Crimes, Punishments And Promotions

On Feb. 9, 2001, the USS Greeneville, a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine, was traveling off the coast of Hawaii on a public relations mission.  In the course of entertaining 16 civilian visitors on board of the submarine, Greeneville performed an emergency surfacing.  As the submarine surfaced, it struck Ehime Maru, a Japanese training fishery ship.  Within minutes of the collision, Ehime Maru sank, killing 9 of its crewmembers, including 4 high school students. 

The U.S. Navy conducted an investigation that put the responsibility for the accident on Greeneville's captain, Commander Scott Waddle.  Commander Waddle, however, wasn't court-martialed; instead, he was allowed to retire from active duty with full pension.  (In 2004, Waddle started his own business as consultant and inspirational speaker.  Topics of his speeches cover "leadership" and "patriotism.")  One of the arguments against more severe punishment for Waddle was that, while at sea, he was always in direct communication with his base, so that the responsibility for his actions should be shared by his superiors, too.  In other words, the U.S. Navy chain of command is so complicated that no single person can bear full responsibility for their individual actions.  

I recall this story every time I hear complaints that Russia has done nothing to punish people responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for the Hermitage Capital Management.  Seriously ill at the time of his imprisonment at the Butyrka prison in Moscow, Magnitsky died in November 2009 as a result of negligence on the part of the prison administration.  Responding to Magnitsky's death, President Medvedev fired 20 senior prison officials, including deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service.  Yet, this wasn't enough for Sen. Cardin (D-MD), Rep. McGovern (D-MA) and some other U.S. lawmakers who were frustrated that no single individual was charged with a crime.  To bring their point across, they introduced a bill that froze financial assets and blocked U.S. entry visas for 60 Russian officials "responsible" for Magnitsky's death.  On Apr. 19, McGovern added 3 more names to the "black list," including Alexander Bastrykin, Head of the Investigative Committee.   

The logic of that evades me.  If Commander Waddle couldn't be held fully accountable for his actions because he had a few superiors to listen to, then how a single individual — or even a few individuals – can be identified as "responsible" for Magnitsky's death if as many as 63 different people were involved? 

In all fairness, one has to remember that people die as a result of medical negligence in the pen in the United States, too.  Here is a story of Adam Montoya who died in a federal prison in Pekin, IL of internal bleeding.  For days preceding his death, Montoya pleaded with his guards to take him to the doctor.  They refused.  The only medication he had in his prison cell was Tylenol.  Has any single individual been charged with Montoya's death?  Isn't it time for the Russian State Duma to open an investigation into the Montoya case and ban Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, from traveling to Russia? 

I guess, what really pisses off the Cardin-McGovern crowd is the fact that some of the officials from the "Magnitsky list" have been recently promoted.  This is a bummer indeed: at least, Commander Waddle wasn't promoted for sinking Ehime Maru.  But here is another story.  In 2003, CIA agents in Macedonia kidnapped a German citizen named Khaled el-Masri and placed him in a secret prison in Afghanistan where, incidentally, he was drugged, beaten and sodomized.  But then, the agents realized that el-Masri wasn't a terrorist, as they initially thought, but, rather, a completely innocent guy.  Eventually, after 5 months of total hell, el-Masri was quietly released.  And what happened to a CIA analyst who originally pointed to el-Masri and then stubbornly refused to accept his innocence?  You betcha!  She was promoted and now occupies one of the top positions at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center.

To be sure, decision-making in Washington, DC is so opaque — and so influenced by special interests –  that identifying people personally responsible for anything isn't an easy job.  It was therefore so heartening to learn that President Obama's decision to undertake military actions in Libya was a brain child of 3 prominent members of his foreign policy team: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation Susan Rice, and the National Security Council official Samantha Power.  (Interestingly, Obama made this decision over objections of his Vice President and Secretary of Defense.)  Instead of composing lists of foreign nationals, U.S. Congress would better invite the three Valkyries of the Obama administration to Capitol Hill to explain what our game plan in Libya is. 

Yes, I know that launching ill-conceived military adventures (often euphemistically called "wars of choice") isn't a crime for American statesmen.  So I don't expect any punishment here.  Rather, promotions will follow.  If Clinton retires in 2012, as promised, Price will be a natural choice to replace her as Secretary of State.  And Powel will have a decent chance to move into Rice's chair at the United Nations.

We will see.  But for now, the last story.  This one is about a police officer, Aaron Hess, who, under murky circumstances, shot and killed a 20-year-old college student during a disturbance in the New York City suburbs.  A grand jury has cleared Hess of criminal wrongdoing.  Recently, he was awarded by his police union with the Officer of the Year award. 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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11 Responses to Crimes, Punishments And Promotions

  1. Hi Eugene,
    Who does and doesn’t get hired and/or promoted remains an ongoing phenomena in a number of instances.
    Your end brings back memories:
    Back at a time, when such a small school had a decent faculty and selection of Russian Studies courses. With that in mind, the Cold War had somewhat of a positive impact.
    I was raised not to ever do anything that might tick a police officer off. Without having checked too much into it, the situation you mention appears like it might be somewhat similar to my past recollection, which had different opinions and sketchy evidence.

  2. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Mike,
    I agree: if one would touch the “hiring-promotion” theme, there is no time to cover anything else. That’s why I tried to stick mainly to the “crime-punishment” option:)

  3. Igor says:

    Hi, Eugene
    Eternal topic & questions 🙂 And thanks for the links – now I know what was “wrong” with Alekseeva 🙂
    IMHO – your parallel with Libia was a good one i.e. the Americans, it seems, long forgot where their country boundaries are & now feel that the entire planet is American protectorate.
    And of course, there is a question: if one thief steals the government money and another steals from the first, what crime the second thief should be tried for? (that is not to say I approve the way Magnitsky or Mikheev were treated – IMHO- авторы топорной работы заслуживают топора)
    As for the “why” nobody of importance was punished ..Perhaps this ?
    “..According to the official case documents, Mr. Mikheev testified that .. Orlov later said that these officers were, “The vengeful sword of the Presidential Administration and they are allowed to take any bribes …”
    So, did the list of “forbidden persons” in the bill include the then Russian President..? Or the senators were not sufficiently brave in their quest for justice in another country?

  4. Eugene says:

    Hi Igor,
    You puzzled me with Alekseeva. Which link refers to her?
    Watch Power (if you don’t already; she’s on the cover of the current issue of The National Interest). She has bad memory (insomnia, perhaps?) of US inaction in Rwanda. I guess, in order to deal with her liberal guilt, Obama ordered the Libya intervention. Nice, isn’t it? What a passion for feelings of your reports!
    Coming back to Magnitsky: my only real objection is to the note that — legally speaking — he was “tortured and killed.” In my opinion, this was a case of huge negligence (a bad case of traditional Russian “pofigizm”), for which hiring oficials is a proper remedy. And let his relatives sue whoever they want in the court.

  5. Eugene,
    Caught that piece which is a bit disappointing, given what TNI has posted on Bosnia related material.
    The article notes Power having developed a good deal of influential supporters like the late Holbrooke. If and when actually challenged, her views are collapseable.
    Some others besides myself see her as one of several not so erudite Sorosian leaning advocates, who’re more a problem than a solution to problems.
    On the Sorosian ideal of the “open society” (sic), I came across what appears to be the web site of an elite Boston area grade school with the name “Latin School,” or something close to that title. In its history department section, Power’s book is mentioned as required reading material. At that site, there’s a thread discussion, which upon quick a glance exclusively supports Power’s views with no challenges whatsoever. Above that web page is an ironically promoted slogan along the lines of “learn to question.” The thread does question those who didn’t follow Power’s line.
    The foreign policy establishment and those with potential future positions in that grouping have some limited in scope folks, in the form of people brought up in very managed (censored) conditions.

  6. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Ironically, only this morning I finished reading the TNI piece about Power. Interestingly, Heilbrunn also believes that she’ll succeed Rice at the UN. What really troubles me is Heilbrunn’s conclusion that the liberal interventionalism is becoming the Obama administration’s official foreign policy dogma.
    I know the Latin School by reputation. It’s heavily patronized by Harvard, so there should be no surprice that Power is a “classic” there.

  7. Eugene Ivanov says:

    p.s. The official name of the school is Boston Latin.

  8. Thanks for the follow-up Eugene.
    Unless they learn from their past errors without necessarily acknowledging such, American foreign policy can become more troubled, in the event they get increased clout.

  9. Mark says:

    Amazingly, it’s more common than you might think to promote naval officers in command responsibilities who screw up horribly – it’s the navy’s way of taking them out of a position where they’re obviously dangerous, in a manner that does not too obviously disgrace them. After all, by the time a naval officer succeeds to command of a warship or submarine, the navy has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in his training, and is reluctant to just kick him out or punish him so severely that he leaves early.
    In the early 80’s HMCS ASSINIBOINE ran aground while leading STANAVFORLANT (the Standing Naval Force, Atlantic) out of her home harbour; Halifax, Nova Scotia. She ran up on a rock formation locally known as the “Hen and Chickens”, just in front of Point Pleasant Park – she was recovering her helicopter at the time, and in trying to point into the wind (for a safe landing) she got out of the safe navigation channel. I wasn’t aboard, although I saw it happen, and I was later told the navigator had warned the CO that he was standing into a dangerous situation and been told rather crisply to not bother the Captain while the helicopter was being recovered. I can’t recall if he (the CO) received a court-martial, but I do know he was promoted and sent to Headquarters where he would no longer be a menace, and might be useful.
    This is a very interesting comparison of situations in which cries arise for someone’s head to roll, and those in which everything is smoothed over in hopes nobody will notice. Any situation that occurs in Russia is reviewed more harshly in the western press than if it occurred elsewhere, and hopefully Medvedev did not hand out punishments with the intent of appeasing them. If he did, doubtless he now knows better.

  10. Eugene says:

    Thanks Mark,
    As you can imagine, I was already accused in siding with Magnitsky’s “murderers.” But my piece wasn’t about Magnitsky — or Waddle, for that matter — but about responsibility. The real problem is that in the countries that are run by bureaucracies, like Russia and the US, you never can find, much less prosecute, the person who’s responsible for something wrong. In the best case scenario (like Abu-Graib), you punish “strelochnik,” but usually nobody.
    Although not explicitly stated, my real beef is with the Holy trio: HRC/Rice/Power. Find a few minutes and read the article in the recent issue of The National Interest, “Samantha and her subjects.” Very good stuff — and somewhat frightening too.

  11. He was ill at the time of imprisonment at the Butyrka prison in Moscow and Magnitsky died in November 2009 as a result of negligence on the part of the prison administration.

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