Let me take you back to the heady days of October, 2013. St. Louis was playing Boston in the World Series. The US had yet to be inundated with the endless winter of the Polar Vortex. And a list was making its way around conspiracy theory and ultra-conservative websites: a list of generals and admirals President Obama had “fired” as part of a massive purge of the military.
The purpose of this purge tended to vary depending on what the source of the list was. For ultra-conservative websites like World Net Daily and Breitbart, it was because the officers had dared express dissent against a President who hates America, and in particularly, hates the men and women of the Armed Forces. For conspiracy-driven sites like Before It’s News and Infowars, it was because Obama was on the verge of declaring martial law and these officers wouldn’t participate in the killing of American citizens.
We’ve seen in many other circumstances how conspiracy theorists love to make lists of people related to some kind of catastrophe. And a President liquidating the leadership of his military to make way for a fascist takeover would indeed be a catastrophe. But is that what happened with these officers? Let’s take a look at the list, and the exact reasons each officer was “fired” – and indeed, if they were at all.
There are actually two lists that have been going around, one of nine officers and the other of over 200 supposedly fired by President Obama during his entire presidency. Any list of 200 people falls squarely in the Gish Gallop category, so we’re going to put that aside for now and just focus on the list of nine. Contrary to the allegations that the firings were covered up, I easily found information on each one from a mainstream news site.
Major General Michael Carey – As commander of the US land-based nuclear missile program, Carey was responsible for three units of ICBMs. He was relieved in October 2013 for his conduct on a July trip to Moscow, where he went on what news reports called a “drunken bender,” fraternized with local women and made inappropriate comments disparaging the Russian military. As a result, he was reassigned and made Special Assistant to the Commander of Air Force Space Command in Colorado.
Vice Admiral Tim Giardina – Giardina served as chief of staff of the US Pacific Fleet and was the number 2 officer of US Strategic Command (StratCom) until being relieved of duty in September 2013, following an investigation into his use of fake casino chips in a poker game. This is a class D felony in Iowa, where StratCom is located. He was already due to leave StratCom, and his bio currently lists him as “assigned to the staff of the vice chief of naval operations.”
Lieutenant General David Holmes Huntoon, Jr. – Huntoon was serving as the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy in West Point until June 2013, when a report of an Inspector General’s office investigation was released, which found that he had misused his position and forced subordinate officers to perform personal tasks. Huntoon was given a letter of reprimand, allowed to resign from his post and took his mandatory retirement the next month.
Major General C.M.M. Gurganus – This was one of two generals asked to retire early by the Commandant of the Marine Corps after a September 2012 Taliban surprise attack on a Marine airbase. Gurganus was found to have “not taken adequate force protection measures” at Camp Bastion, which led to the death of two Marines and the destruction of six Harrier jet fighters.
Major General Gregg A. Sturdevant – Sturdevant was the other general asked to retire in the wake of the Camp Bastion attack.
Brigadier General Bryan Roberts – The former commanding officer of Fort Jackson, the largest training post in the US Army, Roberts was suspended in May 2013 after an investigation into adultery and a physical altercation with a woman described as his mistress. Adultery in the military is punishable as an action that can bring discredit upon the armed forces.
Major General Ralph Baker – Baker was removed from his post as commanding officer of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, as well as fined, after an administrative hearing into alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct charges in April 2013.
Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette – Gaouette held the position of commanding officer of Carrier Strike Group Three until a reprimand from the US Navy led to his removal. He was found to have used profanity in public and made several racially insensitive remarks. The origin of the complaint might have come from the captain of the aircraft carrier assigned to the Strike Group, who alleged Gaouette had humiliated him in public.
General Carter F. Ham – The commander of US Command Africa, Ham retired in the wake of the September 2011 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Though the attack itself generated enormous controversy and blame on the Obama administration, Ham himself was never reprimanded and served the entirety of his two-year posting in Africa, retiring as scheduled at age 62, after a 40 year career.
Obviously, the context of these nine “firings” puts the entire validity of the list into question. Many were removed for misconduct or violation of military protocol. Several were near or at the Army’s mandatory retirement age of 62. None were simply sacked willy nilly by President Obama. More than a conspiracy or purge, it speaks to a renewed lack of tolerance for behavior among senior officers that brings disgrace or embarrassment on the military as a whole.
The longer list comprises 200 names over the entire armed forces, from admirals and generals to individual ship commanders. It’s full of names, but no information as to why they were removed from their posts. As such, we can only look at it as a Gish Gallop, designed to overwhelm the reader with bits of data that are devoid of context. It’s also important to point out that military officers retire early, are reassigned or get removed from command all the time. It happens for numerous reasons, no matter who the president happens to be.
And if misconduct allegations are being investigated and acted upon with renewed vigor, which is clearly the case, it makes sense that lower ranking officer would feel the pinch in large numbers. Finally, the US is winding down two wars and engaged in a general drawdown of the military for budgetary reasons. So it’s possible that many of these officers were offered early retirements as part of this process. Without going through all of the 200 names, which nobody has time to do, we can’t know for sure.
So are these lists evidence of a conspiracy to bring fascism down on us, or evidence only of a lack of tolerance for unethical behavior among the leaders of our military? With no martial law, government takeover or coup having taken place since the list first circulated, my suspicion falls on the latter.