Case Study In Cultural Ethics Rot: “Bin Laden Shooter” Robert O’Neill

Dead, but still helping to corrupt our culture...

Yes, dead, but still helping to corrupt our culture…

Do you remember all those World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans who published books and gave interviews taking personal credit for the successes of the United Armed Services? No, neither do I, because there weren’t very many. The ethical culture of military organizations has always been that the unit is what matters, not the individual. For a soldier to seek credit, accolades and celebrity through his own disclosures was regarded as disgraceful conduct, and a betrayal of military honor and tradition.

Those values, and the important larger cultural values that they reinforce, are crumbling rapidly. Former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, one of many U.S. special forces members to storm Osama bin Laden’s compound on May 2, 2011, confirmed to The Washington Post that he was the unnamed SEAL who fired the fatal bullet at the terrorist leader. His decision to make himself an instant celebrity and speaker circuit star comes nearly two years after another Seal in the mission, Matt Bissonnette, published his account of the raid, “No Easy Day.” The Post says that O’Neill has endured “an agonizing personal struggle, as he weighed concerns over privacy and safety against a desire to have a least some control over a story that appeared likely to break, with or without his consent.” There is no struggle if O’Neill accepted that fact that his ethical obligation is to shut up, and not dishonor his colleagues, his profession and his country by choosing celebrity over preserving a vital ethical standard.

Will future Seals jeopardize the success of their missions as each tries to deliver the “money shot” that will literally result in millions? Why wouldn’t they, now that soldiers are absorbing the American culture’s obsession with cashing in and becoming famous as the primary objective of human existence? Like all ethical standards, the tradition of soldiers neither seeking individual credit nor wanting it had strong practical reasons for its existence. A military unit is the ultimate team, and no team can function at maximum efficiency if the members regard themselves as competing for glory. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Leon Panetta’s Memoirs, and Reconsidering Ethics Alarms’ Absolute Condemnation Of Such Books”

Obama's role model?

Obama’s role model?

Some thoughts as I read the comment below from Ethics Alarms stalwart Steve-O-in-NJ:

  • Woodrow Wilson is indeed, in many ways, one of the best comps for President Obama.
  • Yet there are still many, even those whose updates appear on my own Facebook page, who will shout to the skies that all such criticisms are partisan, racist, unfair attacks on a marvelous, brilliant, misunderstood  Chief Executive.
  • Why is that fading breed of Democrats fading? And where are the statesmanlike Republicans? Is there one?

Here is Steve’s Comment of the Day on the post, Leon Panetta’s Memoirs, and Reconsidering Ethics Alarms’ Absolute Condemnation Of Such Books:
Continue reading

Leon Panetta’s Memoirs, and Reconsidering Ethics Alarms’ Absolute Condemnation Of Such Books

Panetta

When Robert Gates, formerly President Obama’s Secretary of Defense,  published his memoirs, I wrote:

Bottom line: these people betray their colleagues for money, and often, as is Robert Gates’s case, out of spite. Former Defense Secretary Gates, like the others, was given an opportunity to serve his country in a high executive branch position. He was privy to policy discussions and the inner workings of the administration. He was trusted. To reveal details of his tenure while the administration he worked for is still in office, done in a way designed to provoke criticism and embarrass his former associates and boss, is the height of disloyalty, and a breach of implicit confidentiality.

The honorable and ethical way to write such a book would be to wait until it could not actively interfere with the work of the Executive Branch. The people may have a right to know, but they do not have a right to know everything immediately. People in high policy-making positions must be able to be themselves, express opinions, and have productive meetings with the confidence that those they work with are not collecting notes for a future Book-of-the-Month sellout. Books like Gates’s undermine that trust, make it more difficult to get candid and controversial opinions and ideas into the decision-making process, and ultimately hurt all of us. The former  Secretary and those who appreciate the additional ammunition for administration-bashing can assemble a lot of rationalizations for the  book, but they all boil down to “Everybody Does It,” the most threadbare and cowardly rationalization of all.The ethical thing would have been for Gates to write the book in a few years, or not to write it at all.

