Military officials have been busy apologizing for the past two weeks — for the killing of a dog by soldiers at a military base last week and the accidental firing of a missile by the navy that killed a fishing boat captain on Friday — but a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) official said the repeated expressions of remorse are sapping military morale.
KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) on Friday wrote in a Facebook post that it was wrong for soldiers to abuse and kill dogs and that the military needed to take action to handle such misconduct.
However, he added that when all ranks of the military and the Minister of National Defense have to bow in apology because of the abusers’ behavior, “I believe this hurts the morale and image of the military.”
Hau was responding to an army general’s Facebook post in which the general said he was quitting the army because of the ongoing pressure put on the military over the incident.
Hau is the son of Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), a former premier and retired army general who served as chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China Armed Forces.
“As one general has said, there is no country in the world that would crush an entire military’s morale and image because of individual soldiers’ behavior,” Hau Lung-bin said.
Although he said he agreed that discipline and morality in the military must be improved, he said that if people in the military are not respected by society and the government or do not have a sense of identity or honor in their job, it would be hard to improve the quality of the nation’s armed forces.
Army Training Center commander Major General Chang Chun-ta (張俊達) on Thursday night wrote on Facebook that he felt sad, helpless and powerless over the dog abuse incident, which sparked Hau Lung-bin’s response.
Chang wrote that he enrolled in the military academy at the age of 15 because it was the only opportunity he had to make a living aside from learning a profession.
When he first entered the military, he did not have a patriotic fervor to die for his country, Chang said.
However, he still wanted to serve in the military because it offered him a chance to learn and provided an income that supported a wife and children, and he could buy a house and a car, even if military life is dull with a lot of pressure and little freedom.
Over three decades in the military, he has withstood high pressure and many risks as a commander, Chang said, and he now felt people piling criticism on the military were being extreme.
“When I see society blast the soldiers, blood leaks from my heart without end,” he wrote.
“If the energy I have put into the military has earned me nothing but criticism, I can only say I am in the wrong cycle of reincarnation. I wasted my life,” he said.
Chang wrote that he had expected to die for Taiwan, but now with populism riding high, “I wake up, I feel sad and I feel regret. Why would I want to die for a government, politicians, pundits and self-centered netizens who do not support and defend the military?” he said.
“A dog was able to undermine the military. You can all wait for even more serious consequences, but I quit,” he said.
Army Command Headquarters said it had not received Chang’s application for retirement, but added that if Chang did apply, it would ask him to stay.
The military apologies came after Kaohsiung City Councilor Chen Hsin-yu (陳信瑜) posted a YouTube video on June 26 showing puppy being tortured on what turned out to be a military base.
The dog died after a struggle in which it tried, but failed, to climb up an embankment where it was hanged from a metal chain.
Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬), Navy Commander Admiral Huang Shu-kuang (黃曙光) and other military officers apologized over the incident, and nine military personnel were disciplined.
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