Letters: Toxic Leaders In The U.S. Army

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Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel read letters from listeners about the leadership in the U.S. Army.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Now a pair of corrections. On Tuesday, we reported on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General's report on the dangers of smoking. In our story, we noted that half the people on the panel that came up with the report were smokers and that one expert even smoked four packs a day. However, the expert from Harvard was a chemist, not a statistician as we said.

CORNISH: Also on Tuesday, we spoke with a plumber in Atlanta who was getting lots of calls because of the unusually cold weather there. But his description of exactly why pipes burst in freezing temperatures wasn't quite right. They burst because ice expands inside the frozen pipe, causing cracks or worse. Still, we should be clear. Our plumber's advice for what to do with a frozen pipe was still spot-on: turn off the main valve, open the faucets and try to thaw it.

SIEGEL: We also have time for a quick listener note about another story on the program. Earlier this week, Daniel Zwerdling reported about toxic leaders in the Army. Those are officers who make their subordinates miserable. It's a problem that researchers worry may be contributing to the number of suicides in the armed services. And our story generated a good deal of discussion on our website.

Corrie Jagger of Indianapolis was one of a number of veterans who wrote to say that she had experienced some of the punishments described in the report. And she writes this: As far back as armies have existed, there's been a trend and even a penchant for abusing leadership privilege. Excusing it as some expression of leadership being fed up with bad behavior or less than exemplary soldiers, sailors, or Marines is just excusing abuse.

CORNISH: Jagger goes on to say: There is a time-honored tradition of ignoring or denying abuse, as it is nearly always considered to be some sort of attack on military honor and integrity.

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