It may seem quaint that a high-ranking Army officer with a career spanning some 27 years would look to Jimmy Stewart’s everyman hero in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” for inspiration in his own life, but it’s a darned good thing that Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis holds such old-fashioned ideals as truth-telling in high regard. For refusing to hew to the military party line about the supposed success of America’s military strategy in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Davis is our latest pick for Truthdigger of the Week.
As The New York Times’ Scott Shane reported in a Feb. 5 article that sent shock waves through the Capitol, Davis quietly summoned the resolve to act on his convictions late last year, after he returned from his second lengthy tour of duty in Afghanistan. Problem was, what he’d seen there didn’t square with the story the government was selling to the American people about the war over there. Davis turned to two trusted moral guides while preparing to serve his conscience over his superiors.
The New York Times:
Since enlisting in the Army in 1985, he said, he had repeatedly seen top commanders falsely dress up a dismal situation. But this time, he would not let it rest. So he consulted with his pastor at McLean Bible Church in Virginia, where he sings in the choir. He watched his favorite movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” one more time, drawing inspiration from Jimmy Stewart’s role as the extraordinary ordinary man who takes on a corrupt establishment.
In January, Davis kicked off his whistle-blowing campaign, which involved writing and releasing two reports, one classified and one unclassified, speaking with select Congress members and colleagues and contacting the NYT. Here’s Shane’s sum-up of the thrust of Davis’ message:
The New York Times:
“How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?“ Colonel Davis asks in an article summarizing his views titled “Truth, Lies and Afghanistan: How Military Leaders Have Let Us Down.” It was published online Sunday in The Armed Forces Journal, the nation’s oldest independent periodical on military affairs. “No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan,” he says in the article. “But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.”
Colonel Davis says his experience has caused him to doubt reports of progress in the war from numerous military leaders, including David H. Petraeus, who commanded the troops in Afghanistan before becoming the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in June.
On Feb. 10, Rolling Stone magazine published Davis’ unclassified report, “Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leader’s Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort,” in full, as the Pentagon, not surprisingly, had refused to release it. In the report, dated Jan. 27, 2012, Davis comes out swinging and makes a strong case for his decision to flout military convention and question the chain of command all the way up to Petraeus.
Dereliction of Duty II:
Senior ranking US military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the US Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable. This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan. It has likely cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars Congress might not otherwise have appropriated had it known the truth, and our senior leaders’ behavior has almost certainly extended the duration of this war. The single greatest penalty our Nation has suffered, however, has been that we have lost the blood, limbs and lives of tens of thousands of American Service Members with little to no gain to our country as a consequence of this deception.
Although Davis didn’t release any classified information to the public, as he is “no WikiLeaks guy Part II,” he writes that the American people “would see the dramatic gulf between what is often said in public by our senior leaders and what is actually true behind the scenes” if they had access to both versions of his bombshell reports. Regardless, the gesture registered in the halls of Congress and at the Pentagon, but as Shane noted in his Feb. 5 NYT article, the potential repercussions against Lt. Col. Davis may have been contained “partly because he has recruited a few supporters among the war skeptics on Capitol Hill.” And on Feb. 16, a group of five House members who supported Davis’ effort invited him for a congratulatory huddle and to hear more about what he saw in Afghanistan and was forthright enough to tell in full. We’ll round that out by saluting Lt. Col. Davis as a deserving winner of our weekly Truthdigger award.
Here’s a clip from the Feb. 15 edition of “Democracy Now!” in which Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings talks about Davis’ report: