The Intense Backlash To Firing Captain Crozier

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:

Some Navy veterans were disgusted:

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:

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:

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.

15 thoughts on “The Intense Backlash To Firing Captain Crozier”

  1. Trump would be smart to get on the right side of this. It can only hurt a politician. Trump may not be smart, but he’s cunning. We’ll see.

      1. Trump is essentially a weak man who won’t jeopardize his good standing with the sycophants he’s surrounded himself with..

        1. Exactly. And in approval of firing he showed his colors.

          Trump is claiming that the commander made the decision to take the vessel to Vietnam , and let people off the ship. Yet, earlier Navy owned the decision — as Vietnam was in their assessment low risk location.

          For one, Navy’s statement on low risk us absurd on its face. Low overall statistics by country DOES NOT imply that Vietnam knew of its hot spots, or that the country has the capacity to track and contain epidemics. Such naïveté is exhibited by bureaucrats in charge at Pentagon.
          But to blame the decision on the captain is irresponsible and is aiming at discrediting the ADULT in this crisis, who after getting a boatload of bureaucratic platitudes had it enough.

          Trump may have lied many a time before, and I had gladly overlooked many — knowing what and who he is dealing with.

          I draw a line on protecting young men and women in military. The reddest line. This time he really did it — supporting bureaucrats over the lives of people.
          But then, this is being done to justify complete breakdown of system meant to protect us from epidemics. As usual after the virus has bern allowed to THOROUGHLY spread, closing the flights in and out of NY. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

  2. Weird, after reading several articles on this, I still don’t understand why he was fired. Maybe some ex military could explain ?

    1. Do not understand military, but I understand bureaucratic rabbit holes.
      To paraphrase the key sentence in what passes for explanation — he made it sound like there was nothing done, and that was presumably not true.
      One does not have to understand much about military to know that a person without some exceptional, proven qualities does not get promoted to the position of a commander on an aircraft carrier.

      The problem with commanders of such caliber is — they DO NOT SUFFER FOOLS, and the language of his letter was clear and unambiguous.

      It spelled out for bureaucrats what they did not want to hear. All bureaucrats always want is the appearance of competence.
      One does not need to be super informed to see the wreck of our mishandled public health emergency. Import dependent, unable to produce necessary gear, unable to face prospect of epidemic’s devastating march. Unable to implement basic strategies of containment, utter cluelessness on the purpose of testing. Continued open movements until every semblance of control is lost.
      And with Mr. Fauci flailing his hands in an appearance of professional conduct — we have President announce matter of factly that hundreds of thousands may die. Why?

      If only citizens have someone to step up to the plate, and demand explanation for this disaster.

    2. The commander was not fired. He was relieved of duty as Commander of that ship. That ship happens to be a nuclear powered vessel with 6000+.sailors aboard. That is to say, he had a high stress job with significant responsibilities and I have no doubt, is of superior capabilities and achievements to date. However, out of concerns for covid being on his ship, he mailed out a letter of concerns. Trump has stated that it is his understanding that that letter was 5 pages long. It was mailed out to 28 people, one of whom leaked it to the press. The captain by passed his chain of command in his process. That raises a big red flag to me that the captain had lost control of his better emotionally controlled judgment. Relieving him of command and bringing him in for further evaluation is completely 100% appropriate. But then, who am I, a member of the general public, to be making such assessments? But then, that is the whole point. Fit for duty is not a public decision, it is not a political one. This one is because of that captain’s actions and his Navy superiors most certainly were appropriate in addressing it.

      1. That is a point if view held by bureaucracy , and I as a citizen would trust the judgment of an aircraft carrier Commander who is situationally aware — any time.
        The talk of stress is inappropriate, and is just another way of discrediting an adult in the situation.

        Do you think he did not notify his chain of command before? Do you think that his chain gave him any reassurance that the problem would be addresses and when? It was it by far more important for bureaucracy to pretend it was not happening. And what was the next mission of the said carrier BEFORE Captain Crozier forced the issue and sent it to Guam?

        When it comes to performing under stress — who do you think does better, aircraft carrier commanders or bureaucrats, many former PR executives of military contractors now in charge of military?

      2. “Lost control of his better emotionally controlled judgment”…guess we will find out in an investigation. In a democratic republic, the military answers to civil authority.. if the captain felt his crew was at risk, and the problem was not being addressed by the chain of command, it is morally imperative to involve civil authority, or, public opinion. The crew’s families are civilians.
        Perhaps being relieved is appropriate. However, other elements of US militancy are not relieved for transgressions, which they deem necessary, yet are illegal. Bombing civilian infrastructure, drone attacks on civilians, and of course torture.
        “I hereby turn myself in for torture, but I thought it was necessary to do” Not gonna hear that one.

    3. The captain panicked. A warship must be able to fight even if a lot of crew members are getting sick, and the enemy must not be allowed to know they are getting sick. He should have known that sending that letter out to 28 people would get him relieved.

      1. I would say that bureaucrats in Pentagon panicked. He communicated through “chain” over and over. His officers know that.
        The bureaucrats panicked because they sent this aircraft carrier to a political mission — a week long community feel good event. By they I mean Navy chain of command with the concurrence of State Department.

        Was that a war mission? Arts and crafts, sports events, flying kite. Seminars on many subjects — including COVID-19!

        Do you think that the bureaucrats in Washington wanted to turn attention to themselves snd their stupidity — by allowing an emergency docking in Guam? Of course not! No matter what he said, fell on deaf ears. He was to pretend this is war, and you do not enemy know your weaknesses. But we are NOT at war, and his decision to take a drastic measure — the one that could not be ignored.

        And Navy bureaucrats think he was “stupid” to think this letter would NOT leak?

        Let us assume investigation just covers bureaucratic behinds — and covers up all the chain of command communications from the captain of carrier letting them know of the situation. What makes bureaucrats think other officers under his command do not know the truth, and will keep quiet?
        That letter was the LAST act, not the first communication — the act of disobedience in face of growing danger to the crew.

        He knew what he was doing — unlike panicked bureaucrats. That was an act of an adult being told by juveniles what to do.
        I can assume with a great deal of confidence that he may have questioned the decision to go ahead with a weeklong Vietnam public relations event. Bureaucrats did not feel brilliant if his apprehensions proved right.
        We have civilian control of the military — but when that control turns into micromanaging, ignoring commanders sense of duty, problems are inevitable.
        Trump wobble on the issue should cost him — he at the minimum should not have issued disparaging and false statements. Not easy to back down from those.

  3. He has 28 years of naval service. Flag rank is unattainable.
    If he survives the CV, he’ll probably file retirement papers.

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