Monday, December 20, 2010
December 19, 2010
A story about honor was reported in the Washington Post this past week.
It involves an effort to restore the reputation of a long-dead Air Force general, John Lavelle. Thirty-eight years ago he was fired and demoted to major general for allegedly ordering illegal bombing raids on what was then North Vietnam. The family says Lavelle was following orders--secret ones--from officials as high up as then-president Richard Nixon.
The famous wiretaps in that White House have, for instance, Nixon saying to Henry Kissinger, his Secretary of State, "It's a bad rap for him (Lavelle), Henry. Can we do anything now to stop this damn thing?" And, a few months later, to Gen. Alexander Haig, "All this damn crap about Lavelle. All he did was hit the goddamn SAM (surface to air missile) sites and military targets!"
Kissinger, however, says those comments are being distorted. He told the Post, "It has been said that President Nixon went outside the chain of command and authorized military action.... I am opposed to the argument that it was ordered by President Nixon. That argument is totally false." Maybe. But a president, of course, cannot "go outside" the chain of command. He is at the top of that chain and can order anything he wants. On the other hand, those White House tapes show that Nixon often blurted out unwise things in the Oval Office and his aides usually just ignored what he'd said.
The truth? We'll probably never know. Where does honor lie? The general's family has every right to ask.