By: Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Five months ago, one of my Edgefield Advertisercolumns was about a friend and shipmate whom I have known personally for forty years, Joseph Maguire. Vice Admiral Maguire (whom I first met as a young Lieutenant) had retired several years earlier from a career as a Navy SEAL and had just been named as the Acting Director of National Intelligence following the political firing of his predecessor, former Senator Dan Coats. Director Coats had done what in the Trump administration was unpardonable: “speaking truth to power” when the power was the President and the truth was spoken in public. Among other sins, Director Coats had verified the assessment found by the Mueller probe, that indeed there had been Russian interference in the 2016 elections, interference whose purpose was to help then-candidate Trump to win the Presidency. VADM Maguire, who for half a year had led one of the direct reporting agencies under the DNI, was asked to fill in until a permanent Director could be named.
VADM Maguire and I served together during several Navy tours, afloat and ashore. I wrote in that earlier OpEd that Joe Maguire is an individual whom I had learned to trust in the crucible of military service. Within weeks of his new assignment, Joe as Director of National Intelligence had to cope with the “whistle blower” in his agency whose anonymous report about Ukraine started the train of events leading to President Trump’s impeachment. I wrote in September that Joe was exactly the right man at the right time. Joe’s background, I noted, is Special Warfare, a field with many opportunities to ignore the rules and to get away with it. Joe never tried. In my 30 years in the Navy, I never served with another individual with a higher sense of ethics, with the personal values of leadership and physical courage to match. None of us knew in September how the Ukraine scandal was going to play out, but I did know and stated this: to the extent that Joe Maguire was involved, it would turn out morally and ethically right. And it did, when Donald Trump was impeached.
Now Joe is in the news again, and this time he is the one being fired. His purported offense: like his predecessor, he spoke truth to power. Once again, it was about Russia: the legally required annual DNI briefing to the House Intelligence Committee confirmed that Russia has an effort underway to influence our presidential election, this time in 2020. And Russia’s goal, the report stated, is once again to ensure the election of Donald Trump. That was not truth that President Trump wanted to hear, and in particular that he wanted briefed to the Democratic-led House of Representatives. So, Joe was fired.
Within days of VADM Maguire’s firing, another retired SEAL – Admiral William H. McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden – weighed in about Joe. ADM McRaven listed Joe among the good men and women who were friends of his, and who “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.” Among VADM Maguire’s many accomplishments, ADM McRaven detailed the years that Joe and his wife Kathy spent after his first retirement, heading an organization called the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit which funds the education of children of fallen warriors.
It is a common saying: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing. VADM Joseph Maguire – my friend Joe – has now retired from national service for the second time. In his OpEd lauding Joe for having the courage actually to do something, ADM McRaven spoke to each of us, and to each of you reading this column. He closed with the following words. “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.”
I will add one thing that Admiral McRaven did not: we each have the power to do something. We can cast an informed vote in November. Our chance to speak truth to power will be with our ballots.