Tue, Apr 28, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Political games sully the military

By York W. chen 陳文政

In addition to generals and some lieutenant-generals, the Minister of National Defense has the power to appoint other senior military officers. The Minister of National Defense therefore controls the vast majority of decisions relating to military personnel, which is why it is impossible for former chief of general staff Huo Shou-yeh (霍守業) to have been involved in promotions in return for bribes.

Though he had two opportunities to become minister of national defense, Huo insisted on the principles outlined in the Two Defense Laws that state that the minister should be from a truly civilian background. General Huo thus declined the offers, resisting the temptation of power. Huo is the cleanest chief of general staff this country has seen in the past eight years and for him to be dragged into corruption allegations shows that someone has ulterior motives.

The military term “overkill” refers to using methods that are not in line with the principle of proportionality, resulting in the indiscriminate killing of enemy soldiers or civilians.

Overkill is revenge exacted out of anger and is aimed at instilling fear in survivors to precipitate surrender.

In the course of recent cases involving alleged corruption within the military, I have often thought about the term overkill. This is because attempts to link former lieutenant-general Yuan Hsiao-lung’s (袁肖龍) alleged efforts to obtain a promotion via bribery to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) show that whoever is behind these allegations is trying to bring down more people.

The attempts to bring Huo into the picture are being made to encourage suspicion and prompt an investigation into all the military officials who were promoted to the rank of general over the past eight years. These cases remind me of overkill because by targeting an officer of Huo’s stature and, in the process, sullying his name, fear will grow within the officer corps.

Using fear to control the military and consolidate leadership will cripple civil-military interaction. After taking office last year, the government announced that a new set of standards for promotions within the military — one that emphasizes “virtue” above “performance” — will now be used.

This has all the characteristics of overkill, because it is difficult to define what the new government means by “virtue” and whose moral standards will be used.

It is also hard to tell how these standards will fit in with our laws. In a statement on April 18, the Presidential Office could only restrain itself until the second sentence before hinting at the involvement of the former government in alleged corruption in the armed forces.

These actions are all consolidating the belief growing within the ranks that every military official who had anything to do with Chen or the Democratic Progressive Party government will be considered “immoral” and that the moral integrity of all military officials promoted in the past eight years will be questioned.

Of course, corruption or deviant practices in the military must be investigated and those found guilty must be punished. However, we have various mechanisms and laws to do so. There should be no difference between pan-blue and pan-green political beliefs in the military. Differences should only exist between military officers and civilians working in the defense sector.

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