FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Do We Believe What Our Generals Tell Us?

by DAVID MACARAY

Prospective jurors in a trial requiring testimony from policemen are usually asked if they think law enforcement officers can be trusted more than other witnesses.  Accordingly, jurors who believe cops don’t lie are dismissed.  It could be argued that this notion of questioning one’s “automatic” integrity should apply to military officers as well, even those who graduated from prestigious service academies.

That whole military honor code deal has always seemed exaggerated.  Even if we ignore the numerous cheating scandals that, over the years, have plagued U.S. service academies (all of which adhere to rigorous honor codes), the most compelling reason for questioning the vaunted “moral rectitude” of these military colleges is the behavior of America’s officer corps during the Vietnam war.

While these men may not have cheated on exams as students, they certainly cheated once they became commissioned officers and began serving in the field.  During that dreadful war, America’s “best and brightest” habitually lied—they lied to their superiors, to their subordinates, to the media, and to the U.S. Congress.  A preponderance of those liars were ex-West Pointers. (“A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.”)

That’s why anyone old enough to remember Vietnam won’t be surprised at what happened to General David Petraeus (arguably the country’s most celebrated and ambitious 4-star general), who recently disgraced himself by being forced to resign as CIA Director after admitting to an extramarital affair.

To be fair, it’s possible this whole “marital infidelity” issue is a bit more complicated than it seems.  For instance, a husband engaged in an extramarital affair may actually have a mitigating story to share, one that would gain him sympathy.  Indeed, the man could have been trapped in a bleak, loveless marriage, and chose to remain in that hellish relationship purely out of loyalty.

But bad marriage or not, one thing is certain.  To avoid detection, an unfaithful husband is required to be a pretty good liar.  There’s no getting around it.  Because he’s living a “double life,” he’s required to lie to cover his tracks.  So, despite Petraeus’ reputation for integrity, his medals, his Princeton Ph.D.—despite his having been molded by West Point’s honor code—he has demonstrated that, if nothing else, he’s an accomplished liar.  Which makes you wonder what the whole point of that honor code was.

During my tenure as a labor union rep I had occasion to mix socially and professionally with six management employees who were graduates of U.S. service academies.  There were three West Point grads (a plant manager, an asset leader, and a staff assistant), two Annapolis grads (an engineer, and a team leader), and an alumnus of the Air Force Academy (a plant manager).

If you didn’t already know that these people (five men, one woman) were products of service academies, you would never know they had military backgrounds, because their management style was more or less indistinguishable from that of managers with degrees from civilian universities.

As to their comparative truth-telling quotients, the service academy grads didn’t seem any more honest than the civilian grads.  In fact, during my tenure, the two plant managers who stood out as “most honest” were graduates of the University of Mississippi and the University of Tennessee, respectively, and the manager who stood out as “least honest” was that team leader from the Naval Academy, whom I will call “Fred.”

As nice as Fred was (and he was very congenial), he was such an extravagant and notorious liar, he’d become something of a legend among union officers.  Nobody—not the shop stewards, not the executive board—could trust him, which, as one might surmise, made his involvement in union-management relations untenable.  Fred was eventually forced to resign.

Presumably, Fred lied for the same reasons most people lie:  to escape punishment, to avoid disappointing others, to aggrandize himself.  The truth of the matter was that this Annapolis graduate was so woefully unsuited and equipped for his job, whenever he got into trouble or came under fire, he did the one thing he felt comfortable doing:  He lied.

Again, it makes you wonder what the whole point of that honor code was.  Did it only apply to West Point cadets, and not to these same men once they entered the real world?  As for General Petraeus and his mistress, why would we treat their illicit affair any different than that of a fry cook and a waitress?   If we pretend that their dalliance was somehow more noble or elevated, we’re fooling ourselves.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd Edition), was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Game: Notes on the Democratic Convention
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail