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From the Elephant’s Mouth


(guest blog by Taylor Marsh)

Yesterday I asked for quotes of Republicans who were swiftboating the generals, brave men who recently came out and asked for Rumsfeld’s resignation. I’ve compiled a short list, more of which can be added to in the comments section below. Think Progress has some quotes, with more here. FDL readers (and readers from my own blog as well) came through.

Ironically, one of the most stunning swiftboating articles appeared today in the Wall Street Journal, on its editorial page, which isn’t surprising. Paul Gigot’s editorial page often ventures into, well, let me use the word the columnist I’m about to quote used, disgraceful. The author, Eliot A. Cohen, evidently believes that if you use the word "Clinton" within the screed piece you sound bipartisan with your swiftboating. Nice try, but we’re not going to fall for that one. Interestingly enough, someone at the Wall Street Journal decided to offer up a subtitle for Cohen’s piece that doesn’t appear on the actual page of the editorial. It’s the Wall Street Journal editorial page doing it’s part to participate further in the swiftboating of the generals. It reads: "Conduct unbecoming from retired generals."

This controversy has already, predictably, produced anti-Rumsfeld generals and pro-Rumsfeld generals, as earlier controversies produced the pro- and anti-Clinton and pro- and anti-Bush generals. Such squabbling among flag officers brings discredit upon the lot. Furthermore, a politician who, after these and like events, does not think carefully about whether a military subordinate will likely turn on him the moment he takes off the uniform must be exceptionally naive. No matter how low an opinion a general has of politicians, he is a fool if he thinks them unaware of their own interests. And those interests will lead them to promote flunkies over the prickly but able officers they conceive themselves to be.

A general is equally a fool if he thinks he can engage in partisan polemic without becoming a political target, with all the miseries for himself, and degradation to his honor and profession, that that entails. Generals have not always enjoyed the high reputation for integrity, independence and dispassionate judgment they do today. That regard stems in large part from the example of soldiers such as Gen. George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the U.S. Army during World War II, who held his tongue in public, even as he argued vehemently with (and often loathed) his president in private. Accustom the American people to the public sniping and bickering of generals, and generals will soon find that the respect on which they now count has evaporated.

Honor in Discretion

No doubt, the swiftboating of the generals is not over yet. First, some swiftboating from Victor David Hanson:

What we need, then, are not more self-appointed ethicists, but far more humility and recognition that in this war nothing is easy. Choices have been made, and remain to be made, between the not very good and the very, very bad. Most importantly, so far, none of our mistakes has been unprecedented, fatal to our cause, or impossible to correct.

So let us have far less self-serving second-guessing, and far more national confidence that we are winning — and that radical Islamists and their fascist supporters in the Middle East are soon going to lament the day that they ever began this war.

Dead-end Debates – Critics need to move on, by Victor David Hanson

A couple of bloggers weigh in, with this one bringing up President Bill Clinton — as Republicans always do when they’re in trouble — while RedState continues to show that the Republican Party are weaklings who never miss an opportunity to hide behind another’s words. We’ve also got this guy’s screed, which we’d posted before, but came in from ChicagoTom, as well as others, all of whom wanted to drive the point home.

John posted this on FDL and my blog. Calling the generals, in essence, ignorant is a clever way to swiftboat them without being too insulting. That is, until 9/11 is again conflated with Iraq. It seems that tactic will never end.

“It unfortunately appears that two of the retired generals (Messrs. Zinni and Newbold) do not understand the true nature of this radical ideology, Islamic extremism, and why we fight in Iraq. We suggest they listen to the tapes of United 93.” CNN

As usual, the trolls that lurk at FDL couldn’t resist the challenge of coming up with quotes of Republicans who are swiftboating the generals. We got one right off the top, commenter #5 "ss." This is representative of some of the comments you will see throughout the conservative blogosphere. If you take a look over in their world, in fact, you’ll see a lot worse.

“our generals” heh. Just found it amusing that you found a couple retired generals whom you’re willing to support. Support the (retired anti-war) Troops!

We can’t forget Charles Krauthammer, of course, who basically called the generals girlie men.

Amy brings us a great link from Media Matters that nails Tony Blankley.

Ed N Sted brings us Oliver North’s "All-star Shame," which is despicable. But North definitely knows something about shame. That he goes back to Vietnam is nothing short of ironic.

Here in this former enemy capital, the government of The Socialist Republic of Vietnam operates a museum full of mementoes from the only war America ever fought in which U.S. troops won every battle — but still lost the war. Among displays of captured U.S. military equipment, parts of shot-down aircraft and expended munitions are exhibits devoted to the American anti-war movement. The carping coterie of retired generals now blasting the war effort in Iraq — and demanding Donald Rumsfeld’s head — ought to spend a few hours here before firing another salvo. It might make the tarnished brass hats think twice about whether their words aid and abet America’s adversaries in the Global War on Terror.

All-star Shame

Larry offers up Pat Buchanan, as does GyroGear, with Buchanan hitting the nail on the head. Maybe Ollie could take a read from him:

In 1951, Gen. MacArthur, the U.S. commander in Korea, defied Harry Truman by responding to a request from GOP House leader Joe Martin to describe his situation. MacArthur said the White House had tied his hands in fighting the war.

Though MacArthur spoke the truth and the no-win war in Korea would kill Truman’s presidency, the general was fired. But MacArthur was right to speak the truth about the war his soldiers were being forced to fight, a war against a far more numerous enemy who enjoyed a privileged sanctuary above the Yalu river, thanks to Harry Truman.

In the last analysis, the Generals’ Revolt is not just against Rumsfeld, but is aimed at the man who appointed him and has stood by him for three years of a guerrilla war the Pentagon did not predict or expect.

The generals’ revolt

Tennessean gives us Max Boot’s "General Disgrace," also Ralph Peters, who defends the generals, with By Richard Brookhiser asking what is the generals’ plan? As if that’s the point in all of this.

FDL reader Eclaire brought us an LA Times editorial that defends the generals, which is so appreciated. Here’s an excerpt:

WHEN SIX recently retired generals criticized Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq war and urged his resignation, the Bush administration reacted as if the generals had announced an impending military coup. Within days, administration loyalists were suggesting that the generals had been disloyal not merely to Rumsfeld but to American democracy itself.

The dissenting generals seemed almost surprised by the speed and savagery of the administration’s counteroffensive. Maybe they had assumed that their combat records and decades of service would protect them. Or maybe they had been lulled into a false sense of security by the administration’s floundering Iraq policies and assumed that Rumsfeld and his White House backers were just too distracted and incompetent to go after a few courteous, highly decorated critics. But the generals should have known that this administration can be ferociously competent when there’s something really important — like President Bush’s poll numbers — at stake.

A 4-star defense of the republic

The generals are patriots. Besides, if George W. Bush wasn’t so weak and was doing his job, instead of covering his legacy, the generals wouldn’t have had to come out in the first place, because Donald Rumsfeld would be gone by now.

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Taylor Marsh

Taylor Marsh

Taylor is a political commentator and radio personality who has been interviewed by C-SPAN's Washington Journal and all across TV and right-wing radio. She's been on the web for 10 years, going to blogging in late 2005. Taylor is affiliated with The Patriot Project, writes for Huffington Post, as well as Alternet. Her radio show debuted in 2002, which she now brings to her blog Mon-Thur, 6:00 p.m. Eastern or 3:00 p.m. Pacific. One of her passions is painting and creating political art. The graphic at the top of her blog is taken from the expressionist flag art that hangs in her home. She was born in Missouri, and has lived in New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and some points in between.