Army shake-up

Speculation about the causes that led to the helicopter crash south of Halkidiki and the unacceptable delay in launching a rescue operation is premature, at least before the completion of the current investigation. The same cannot be said about the broader conclusions that can be drawn from the latest tragedy on the condition of the Greek armed forces. These can be backed up by a plethora of incidents so that one needs no further evidence to see a picture that is hardly flattering to Greece. A number of incidents have signaled that many people in the army have lost all sense of duty and obligation toward the people they are serving. They have shifted their attention to armaments procurements, a profitable engagement where corruption is king. That does not mean to say that all army officers are corrupt. However, one has to admit that in the world of weapons, procurements graft is not a rare phenomenon but the rule. Corruption not only undermines the quality of the army products thus purchased but it has also a corrosive effect on the morality of those in charge – a sine qua non of efficient military administration. Corruption has paralyzed the armed forces and helped establish a lax state of affairs. Lack of coordination, idleness and violations of the military code of practice have become frequent phenomena, as demonstrated by the electrocution of seven conscripts in Evros, the death of two army officers when a tank careered out of control in Ioannina, or the mayhem which caused unbelievable procrastination in responding to the army Chinook transport helicopter on Saturday. A similar attitude can be seen in other areas such as the power blackout in July or the country’s anarchic town planning. However, the fact that it has struck the armed forces shows that the crisis is far-reaching. Depending on the conclusions of the investigation, the government will have to take remedial action to cure the various failings which led to the helicopter tragedy. Regardless of the findings, the conservative administration will have to take measures that will purge the system of corruption, drag it out of its current inertia, and restore an efficient and effective mechanism. The challenges which lie ahead range from the training of staff and the coordination of services to the recruitment of moral and competent individuals and the removal of the corrupt and idle. Imposing these measures means that some political cronies will fall out of favor. Should the government back down, the situation will get worse and tragedies like the helicopter accident will abound.