'A Soldier's Officer'
Washington Post Staff Writers Sunday, December 2, 2007; Page A01
In a nondescript conference room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside listened last week as an Army prosecutor outlined the criminal case against her in a preliminary hearing. The charges: attempting suicide and endangering the life of another soldier while serving in Iraq.
Her hands trembled as Maj. Stefan Wolfe, the prosecutor, argued that Whiteside, now a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed, should be court-martialed. After seven years of exemplary service, the 25-year-old Army reservist faces the possibility of life in prison if she is tried and convicted.
. . . Whiteside's superiors considered her mental illness "an excuse" for criminal conduct, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
. . . As an executive officer of a support company, she supervised 150 soldiers and officers, and her evaluations from that time presaged the high marks she would receive most of her career.
"This superior officer is in the top 10 percent of Officers I have worked with in my 16 years of military service," wrote her rater, Capt. Joel Grant. She "must be promoted immediately, ahead of all peers."
Maj. Sandra Hersh, her senior rater, added: "She's a Soldier's Officer. . . . She is able to get the best from Soldiers and make it look easy."
The Washington Post has little left of value except its Danas--Dana Priest, who single-handedly keeps the military from abusing its wounded and Dana Milbank's even-handed disparagement of the Washington political elite.
Bob Woodward is stuffed like some trophy animal and kept on the wall as a remembrance of what the paper once was--dusted occasionally, but hardly noticed.
"Under military law, soldiers who attempt suicide can be prosecuted under the theory that it affects the order and discipline of a unit and brings discredit to the armed forces."
This latest adventure in military idiocy comes at a time when the nation's once-proud Army has been sliced, diced, auctioned off, subcontracted and its officers and men disparaged. I say 'men' in the sense of 'fighting force' rather than sex, as a growing number of officers and enlisted are women. Brave women.
It's a dangerous thing to emasculate a military. As pride and honor are stripped away, brutality and stupidity float easily to the surface. A stunned America watched the result of that confusion of mission in prisons like abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
Disgusted senior flag officers retired rather than follow the warped minds of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, then made their anger and concern known from the sidelines. Wolfowitz is gone, then gone again from his next major ethical failure, the World Bank. Rumsfeld finds himself indicted in one foreign country after another, first Germany, then France--the indictments quashed by diplomatic pressure, but the intent clear enough to shame America.
Those without power are always victims of leadership's moral failures, whether they be tortured prisoners or wounded soldiers tortured by other means. In the case of Lt. Whiteside, a private hell inspired by eunuch superior officers, frustrated by who knows what private ghosts.
While Woodward is off writing another apologist biography or sucking up to the next name to grace one of his chapters, Dana Priest carries the reputation of the Washington Post almost entirely on her own back. The burning question is if Dana is truly the best of the best--or if her shadow is lengthened by the shrinking stature of a failing, flailing national press.
My guess is that she would rise above the best--if it existed.