Retired officers line up against Bush policy
"You know what they say: If there's enough smoke, there must be a fire.
For the umpteenth time some retired U.S. military officers have strongly criticized Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration for bungling the war in Iraq.
The forum on Monday had a strong whiff of politics to it, a hearing by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, but it's far from the first time that retired military leaders have blasted the conduct of the war. That's unusual, because retired officers rarely criticize the Pentagon while a military operation is under way.
Retired Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, who once commanded the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, said he believes that “Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war.”
He also criticized Congress for failing to ask “the tough questions,” and said that, if the administration had fully considered the requirements for war, the nation likely would have stayed focused on Afghanistan, “not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents.”
Retired Army Maj. Gen Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military and police, went so far as to say that “Mr. Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision making.”
He also said that postwar planning was “amateurish at best, incompetent a better descriptor.”
And retired Marine Col. Paul X. Hammes, who was in charge of building bases for the Iraqi military and now is the Marine senior military fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at the National Defense University, strongly criticized the decision to send U.S. troops off to fight in Iraq without the best equipment.
He called it a “serious moral failure on the part of our leadership.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Eaton called the defense secretary “incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically...”
They're strong words, but Rumsfeld has been the target of such criticism from retired high ranking officers before. President Bush has always defended his embattled defense secretary, but with the Iraq war emerging as a central issue in November's critical congressional elections, one wonders if it isn't time for the commander in chief to cut Rumsfeld adrift.
It has long been my opinion that military matters should be left to the military professionals, not civilians like Rumsfeld who want to pretend they are generals who can out-general their own generals.
Retired Maj. Gen. Batiste related that Rumsfeld at one point threatened to fire the next military leader who mentioned that the Pentagon needed a postwar plan in Iraq.
That kind of arrogance doesn't serve the military or the nation well.
Let's face it. We're going to be involved in Iraq for a long time. There's no way we can just pack up and go home until the Iraqis are able to govern and defend themselves.
Republicans know that, and Democrats know that.
If Republicans continue to pursue a policy in Iraq that discounts the advice and needs of the military leaders in the field, Americans eventually will clamor for change.
If Democrats have a better strategy, and so far I haven't heard one that's clear and comprehensive, it might not be long before they get the opportunity to test it."
*Lou Sessinger is a columnist with The Intelligencer. He can be contacted at (215) 957-8172 or lsessinger@phillyBurbs.com.