April 09, 2020

I found your Dec. 20-21 article, “Bill Cohen reflects on first year at Pentagon,” most interesting. In the article, Secretary Cohen proclaims his “most difficult decision” was denying me, the Air Force field commander in Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996, a congressionally approved promotion. I can certainly understand why.

Choosing to ignore the advice of two detailed investigations, his Air Force chief of staff, and his Army four-star regional commander in favor of the highly publicized findings from Gen. [Wayne] Downing’s inflammatory but poorly substantiated early report must have been difficult. I only wish that, in those agonizing hours, former prosecuting attorney Cohen would have us believe he spent gathering data for his decision, he would have, out of fairness, asked the chairmen of the follow-on investigations why they felt so strongly in exonerating me, or at least questioned me personally. Cohen did neither. Instead, he limited his outside investigation to a “breakfast meeting” with Downing to further discuss the only report OSD allowed for public release before Cohen’s July 31 press conference.

A serious study of the facts before and after the bombing, though, shows fairness was not the issue. Cohen’s “most difficult decision for 1997” was choosing to kick aside truth and justice for political imperative. He may have been successful in fooling some people. But not the Air Force chief of staff who retired “out of principle.” And, sadly, some of the recent statistics (record low retention rates and record high senior officers “opting out” of command assignments) indicate he was not successful with a great number of the group still on active duty he is supposed to be representing.

By the way, and lest we forget, the real culprits — the terrorists — are still at large. Terryl J. Schwalier Brig. Gen., USAF (retired) Coupeville, Wash.

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