John Riggs spent 39 years in the Army, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery during the Vietnam War and working his way up to become a three-star general entrusted with creating a high-tech Army for the 21st century.
But on a spring day last year, Riggs was told by senior Army officials that he would be retired at a reduced rank, losing one of his stars because of infractions considered so minor that they were not placed in his official record.
His Pentagon superiors said he allowed outside contractors to perform work they were not supposed to do, creating “an adverse command climate.”
But some of the general’s supporters believe the motivation behind his demotion was politics. Riggs was blunt and outspoken on a number of issues and publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld by arguing that the Army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed more troops.
“They all went bat s- – when that happened,” recalled retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, a one-time Pentagon adviser who ran reconstruction efforts in Iraq in the spring of 2003. “The military part of [the defense secretary’s office] has been politicized. If [officers] disagree, they are ostracized and their reputations are ruined.”
Garner and 40 other Riggs supporters – including an unusually candid group of retired generals – are trying to help restore his rank.
But even his most ardent supporters concede that his appeal has little chance of succeeding and that an act of Congress might be required.
(ed.note: Note of thanks to TPM Reader DH.)