“Alas, human vices, however horrible one might imagine them to be,
contain the proof (were it only in their infinite expansion) of man’s longing for the infinite;
but it is a longing that often takes the wrong route.
It is my belief that the reason behind all culpable excesses lies in this
depravation of the sense of the infinite.”
Any one of a certain age is no doubt familiar with the images of President Harry Truman and of his famous sign, kept on his desk in his office, within the Oval Office.
The Buck Stops Here
President Truman came into office wearing a very heavy mantle weighted down by grave responsibility.
The Nation was wading through the throws of WWII, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the longest serving US president, had died suddenly in office, resulting in Harry Truman, who was the current vice president, being sworn into the highest office in the land.
It was Harry Truman who had the final word in the decision to bomb Japan…
A decision which decisively ended the war…
Yet it was to be a haunting decision laced with grave and costly repercussions for generations to come…
However it is not to nuclear weaponry or WWII that I wish to cast today’s thoughts but rather to that solitary desk plaque.
The Buck Stops Here.
We all know what it means.
We all expect our leaders, as well as anyone charged with the responsibility of overseeing others, to know what it means.
On more than one occasion President Truman referred to the desk sign in public statements. For example, in an address at the National War College on December 19, 1952 Mr. Truman said, “You know, it’s easy for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done, after the game is over. But when the decision is up before you — and on my desk I have a motto which says The Buck Stops Here’ — the decision has to be made.”
In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that,
“The President–whoever he is–has to decide.
He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him.
That’s his job.”
(Excerpt taken from the Truman Library)
Meaning that a leader, a person in charge of other people, a person who is to cast definitive decisions and choices which effect others is to be the last and final word…
and that in turn, he or she must live with that final word…as in own that final word.
People who where the buck stops can either be lauded for their decisions or held culpable when those decisions run amuck.
Wikipedia states that the word Culpability means…
A person is culpable if they cause a negative event and
(1) the act was intentional;
(2) the act and its consequences could have been controlled (i.e., the agent knew the likely consequences, the agent was not coerced, and the agent overcame hurdles to make the event happen); and
(3) the person provided no excuse or justification for the actions.
Culpability descends from the Latin concept of fault (culpa). The concept of culpability is intimately tied up with notions of agency, freedom, and free will. All are commonly held to be necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for culpability.
Today’s news has been rife with the latest findings from the various “powers that be” committees, those of men and women tasked with the Congressional reports, which are being issued regarding the Benghazi Embassy attack.
In that fateful 2012 attack, in which four Americans–the US Ambassador, an informations officer and two CIA operatives, were maliciously and brutally killed, the Obama Administration has been found guilty of being “lax” in providing the necessary security for the Embassy. The Administration was also cited for being slow to send in military response to defend the deadly attack.
An attack which Americans were helpless to prevent and stave off.
The deaths of these four Americans were brutal to say the least.
When the Embassy was overtaken, Ambassador Stevens was seized by the militants and was sexually assaulted, his body mutilated, cattle prodded and burned before being paraded through the streets where he was left for dead.
In announcing the conclusion of the committee’s investigation, chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, said: “Nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost eight hours after the attacks began.”
US help was too slow because of “an obsession with hurting the Libyans’ feelings,” he said.
Americans were brutally tortured and murdered…their bodies were savagely desecrated because…
an Administration didn’t want to hurt feelings….
Secretary of State Clinton has been cleared in the latest report of any wrong doing although the administration of which she was a pivotal member has been found to be negligent concerning the attack and subsequent deaths of these four Americans by its overtly slow response to the intel concerning the growing animosity toward the Americans in Libya at that time, especially regarding Benghazi’s unrest…in particular, that of the Embassy, as well as being too slow to send in military reinforcements once the attack was under way.
This is a story that has left me deeply troubled since first being reported.
However my troubled mind and heart pales in comparison to that of the families of these victims….
The wives, the children, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters….
And now that time has passed, and millions of dollars have been spent “investigating,” while leaders and people who, where the buck should have stopped, have instead gone on with their lives, their campaigns, their jobs, trying to forget…seemingly trying to ignore this awful attack that was and remains so bad and so heinous…pretending that it never took place… we’re all left wondering….
Maybe President Truman’s sign needs to be returned to the Oval Office….