The Time for Accountability Is Now
(Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald.)
There will be a hearing run by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today, beginning at 1:30 pm ET, that, in a perfect world, ought to be given some substantial media coverage. The AP already hit some statements issued by a few of the witnesses expected to testify, and they are a scathing critique of the inept mismangement of Iraq’s occupation by the highest levels at the Pentagon and the Bush Administration — and the consequences of this piss poor planning to our men and women fighting on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What is most notable about this criticism is that it is coming from newly retired high level officers who worked at the highest echelon of command structure at the Pentagon — planning for the war and, ultimately, then serving in Iraq or in a supervisory capacity over the conduct and problems that ensued once we landed there. And also overseeing the increasing chaos in areas in Afghanistan outside of Kabul.
Officers who are this newly retired never speak up publicly to criticize — it just is not done in the military structure. For one reason, they are still active reserves and can be called back into active duty if need be, so they simply do not speak up and risk causing problems for the chain of command without a very good reason. Also, there is often a code within the military that you simply do not talk outside the ranks about the problems within — it’s like the blue wall that you hear so much about with police departments, and the loyalty among service members often runs very deep, having put their lives on the line together over the course of a career time and time again.
"I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste is expected to say based on remarks prepared for a forum conducted by Senate Democrats.
A second military leader, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, will assess Rumsfeld as "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically …."
"Mr. Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making," his statement prepared for the policy forum read. The session is being held six weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm elections in which the war is a central issue….
Batiste, who commanded the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, also blamed Congress for failing to ask "the tough questions."
He said Rumsfeld at one point threatened to fire the next person who mentioned the need for a postwar plan in Iraq.
Batiste said if full consideration had been given to the requirements for war, it’s likely the U.S. would have kept its focus on Afghanistan, "not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents."
Hammes said in his prepared remarks that not providing the best equipment was a "serious moral failure on the part of our leadership."
The United States "did not ask our soldiers to invade France in 1944 with the same armor they trained on in 1941. Why are we asking our soldiers and Marines to use the same armor we found was insufficient in 2003," he asked.
Hammes was responsible for establishing bases for the Iraqi armed forces. He served in Iraq in 2004 and is now Marine Senior Military Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, National Defense University.
Eaton was responsible for training the Iraqi military and later for rebuilding the Iraqi police force.
He said planning for the postwar period was "amateurish at best, incompetent a better descriptor."
That these officers are speaking up so publicly, and so frankly, about the dangers of Rumsfeld continuing to run the Pentagon is huge. They undoubtedly know that the GOP noise machine will rev up its swiftboating operation, and try to find something to tarnish their service to their nation — that they are willing to risk the personal attacks to better the conditions for their branches of service and the men and women who served under them is admirable and honorable, and we should thank them for this service to their nation.
That it is coming so soon on the heels of the revelations about the most recent April NIE — and that all sixteen of our nation’s intelligence agencies in a variety of positions from the CIA to the defense department to the state department to the NSA and beyond, along with John Negroponte, have a consensus view that our continued presence in Iraq is making things worse. And that we are creating more radicalized terrorists and jihadists than we can forseeably eliminate — and we are making America less safe if we continue down this ill-considered path.
The fact that George Bush and his Administration received the NIE report in APRIL of this year — and have known of its contents since then (although Bill Frist claimed clueless status yesterday as George Stephanopoulous gave him a history of waterboarding) — and have flounced around the nation giving speeches that are directly contradictory with its findings…well, someone’s lying, to be perfectly blunt. If they knew about it, they were lying to the American public. And if they didn’t know about it, they aren’t doing their damned jobs.
And the time for accountability is now.
George Bush said yesterday on CNN that "…when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy." (emphasis Steve‘s) I tend to think that this was a misstatement on Bush’s part, and what he meant to say was that it would look like a "footnote" in the history books — a blip, if you will — as if all those deaths and injuries could ever be seen as a footnote or a comma to all of the families and friends and soldiers who have lived through them first hand. (C&L has the clip of this.)
There is a saying that the United Church of Christ has used in some of its literature that "you never place a period where God has placed a comma." I suppose it’s possible that Bush meant this in his statement, but how egomaniacal could you possibly be to imply that you know the mind of God? (I mean, seriously, isn’t that just asking for a lightning bolt from out of the blue to show you who the real boss is or something?)
The church in which I was raised was always very much preaching the need for accountability and acceptance of responsibility for one’s actions, sins and omissions — and for making amends and changes when and where they needed to be made. "The Lord helps those who help themselves" isn’t supposed to mean help yourselves and your cronies to no-bid contracts and that the lives of all those soldiers are just a bunch of footnotes in history.
These soldiers have value — as human beings and as members of the American family. And we owe them nothing less than every bit of our effort to hold to account every member of the Bush Administration who has failed to properly execute their oaths to protect the Constitution, the security of this nation and to uphold the principles of this great nation of ours.
Adequate planning is something that we ought to be able to expect from the Bush Adminsitration officials in the White House and the Pentagon before our soldiers are ever put into harm’s way.
When that is not done, the Congress has a Constitutional and a moral obligation to hold them to account — or they should forever be haunted by the deaths and injuries of all of those soldiers who put themselves in harms way expecting the rest of us to stand up for them on the homefront.
Thank you to the Democrats for taking this step today — special thank you to Sen. Byron Dorgan and Sen. Harry Reid for setting up this hearing today — and here is to many more of these steps to come.
Our soldiers deserve better. Their families deserve better. Our nation deserves better. The time for accountability is now.
UPDATE: Bob Geiger reminds us all of the 44 American soliders who have lost their lives in the first three weeks of September alone.