Plan On Blowing A Whistle? Here's What You Got To Look Forward To...

by Colonel (Retired) Wes Martin

You are assigned to a military environment that is both unprofessional and unethical. The Uniform Code of Military Justice is being ignored and your supervisors are clearly out for themselves. Unit morale is so low that no one can effectively work together. You have tried to perform your mission without becoming involved in the corruption. If you are in a leadership position, this becomes even worse for you personally because you are trying to protect your subordinates while keeping them motivated. You are trying to show your subordinates the value of selfless service and commitment to the unit's mission. You don't want them to get the impression that becoming part of the self-serving element is the easiest way to get ahead. Because of your dedication, you look for a way to correct the problems that are eating away at mission effectiveness so that you can get on with your professional responsibilities.

Since your earliest days in the ranks you were told that the military takes care of its own, and that military leadership has no tolerance for corruption. You believe this must be true because you have lived by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and have witnessed it being enforced on your peers when they misbehaved. You believe if someone in the chain of command knew about the unprofessional environment, immediate action would be taken. The direction you are heading is that of "blowing a whistle." Remember, countless careers of professional service-members have come to an end for reporting corrupt officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs). The old adage "Look before you leap" has great relevance to your situation. By understanding what you are getting into, and knowing what to expect as you move through the advancing steps of a typical whistle-blowing experience, you just might come through this with someone left of your life. Seniors who are involved in corruption and misconduct will not hesitate to turn their full fury and anger on anyone who endangers their lifestyle.

Corrupt officers and NCOs are very good at lying their way out of trouble. They create a façade that will only be overcome by thorough analysis. Convicted New York police officer Michael Dowd once stated, "As a corrupt officer, you learn to be a perfectionist in front of people that you have to be a perfectionist in front of". A whistle-blower introduces information that contradicts what seniors have been led to believe. If a senior has not identified and corrected serious unit-wide problems of corruption within the command, it is unlikely that this person is a ball of fire. Furthermore, it is unlikely that this person will fix the problem once it is presented. Aggressive commanders are constantly spending duty time visiting the work places of their subordinates. They have their eyes, ears, and minds open to potential problems. Once they realize that these concerns exist, they focus their attention and follow through with professional action. Self-serving commanders only take action after the problem is exposed above their level. Even then, their typical response is to claim "insufficient evidence" or "one person's word against another's".

Once the whistle-blower comes forward, he or she is immediately identified as a threat. The unwritten code of not reporting fellow officers or NCOs for their misconduct has been broken. This is especially true is the report of misconduct is being made upon a senior. Should accountability not be enforced, the whistle-blower will be given the front seat in a down-hill roller-coaster ride. Instead of being commended, the whistle-blower will be condemned. The whistle-blower will be put into a situation that is not only an attack on the person, but also on all the beliefs in everything the United States military are supposed to represent. No part of the whistle-blower's life will be sacred nor spared from attack.

Fabrication of stories about the whistle-blower, with as much slander as possible, is usually the first tactic. Some of the more popular accusations include "mental instability," "lack of honesty and integrity," and "use of drugs." Encompassed within this is what the ultimate military whistle-blower, Colonel David Hackworth, identified this as the "sluts and nuts" routine. In the spirit of transference, the whistle-blower will also be accused of exactly what he or she is attempting to expose. The whistle-blower will be assigned duties that cannot be completed, then reprimanded for failure. Retaliation will appear on evaluation reports. Personal attacks will not stop with the whistle-blower, but will spill over to friends and family members. The intent will be to destroy the whistle-blower's life and isolate him or her from all means of emotional and witness support.

Another group that must be dealt with is the seniors who previously lacked courage and initiative when the problems were originally brought to their attention. Previously they either pretended nothing was wrong or promised action and delivered little. Like the corrupt officers or NCOs, their endeavor now becomes one of self-preservation. An unspoken allegiance will immediately develop between the corrupt and the incompetent because the whistle-blower is threatening the existence of both. Neither group will come forward and admit their misbehavior or mistakes. Both elements have spent many years looking out for themselves, and the whistle-blower is not going to be their opportunity for moral salvation. For self-preservation, and for retaliation, everything possible will be done to shut the whistle-blower down. As lies and slander continue to be created, the whistle-blower will be denied the opportunity for rebuttal with facts.

Introduction of criminal charges is most effective in silencing a whistle-blower. The fact that the charges will hopefully be thrown out when investigated by professional military law enforcement is irrelevant. The accusers know bogus charges will divert attention away from themselves and they will not be held accountable for creating this immoral smoke screen. What has been successfully accomplished is the aging of the original problem and usually a realization of fear within the whistle-blower.

