WASHINGTON: Telling the truth in today’s Washington is, increasingly, a cause for losing your job. Consider the case of Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who was relieved of command by acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. What was the reason for his removal?
Crozier wrote a letter to Naval officials pointing out that 113 members of his crew tested positive for the coronavirus and that hundreds more ultimately might be stricken. This represents the U.S. military’s largest coronavirus outbreak. He argued that the Navy’s response to this emergency was insufficient.
When he left the ship, crew members cheered their captain in a tumultuous sendoff. (Captain Brett Crozier: Standing Tall For His Sailors)
Video footage showed the support for Crozier of the crew of his ship. Family members of the crew on the ship had expressed growing concern that the Navy was moving too slowly in getting sailors off the ship.
The mother of a sailor who tested positive for the virus and was evacuated from the ship said she and most commenters in closed Facebook groups for family members of the crew back Crozier.
The Navy removed Crozier from his post without an investigation of any kind.
Secretary Modly flew to Guam to address the crew, calling Crozier “naive” or “stupid.”
President Trump also mocking Crozier at a press conference, asking whether Crozier thought “he was Hemingway” by writing his letter.
Now, Secretary Modly’s irresponsible behavior has led him to resign. President Trump has backtracked and said he will “look into the case.”
This case, sadly, is typical of the price for telling the truth. Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University historian, graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and a retired colonel, provided this assessment in The American Conservative:
“soon after a show-the-flag port call in Da Nang, Vietnam, undertaken at the Pentagon’s direction, members of his (Crozier’s) crew tested positive for Covid-19. Crozier reacted just as the Trump administration, not to mention various slow-on-the switch governors and mayors, should have. He saw the onset of the coronavirus posing a lethal threat to the Roosevelt’s entire crew of several thousand sailors. so he sounded the alarm, sending a letter to senior military officials. The gist of that letter was a recommendation to disembark and isolate the Roosevelt’s crew, treating those infected and subjecting the entire ship to to a thorough cleaning to eliminate the virus.”
In Bacevich’s view,
“…many Americans are dying unnecessarily through the negligence of leaders at all levels. In the weeks to come, negligence will cost the lives of many more. Crozier stands out as one leader who was quick to assess the danger at hand and recommend prompt and decisive action. For this, he was fired…Faced with a perplexing leadership challenge, Crozier made a very tough call. This was one instance, he concluded, where men should come before mission, while he unhesitatingly placed his own career interests last. His superiors ought to have applauded his actions. That they did not calls into question their own good judgment.”
The great-grandson of Theodore Roosevelt the name-sake of Crozier’s ship, backed the actions of Capt. crozier.
Tweed Roosevelt, whose ancestor’s name graces Capt. Crozier’s ex-ship, wrote in The New York Times that Crozier “is a hero.” He reports that his great-Grandfather did the same thing during the Spanish-American War in 1898. At that time, he wrote a letter to Washington officials urging that soldiers return home because of the threats of yellow fever and malaria.
He declares that his great-grandfather would agree with Capt. Crozier’s actions.
Telling a truth people do not want to hear has always been unpopular.
In his 1882 play, “An Enemy of the People,” Henrik Ibsen tells the story of Dr. Thomas Stockman, medical officer of a spa, upon which the prosperity of his town depends. He discovers that rather than promoting health, bacteria is contaminating the spa water. He becomes “an enemy of the people.”
The town people vandalize the doctor’s house, endangering his life and career.
“You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth. The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. A party is like a sausage machine, it grinds up all sorts of heads together into the same baloney…”
Truth is such a valuable commodity that we conserve it as well as we can, and increasingly only use it on rare occasions. All of us are losers as a result. We are losing at the present time because of our unpreparedness for a deadly disease. That the months our leaders left to waste while downplaying the coronavirus dangers.
Capt. Brett Crozier was not one of these people, and has paid a price for telling the truth. Now, he is himself fighting the coronavirus. All Americans should wish him well.
Capt. Brett Crozier, then-commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt addresses the crew during an all-hands call in the ship’s hangar bay March 3, 2020. Crozier was relieved of command after his letter that warned sailors could die from the coronavirus outbreak aboard the carrier was leaked to the media.
KAYLIANNA GENIER/U.S. NAVY