Friday, July 21, 2006

Lamar Owens Walks

I'm very disappointed at the outcome of the Lamar Owens Court Martial. He's the former quarterback who was accused of rape. I'm not entirely convinced that he was guilty. The accuser was hardly the strongest witness a prosecutor could hope for. Still, Owens' account of the events did strain credibility. If the woman in this case is such a loose cannon, somebody tell me how she managed to stay in the Naval Academy without getting drummed out for academic or disciplinary reasons.
What's incontrovertible (and what the court martial decided) was that Owens was guilty of disobeying a direct order. He had been told to stay away from the accuser, and he didn't. He didn't even really contest that one. The court martial, accordingly, found him guilty. And he was also found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer. Duh? How could a guy disobey an order and not be guilty of conduct unbecoming, especially when he compounded it by doing a female Mid in her dorm room, where such stuff is not supposed to happen, with or without consent?
These are serious charges. While I'm not a big fan of unquestioning obedience, I understand that it's what prevents a military force from becoming a mob. And I definitely understand leadership by example. The late Admiral Grace Murray Hopper made the point that people cannot be managed into combat; they must be led. In most cases where I've been in a leadership position, I've gotten good results by demonstrating that I could and would do anything that I asked of anyone else and that it would take some doing to keep up with me.
My father-in-law was an artillery officer. The men who served under him knew that he had been an enlisted man before OCS, and while I'm sure he never allowed any question to arise as to who was in charge, he surely made a point of demonstrating the behaviors he wanted from the troops. One of my uncles was an Air Force brigadier general when he retired. Stories are told of him carrying flight engineers' bags off of his aircraft because he wanted to make the point that his command was a team, and when something needed to be done, rank should never stand in the way of getting it done. With the critical importance of leadership and obedience to orders in combat, it seemed pretty reasonable to think that Lamar Owens' naval career was over: He'd be put in the brig and dismissed from the Navy. What use is an officer who doesn't obey orders and doesn't exemplify the behavior he expects from those in his command?
But that's not what Lamar got. Apparently, the jury (whatever it's called in courts martial) thought that the trauma of not graduating with his class last May and actually starting his career as an officer a couple of months behind his classmates (which will make a difference on the promotions list) was so traumatic that this fine young man had suffered enough. No punishment. They believed that he was a fine young man who had made a mistake. Here's a news bulletin to the members of the court martial: The sea is always real, and storms still can sink ships. When a naval officer makes a mistake, people can actually die needlessly. Mistakes are things like when I go to the store and buy teriyaki sauce instead of lite teriyaki sauce. Mistakes--although we have largely forgotten it in American society today, do not end up with people getting naked and doing the horizontal lambada.
I have some slight hope that the Superintendent of the Naval Academy will show some guts and dismiss Owens from the Academy without allowing him to graduate. I just wish that the members of court martial had asked themselves one simple question: "Is this behavior I would tolerate from an officer in my own command? And if not, should I tolerate it in my Navy?" If you get your bars, Lamar, I hope the stigma of the guilty verdict runs you out of the Navy. Of course, I guess you'll get a contract with the Dallas Cowboys; Parcells has proven he'll take just about anybody.


Blogger chris_213 said...

I think this is such bullshit. Why would you even suggest that he not be able to graduate over "horizontal lambada." I feel the fact that he was charged with the two felonies is punishment enough, clearly the accuser will graduate despite breaking the same rules that lamar did. Why shouldn't he be able to get his diploma and move on with his life? Having sex with someone who changes there mind the next morning is a mustake. Not checking the label for your teriyaki sauce is just stupid on your part

6:15 PM  

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