These tactics are very old, but totally effective. The attacks are intended to destroy everything from credibility to financial stability to self-esteem. The ultimate goal is to destroy the whistle-blower's life. For all the years of dedicated service and commitment to the United States military, the whistle-blower is left with a "handful of ashes" and becomes the vehicle of the secondary goal: to instill fear into the mind of anyone else planning to come forward and tell the truth. Rather than becoming example of doing what is right, at the hands of the corrupt and self-serving the whistle-blower is made into an example of what will happen to anyone with the courage to tell the truth. Armed with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, this form of authority abuse is a sure-fire method that seldom fails.

The whistle-blower should never believe that comrades will be available when needed. Almost always before a whistle-blower exposes a problem, the matter is discussed with people who are experiencing the same environment. Once the corrupt situation is exposed commitments of assistance and assurances of availability to testify suddenly disappear. Even the ones who the whistle-blower once stood up for and protected will develop the worst case of amnesia imaginable. These so called "friends-to-the-end" will be sitting on the sidelines impersonating the three famous monkeys. They will see no evil, hear no evil, nor speak no evil. Yet, by doing so, they will be committing the greatest evil of all. To protect themselves, they will let the honest service-member be destroyed by the dishonest and the incompetent. Like corrupt and incompetent seniors, their primary goal becomes self-preservation. If they do this well enough, they too will one day become corrupt and incompetent seniors who will do nothing when future subordinates blow the whistle on corrupt environments. As a result, the self-serving system achieves the ability to clone itself for generations to come.

If the slandered individual is successful after spending months or years trying to clear his or her name, the people who should be held accountable have moved on or retired. If they are still available to be held accountable for their behavior, the excuse is "this situation happened a long time ago" and should be forgotten. Neutralizing the whistle-blower protects those who should be held accountable and provides them with time to continue with their behavior. Justice delayed is justice denied. Justice prevented is a crime against decent humanity.

The whistle-blower will reach a point of many truths and be required to make critical decisions that will affect the rest of his or her life. The first is to decide if the corrupt system will permanently destroy what the honest service-ember has spent years trying to build. Too many dedicated people have been knocked down for standing up for the truth. Destruction of the whistle-blower's life is exactly what the dishonest system seeks to achieve. Should the whistle-blower be permanently destroyed, the corrupt officers or NCOs will now become more comfortable and blatant in their activities. They will correctly feel that no one else will challenge them. They will also add more experience to their skills of lying, slandering, and self-preservation. The whistle-blower must decide if he or she is going to stay down. The decision must also be made as to whether or not condemnation is going to be rendered to the entire United States military because of the corrupt and incompetent.

Too much is at stake to accept this course of action. A life cannot be destroyed, and the defense of the nation cannot be eroded, by allowing the antics of the self-serving to continue unchallenged. Battles are not won by trying to avoid conflict, nor are they won by those who feel sorry for themselves until they die. In reality, anyone who accepts injustice cast upon them and allows their life to be destroyed without a fight, has already died. After taking time to recover, the whistle-blower must get back up and continue on. The must be the heroes in their own lives, not the victims.

From an old English ballad, a lesson may be taken, "A little I'm hurt, but not yet slain. I'll but lie down awhile, and then I'll rise and fight again". For millennia, others have endured similar or greater wraths in their fight for justice. A whistle-blower must take strength from his or her original convictions, from others who have fought for justice, and from the truth of what it means to be a member of the United States military. Whistle-blowers must also keep up the fight for the sake of others who follow. When a whistle-blower succeeds, even after being knocked down, others will be more willing to come forward. Each time a whistle-blower succeeds, the strength of the nation is enhanced.

In combat, a warrior must identify the enemy, and the enemy's strength before engaging. The soldier should properly select an effective means of movement to contact. The same holds true for a whistle-blower. If the chain of command cannot be trusted, then the whistle-blower should address through other means. If the problem is at the flag officer level, then engaging an inspector general or requesting a command inquiry will likely be counter-productive. That's time file a congressional complaint. Many whistle-blowers do succeed in halting corruption. These are the ones who fight hard and find competent authorities who can be trusted.

If dedicated service-members keep up the fight for honesty and integrity, they will force those in positions of authority to stop ignoring problems. Military leadership needs to focus its sights, prosecute the corrupt, and remove the self-serving from the ranks. True leaders go after the ones who create the problems, not the ones who expose them. At no time should good officers and NCOs leave the ranks because of the corrupt. The good should also not leave the ranks because of incompetent senior leaders who do nothing about the corrupt. Rather it should be the other way around. "...he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made" (Shakespeare's Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3). The military justice system should not be used to protect those who are out for themselves. Likewise, justice is not achieved by destroying the lives of service-members who stand for Duty, Honor, Country.