots were left unprotected, arming the insurgency? What was their role in the failed policy of putting over 100,000 Sunni militia on the U.S. payroll, bribing them not to fight, only to return as ISIS?
We must question their leadership, their language, their ethics.