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Anthony Tata
Washington, DC

Anthony Tata

My experience as a deputy commanding general in Afghanistan and, later, COO for DC schools, give me a unique, balanced and well-informed perspective.

Military officers are accountable, too

War truly is hell and sometimes it produces hellish, criminal episodes. When it does, not only should the perpetrators pay but government officials should also hold accountable those that enabled the crimes. Too often, the lower ranking military men and women become the prosecutors' only targets while officers escape scrutiny.

The most recent example of this double standard occurred in Afghanistan. The war there has unfortunately produced its very own atrocity akin to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. Like Abu Ghraib, the actions of a few members of an infantry battalion from Fort Lewis, Washington, overshadow the progress made by the unit's other 800 soldiers and might significantly set back the totality of American efforts in Afghanistan.

A group of 12 enlisted soldiers, calling themselves the "Kill Team," allegedly conspired to confront lone Afghan farmers, lob hand grenades in their direction feigning an attack, unload with automatic weapons on the defenseless citizens, and then claim that the Afghans started the whole thing. All for sport.

Those involved have rightfully been charged with myriad crimes. Prosecutors even assert that some of the soldiers dismembered their prey. The ringleader reportedly possessed a marionette made of the finger bones of his victims, which he shook in the faces of soldiers who balked at the killing game. Worse, a soldier intending to report the war crimes to his chain of command was viciously beaten by his fellow soldiers at night.

After witnessing the first killing, one soldier used Facebook to inform his father, a retired Marine, of the "Kill Team's" murderous exploits, and asked for help, because he was rightfully afraid of his chain of command.

The father took action. He reported the atrocities to the army's inspector general hot-line, the Fort Lewis duty officer, Army Criminal Investigation Division, and his U.S. Senator's office, all to no avail. How could so many avenues fail to help? The "Kill Team" went on to allegedly murder two more Afghan citizens and the whistle-blower is now charged with murder.

If prosecutors can demonstrate the father accurately reported his son's claims, the recipients of the calls for help should be named as accessories to the crimes and tried in court. Their acts of omission enabled the ensuing murders.

In wartime everyone must do his or her duty regardless of proximity to the battlefield. And all must be held to the same standard, regardless of rank.

By Anthony Tata  |  October 11, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Initial Entries
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Well said sir, well said.

You have the best record of generating interest, simply because what you say is interesting.

Posted by: dottydo | October 18, 2010 1:19 AM
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Can you blame people’s lack of accountability when they see whole industries such as Coal and Tobacco ducking responsibility for millions of deaths? Maybe the coal industry and Billionaire Koch brothers can pay a climate denying scientist to write a report stating that those responsible for investigating were not actually responsible for anything, or it never really happened, people only say that it happened and you should not believe your eyes, ears, or the forensic science.
Ducking responsibility at the top, always filters down to the bottom.

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 15, 2010 3:25 PM
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There are many, many Afghani deaths that "might significantly set back the totality of American efforts in Afghanistan."

Just ask the people who live there.

Posted by: MsJS | October 14, 2010 6:24 PM
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Oh yeh, give Sarge the job. You'll bring
job security to a fleet of libel lawyers.

Posted by: realitybased1 | October 14, 2010 11:40 AM
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The idea that this writer shouldn't be considered because the topic is "tiny" is ridiculous. Perhaps writing about something in an editorial is exactly what is needed to bring light the injustices in our world.

Frankly, we live in a strange place where we teach our children not be be "tattle-tales," we pass laws to encourage "whistle-blowers" to report crimes within an organization but then stand by while those brave people are then demonized, becoming pariahs within their industries.

There are too many cases where reporting crimes, especially official ones, treat the one who brings forward the information like the criminal, so perhaps this "tiny" issue is actually much bigger than we want to imagine, and as long as that is the case, we will continue to allow that to happen and justice to not be served.

Posted by: bryangalt1 | October 13, 2010 11:05 PM
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Totally agree with the culpability but unfortunately not shocking. I've met more officers/NCOs concerned w/their careers and ease of daily living than with doing their jobs and "the right thing." IG and CID/NCIS/OSI are supposed to be THE places to go for reporting problems, not ignoring them. Hopefully the Ft. Lewis parties will be held accountable. Would like to see more from this writer.

Posted by: katyjink | October 13, 2010 10:26 PM
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Excellent piece, and the first one I've seen that called out those people for their severe culpability in this incident. I might be concerned that his military career, and the fact that this submission was related to it, would make him a Johnny One-Note. But clearly he has a great deal of experience with other issues, and clearly he can express well-formed opinions about them. Easy choice for me!

Posted by: bellaparola | October 13, 2010 7:49 PM
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A.J. is a great man of integrity and would be PERFECT for the job!

Posted by: Dayna | October 13, 2010 5:35 PM
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Just give him the job now. This submission is outstanding. Yes, it would have been better had the Senator been named, and had an explanation been provided as to why the whistle-blower feared the chain of command, but it's darned good now. And I think that BG Tata's DC school experience will serve him well when it's time to write on diverse subjects.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 13, 2010 3:52 PM
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Honor, heart, experience, and willing to lay the truth on the line. I don't think there is a better man for the job.

Posted by: jenniferstgiles | October 13, 2010 12:32 PM
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He's got my vote. Brigadier General Tata's military, writing and DC Public Schools experience would provide readers invaluable insight and perspective. He will be a great addition to the Post's editorial staff.

Posted by: pwilson1 | October 13, 2010 12:34 AM
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Jeez, this guy is really good.

I mean. Come on, Post editors. Take him out of the contest and just give him a job.

Posted by: JackRyan82 | October 12, 2010 11:47 PM
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What US Senator or Senators?

Posted by: thenewyorktomesisacomicbook | October 12, 2010 5:22 PM
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Not a "tiny, rarely occurring issue"...there are those of us who remember My Lai. I myself witnessed numerous events in Vietnam that, if not criminal, were violations of humanity and, of course, strategically unproductive in the long run.
What the General didn't do is address the policy issues...Getting the Lieutenant Calley and Captain Medina charactera of any era isn't enough....Was there a policy direction and command atmosphere that permitted and encouraged such behavior?

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | October 12, 2010 4:39 PM
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I agree that Anthony Tata should have been an editor's pick but why were "PC and diversity" necessarily more a job qualification than experience? Is it not possible for any woman or Black to write well enough to merit a top spot? The top picks include only one racial minority -- no Hispanics or Asians. It's not exactly a rainbow coalition for show. If Tata makes it into the final ten, as he seems likely to do, I will be glad as a person who loves good writing, not a black woman.

Posted by: Couvade | October 12, 2010 3:16 PM
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"Tiny, rarely occurring issue. Not worthy of a column, nor the top 50."

This is an unfair comment. These wars are consuming our country and it is nice to have someone competent to comment on the issue. Rarely do we have writers who have any knowledge of our military. Just read the bios of the wannabe pundits.

Given Brig. Gen. Tata's job with education in DC, he would appear more than competent to comment on education reform. This is another burning issue of the moment. He clearly is a step ahead of some of the "editor's picks", where PC and diversity were more of a job qualification than experience.

Posted by: jeffy2345 | October 12, 2010 2:03 PM
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Tiny, rarely occurring issue. Not worthy of a column, nor the top 50.

One and done.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 11, 2010 5:05 PM
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