William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.
He writes in the Washington Post If good men like Joe Maguire can’t speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid. (Here is is in full with additional commentary from the Post.
Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Over the course of the past three years, I have watched good men and women, friends of mine, come and go in the Trump administration — all trying to do something — all trying to do their best. Jim Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Sue Gordon, Dan Coats and, now, Joe Maguire, who until this week was the acting director of national intelligence.
I have known Joe for more than 40 years. There is no better officer, no better man and no greater patriot. He served for 36 years as a Navy SEAL. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and was chosen to command all of Naval Special Warfare, including the SEALs. Those were dark days for the SEALs. Our combat losses from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the highest in our history, and Joe and his wife, Kathy, attended every SEAL funeral, providing comfort and solace to the families of the fallen.
But it didn’t stop there. Not a day went by that the Maguires didn’t reach out to some Gold Star family, some wounded SEAL, some struggling warrior. Every loss was personal, every family precious. When Joe retired in 2010, he tried the corporate world. But his passion for the Special Operations soldiers was so deep that he left a lucrative job and took the position as the president of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that pays for educating the children of fallen warriors.
In 2018, Joe was asked to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a job he knew well from his last assignment as a vice admiral. He accepted, but within months of his arrival came the announcement of Coats’s departure as director of national intelligence. Maguire didn’t seek to fill the job; he was asked to do it by the president. At first he declined, suggesting that Sue Gordon, Coats’s deputy, would be better suited for the job.
But the president chose Maguire. And, like most of these good men and women, he came in with the intent to do his very best, to follow the rules, to follow the law and to follow what was morally right. Within a few weeks of taking the assignment, he found himself embroiled in the Ukraine whistleblower case. Joe told the White House that, if asked, he would testify, and he would tell the truth. He did. In short order, he earned the respect of the entire intelligence community. They knew a good man was at the helm. A man they could count on, a man who would back them, a man whose integrity was more important than his future employment.
But, of course, in this administration, good men and women don’t last long. Joe was dismissed for doing his job: overseeing the dissemination of intelligence to elected officials who needed that information to do their jobs.
As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.
So who did Trump put in McGuire’s place?
In The Post’s View: Trump puts an unqualified loyalist in charge of national intelligence.
PRESIDENT TRUMP’S campaign to purge the government of anyone not blindly loyal to him continued Wednesday with the appointment of Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence. Mr. Grenell, who currently serves as ambassador to Germany, is manifestly unqualified for the job, even in an acting capacity. He has no experience in intelligence or in managing large organizations — like the 17 agencies that will now report to him.
Mr. Grenell has nevertheless won the president’s favor in a familiar way: by loudly praising him and his agenda on Fox News programs and social media. Probably, he has convinced Mr. Trump he can be counted on to put the president’s personal and political interests above those of national security — something the two previous DNIs would not reliably do.
He will reportedly retain his post as ambassador even while serving as acting DNI, something that will probably disappoint the Germans. U.S. intelligence professionals already struggling to preserve the vital work of providing accurate information to government decision-makers will be further demoralized. Mr. Grenell tweeted Thursday that he would not be formally nominated for the DNI position; that is not surprising, since he barely obtained Senate confirmation for the Berlin post and would likely face still greater opposition to becoming the nation’s intelligence chief.
Mr. Grenell’s tweet said a permanent DNI would be nominated “sometime soon.” Mr. Trump nevertheless may well leave his minion in place for months. The president has developed a penchant for placing acting officials in high positions; by doing so, he dodges the need for Senate approval and reduces the clout and independence of department heads. Mr. Grenell could remain in command of the intelligence community through most of this year’s presidential campaign. Will he stand up against interference by Russia or other hostile powers? Not, we suspect, unless Mr. Trump tells him to do so.
Post columnist Jennifer Rubin reminds us of what happens When competence is not the goal.
… Democratic presidential contenders advocating for a policy revolution or big, structural change are increasingly out of touch. We have no capacity, even if it were desirable, to launch major initiatives or fundamentally change entire sectors of our economy with a government that is discredited, hollowed out, incompetent and corrupt. The next president, as unsexy as it sounds, must be a competent and ethically pristine figure in order to repair our government. Candidates who have no conception of the task ahead and no interest in the hard work of running government are unsuited to the challenge we now face. Candidates whose purpose is confrontation and revolution lack the good sense and skill set to restore functional democracy.
Corruption, cruelty and incompetence define authoritarian states precisely because everything revolves around elevation of the leader and destruction of critics. Democrats must recognize and be able to explain that. The task is not revolution, but fumigation and toxic cleanup.
It is certain that our 2020 election is being hacked as I write this. But because Trump will not countenance independence and competence by the DNI, the nation and those responsible for oversight will be denied information needed to to their jobs of protecting us and our democratic institutions.
McRaven has given us reasons to fear. “As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation.”