Originally appeared at The American Conservative.
The backlash to the Navy’s punishment of Capt. Crozier has been intense, and some influential members of Congress are denouncing the decision to relieve him of command:
NEW: @RepSpeier, who chairs the House Armed Services Cmte Military Personnel panel, calls the firing a “heinous act of whistleblower retaliation” that will be investigated “immediately.”
— Ben Siegel (@benyc) April 2, 2020
From what I can see, Capt. Crozier is a patriot who was just trying to do what’s best for his crew. If this report is accurate, I don’t know why he would be punished for that — especially with so many lives at stake. https://t.co/BfnegDNeqt
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) April 2, 2020
Some Navy veterans were disgusted:
CAPT Crozier knew he was putting his job and career on the line, but this is a shameful disgrace.
A failure of weak-kneed leadership in crisis.
(USN 85-93, CVW-8 aboard Roosevelt 86-90) https://t.co/l2JRjrnOdb
— Kai Ryssdal (@kairyssdal) April 2, 2020
David Lapan, a retired Marine colonel, had this to say:
“What signal does this send to the fleet?” said Lapan. “Relieving that commander under these conditions makes it appear to be retaliation. It makes it appear the Navy is more interesting in not being embarrassed rather than taking care of sailors.”
Especially, he said, when one day earlier Modly was calling for commanders to be honest about what they need.
“It makes it appear that you really don’t want them to be honest.”
Spencer Ackerman reported on the backlash among veterans:
For some post-9/11 veterans, Esper’s position was reminiscent of the disregard they remembered their old leadership displaying toward them. Trump has likened the response to coronavirus to a “war,” and they recognize this kind of war intimately.
“Rummy and Esper seemingly have a direct connection of indifference,” said Joe Kassabian, an Afghanistan war veteran, author and co-host of the Lions Led By Donkeys military podcast. “Like who the fuck are we prepping for war with that makes having a goddamn plague ship at sea a good idea? The captain of that ship clearly was worried about the health and welfare of his crewmates but the military doesn’t give a shit.”
Lapan also ridiculed the idea that the captain’s letter caused a panic among sailors and their families:
“The idea that it got out there and it created panic among families — you don’t think the families didn’t already know what was going on on that ship? You don’t think the sailors weren’t already telling their families what was happening on the ship? That’s ridiculous,” Lapan said.
“It’s more believable that the letter would cause the families to be upset that the Navy wasn’t taking the right steps to protect their loved ones.”
As we saw in reporting on Wednesday, many sailors and their families were thrilled that the captain was willing to stick up for the welfare of the crew despite the obvious political risks for his own career:
The letter also appeared to be a hit aboard the ship, as family members began sharing Tuesday on social media The Chronicle’s article, which included a copy of the correspondence.
The only ones who were panicked by the appearance of the letter were the captain’s superiors, who were being called out for their negligence.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a veteran of the Iraq war still serving in the Army National Guard, suggested that an investigation was needed to get to the bottom of Crozier’s removal:
I have a really hard time believing this. This deserves investigation.
— Tulsi Gabbard ?? (@TulsiGabbard) April 2, 2020
Crozier’s punishment sends a chilling message to other officers that they shouldn’t rock the boat even when lives are on the line. It shows that the top civilian leadership in the military is more concerned with the appearance of readiness than they are with the real thing. As Kassabian noted in the quote above, what is the value of having an aircraft carrier in service when many sailors are falling ill during a pandemic? The quickest and best way to get the Roosevelt back into normal service would be to address the problem of infected crewmen head on and take care of it instead of allowing it to fester. Crozier was right about that, and because he refused to shut up about it he was removed. Now there are many others speaking out very loudly in his defense, and the Navy and the Trump administration have not heard the last of this.
Update: Here is the joint statement from the members of the House Armed Services Committee:
Joint Leadership Statement from the House Armed Services Committee: They don’t approve, and they slam Esper for delegating the response to the lower echelons.
This is an issue I've been harping to anyone who will listen. pic.twitter.com/ZerERnZeUX
— David B. Larter (@DavidLarter) April 2, 2020
Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.