One of the Army’s top generals went before Congress Wednesday to deny that he was a shill for the Obama White House and a careerist so concerned with his own advancement that he covered up “Auschwitz-like” conditions at an Afghan hospital.
Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV’s words were reinforced by e-mails presented to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and by the testimony of his fellow witnesses, Defense Department Deputy Inspector General Kenneth Moorefield and Maj Gen. Gary Patton. All three batted away accusations from former subordinates and from House Republicans that Caldwell slow-rolled a 2010 investigation into corruption and maltreatment at the Dawood National Military Hospital in order to curry favor with the Obama administration during an election year.
“I supported all audits and assessments into any aspect of our command,” Caldwell said. ”In fact, at one time during my tenure we had in excess of 27 simultaneous audits or assessments by multiple government agencies external to the command. All of this was done so we could remain as transparent as possible.”
And as for an alleged tirade about the political implications of an investigation into Dawood, Caldwell added that “at no time” during discussions about the inquiry “did I make such a statement.”
But that may not be enough to rescue the reputation of a general once thought to be among the Army’s brightest stars. It certainly won’t be sufficient to erase the images that have emerged from Dawood of starving patients, maggot-infested wounds, and feces covering the hospital floor. Questions still remain about why it took Caldwell’s team so long to find out about the nightmarish conditions, and how quickly they moved to put an end to the horror.
Not long ago, Caldwell was so well-considered that he was given command of one of the service’s most storied units — the 82nd Airborne — and asked to take on arguably the central mission of the Afghan war: training and overseeing Afghanistan’s security forces. Caldwell received flattering press coverage, despite a rocky turn as the spokesman for the American campaign in Iraq. Subordinates, colleagues, and even the general himself made it known that he would be a fine candidate to lead the entire war effort in Afghanistan.