You can’t get much more definite than that, can you?

I could, without much difficulty, distinguish between Gates’ book and the recently released book by former Obama CIA director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, “Worthy Fights,” that is drawing fire from Obama loyalists. Gates’ book often seemed petty and hypocritical, and I do think he was cashing in. He is, in my view, nowhere near Panetta’s caliber as an administrator or a thinker, and I trust Panetta as a public servant who isn’t motivated by money or celebrity, but by love of country. (Yes, he was by far the best of Bill Clinton’s team.) But rather than do that, and open myself up to the legitimate accusation that I am accepting the identical conduct from Panetta that I condemned from Gates because I respect Panetta more, I’ll just admit that my attack on Gates’ book was excessive, and that there are legitimate reasons, sometimes, and patriotic ones, for a high appointee to write such a book. Continue reading

The Benghazi Express: It’s Hard To Hide An Ethics Train Wreck

Did you hear the gross and inappropriate remark Joe Biden made to the father of one of the soldiers killed in the Benghazi attack? Of course not! Because it makes the Vice President appear to be a clueless and insensitive fool…we can’t have THAT…not before an election!

It’s pretty simple, really. The American people have a right to know what really happened in Benghazi, and as new questions keep arising, the appearance of a cover-up on the part of the Obama Administration keeps getting more difficult to deny.

  • On 9/11 of 2012, an armed attack on the American embassy in Libya left four dead, including the Ambassador. After the attack, the only official U.S. comment was on the website of the Cairo embassy, which had experienced a violent protest, disavowing an anti-Islam film trailer that had been posted on YouTube, essentially suggesting that the violence had been provoked by offensive American speech.
  • Many days afterward, that remained the official position of the Obama Administration, to such an extent that ten days after the raid the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. visited all the Sunday talk shows to describe the attack as spontaneous, not planned terrorist actions, and sparked by indignation over the video. President Obama went before the U.N., and again disavowed and blamed the video. Continue reading

The Los Angeles Times, War, and the Reckless, Arrogant News Media

The Los Angeles Times feels that you need to see this photo, and sensationalism has nothing to do with it. No, really.

Our national news media, which is as biased as ever, more untrustworthy than ever, and less professional than ever, is also more self-righteous than ever, which, I suppose, figures. The most recent display of self-righteousness, along with gratuitous recklessness and arrogance, is the Los Angeles Times’ decision to publish photos of American soldiers posing happily next to the bloody mess that had been the bodies of Afghan suicide bombers. The Pentagon asked the Times not to run the photos, for obvious reasons. The mission in Afghanistan is hanging by a thread as it is, our relationship with the government and the populace serially wounded by a series of unnecessary events that placed the U.S. in a terrible light: in January, a video of Marines urinating on dead Taliban soldiers; in February, the botched disposal of copies of the Quaran, and shortly thereafter, the rampage of a deranged U.S. soldier, who went door to door killing Afghan civilians. Such episodes, and the publicity they receive, jeopardize American interests and cost lives, as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta explained while condemning the Times’ irresponsible decision. Continue reading

The GSA Spending Scandal, Panetta, Biden, the Obama Administration Culture

Outrageous! Why would the GSA have to hire this clown? Talk about “carrying coals to Newcastle…”

That the GSA’s spending 0ver $800,000 on a Vegas staff fling masquerading as a working conference was unethical and an example of government agency arrogance at its worst seemed so obvious to me that I was going to eschew commentary entirely. When Newt Gingrich, Eric Holder and Kim Kardashian would likely understand what is wrong with any conduct, my analysis is superfluous. However, here are a few observations regarding the more critical issue of what this episode teaches us about the Obama Administration, the culture it has fostered and its leadership:

  • I do not think it is unfair to consider whether  the General Services Administration scandal might be a direct result of the culture in the Obama Administration generally. The overwhelming  impression left by the entire administration from the top down is that austerity is for everyone else. The message sent by continued unnecessary and profligate spending at all levels of the government was bound to be taken as a general green light to be abused by someone, and that someone happened to be at the GSA. Of course, there may be other someones who haven’t been found out yet. Continue reading