Housekeeping in the US Military

Ideas and Issues
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January 30, 2021

Pearl River     There hasn’t been a press release or news conference from the new Pentagon secretary or the Joint Chief of Staffs of the military arms of the United States that announces an internal shift in priorities, but if you put your ear to the ground, you can hear a serious cleanup operation reversing the Trump days of less accountability and encouragement of cowboy culture and rogue actors in the ranks. Part of this new emphasis is triggered by the concerns over veteran and military participation in the January storming of the Capitol, but I would wager it’s deeper than that, and really involves the top brass trying to bring accountability and discipline back in the ranks.

There are telltale signs of this shift starting to emerge everywhere.

  • There was an announcement that the military has launched a deeper initiative to root out pockets of extremism and white supremacism in the ranks.
  • The Inspector General of the Pentagon has announced that an investigation has begun of the special forces of all branches to assure that they are following the rules of war and whether scofflaws are being disciplined. This is an obvious response to Trump’s overruling the military procedures in the cases involving Navy Seals and others.
  • The fact that the military cooperated with the FBI in vetting National Guard troops assigned to protect the inauguration and reassigned a dozen, several of whom were seen as sympathizers with the rebellion is interesting, as is the problem that the Pentagon delayed mobilizing the National Guard when the Capitol was under attack.
  • There is no question that the military was embarrassed by the attention given to veterans, especially those dressed in tactical gear, in the riot, and were firm when they refused to be mobilized in the wake of the George Floyd demonstrations for Trump political aims. The brass clearly believes that they just barely escaped being politicized and weaponized by the former president, and wants to restore its neutrality.

I talked about all of these issues on Wade’s World with Rev. Richard Bell, a leader in ACORN’s Louisiana affiliate, A Community Voice, but also commander of the New Orleans unit of the American Legion, and a 36-year veteran of the National Guard, retiring in 2014. Bell was an Equal Opportunity specialist within the Guard. He believed there has been progress, but that racism continues to be deeply embedded in the armed forces, and will require a top command priority involving extensive training and disciplinary actions, including court martials and dishonorable discharges, some of which he was responsible for handling during his service.

He sees the problem as serious, because the military has to be neutral and able to serve all the public in tense times and be understood domestically and internationally in such a manner. The Capitol riots were an embarrassment to him and others who have served, but he argued strongly that if these issues are given priority from the top, the military is more than able to be a model of equity within its ranks and within the community and country.

There are certainly signs that the big whoops realize they have had some huge problems. We’ll have to watch for the real results, as Bell cautions, not just the signals that seem to be cropping up everywhere.