Navy Deploys USS Barbra Streisand After Firing A Captain For Expressing His Coronavirus Concerns
from the walking-your-own-plank dept
In the midst of a pandemic, a Navy captain pleaded for the health and safety of his sailors. And for that, he was relieved of duty.
A letter to Navy officials, written by Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. Social distancing doesn’t work when you’re stuck on a ship. Just ask anyone stuck on the handful of luxury cruise liners that became floating attack vectors for the coronavirus.
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
In the four-page letter to senior military officials, Crozier said only a small contingent of infected sailors have been off-boarded. Most of the crew remain aboard the ship, where following official guidelines for 14-day quarantines and social distancing is impossible.
“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
Crozier went through the proper channels but one copy of his letter made its way to the press. This resulted in the acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, relieving him of command — supposedly for not ensuring his letter was not leaked to the press.
On Thursday, after the letter was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, the acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, declared that he’d “lost confidence” in the captain and was therefore relieving him of his command.
This wasn’t necessarily Modly’s idea. But it appears to be Modly’s idea of what he thought the Commander-in-Chief would want him to do.
Two days later, David Ignatius reported in the Washington Post that Modly had told associates he’d acted at the behest of President Donald Trump. Modly then phoned Ignatius at 1 a.m. to deny the story, saying he’d moved against Crozier before he heard from Trump. Rather, he acted in anticipation that Trump would want him to do so.
The removal of Crozier from the ship should have been the first indication the Navy would be unable to control this narrative. Several recordings exist of Crozier’s exit from the ship, accompanied by sailors applauding him and chanting his name. Here’s one of them:
Modly made it worse by boarding the ship and addressing the sailors. His efforts to win hearts and minds consisted of telling sailors to stop complaining and do their jobs, punctuated by him insulting the man he had fired.
“If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive, or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly told the Theodore Roosevelt’s crew on April 5. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose. And that’s a serious violation of the UCMJ which you are all familiar with.”
A recording of this speech leaked, too. An unknown sailor speaks for everyone at the 1:57 mark, when he responds to Modly’s “too naive or too stupid” comment with a very audible “WHAT THE FUCK?”
The Navy’s damage control continues, but it appears to consist solely of dispatching more shovels and shovel operators to its hole. A self-serving communication from Navy brass telling sailors to STFU about the Crozier debacle was leaked to another journalist, which made its way to social media immediately.
Here’s the best bit of Navy’s insistent self-Streisanding:
*** Please engage with your sailors onboard and let them know that they need the person’s permission to record them and put them online. If they posted SECNAV’s 1MC remarks on social media, they need to take them down immediately. ***
It does not get any less laughable:
I know everyone’s emotions are running high but posting negative comments on social media regarding Senior Leaders will not help our current situation.
Bashing a Senior Leader online will not rally the troops.
Looks like the troops are plenty rallied already, judging from the fond farewell they gave to their unceremoniously shit-canned senior officer. And they seemed pretty united in their rejection of SECNAV Modly’s “shut up and go back to work” speech.
Modly appears to have belatedly realized his speech to the Theodore Roosevelt sailors was a mistake. But his non-apology isn’t going to make things any better. Modly wants people to believe he was misunderstood by everyone that heard his comments, rather than actually take responsibility for the things he said.
I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR. Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive or stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite. […] I apologize for any confusion this choice of words might have caused.
Shorter Modly: “I’m sorry you thought I called Crozier naive and stupid when I was calling him naive and stupid.”
This whole response has been the epitome of “naive and stupid.” The Navy’s best option for letting this debacle get swept under the tidal wave of news that flows through social media every day would have been to let its original response — given to the San Francisco Chronicle — be its only response. Within 48 hours, no one would have cared. But it chose to fire an obviously-beloved and respected captain, insult him in front of his crew, and threaten unhappy personnel with punishment for sharing anything about this on social media. The Navy’s measured response to the leak of Crozier’s letter is all but forgotten now, buried under layer after layer of self-sabotaging hubris.
And, of course, as the finishing touches were being put on this post, Modly announced he was resigning. Apparently he realized that he was either “too stupid or too naive” to run the Navy, if he didn’t realize how nearly all of his decisions in the last few days would play out.