An Army whistle-blower speaks truth about power

A citizen's willingness to speak truth to power is essential for the well-being of a democracy. Equally essential, though, are citizens willing to risk their personal well-being by standing up to speak truth about power.

A citizen’s willingness to speak truth to power is essential for the well-being of a democracy. Equally essential, though, are citizens willing to risk their personal well-being by standing up to speak truth about power.

Meet Lt. Col. Danny Davis, a 48-year-old career Army man who fought in our two Iraq wars and has had two, year-long deployments in the Afghanistan war. He’s often seen top commanders try to put a positive spin on a negative military situation, but in our Afghanistan quagmire, Davis saw that the candor gap had become a chasm, going from spin to outright lies.

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Last year, he heard the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan tell Congress that the Taliban’s momentum there had been “arrested” and that our mission was “on the right azimuth,” to succeed. That went against everything Davis himself was experiencing and – most significantly – it defied what casualty statistics were revealing. “You can’t spin the fact that more men are getting blown up every year,” he says.

So Davis became a whistle-blower, going to the media and Congress in January, and writing a scathing article in The Armed Forces Journal that asks pointedly: “How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?”

Lt. Col. Davis knows that he’s now in a tough spot, having bluntly spoken truth about the powers who’re many ranks above him. “I’m going to get nuked,” he says resignedly. Indeed, a Naval War College ethics teacher has already denigrated Davis as an underling who thinks that he “knows better,” than the brass: “He’s gone outside channels,” sniffed this ethicist, “and he’s taking his chances on what happens to him.”

Yes, he is, professor, and America needs more stand-up, truth-telling patriots like Danny Davis who have the guts to go outside channels when necessary.

“In Afghan War, an officer and a Whistle-Blower,” The New York Times, February 6, 2012.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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