Listening To The Generals
We’re hearing a lot from the military these days regarding Iraq. None of it will please the President. Earlier, General Petraeus reminded our troops that when dealing with Iraqis, we had to obey the Geneva Conventions, not the President’s and Vice President’s views on torture. Yesterday, the NYT highlighted former General John Batiste, who (along with General Paul Eaton– see new VoteVet video) retired early to speak out against the President’s handling of the Iraq occupation and called the President to task in this video for VoteVets.
“Mr. President, you did not listen,” General Batiste says in new television advertisements being broadcast in Republican Congressional districts as part of a $500,000 campaign financed by VoteVets.org. “You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps. I left the Army in protest in order to speak out. Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women.”
Batiste describes the frustration he felt while commanding troops in Iraq:
“There was never enough. There was never a reserve,” he said. “Again and again, we had to move troops by as many as 200 miles out of our area of operations to support another sector. We would pull troops out of contact with the enemy and move them into contact with the enemy somewhere else. The minute we’d leave, the insurgents would pick up on that, and kill everybody who had been friendly.”
“In the Army, you communicate up the chain of command, and I communicated vehemently with my senior commanders while I was in Iraq,” he said. Of his departure from the Army, he said: “It was the toughest decision of my life. I paced my quarters for days. I didn’t sleep for nights. But I was not willing to compromise my principles for one more minute.”
Batiste’s frustrations in being asked to do too much with too little were echoed by General Mixon, now head of US forces in Diyala province:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. commander in northern Iraq said Friday he doesn’t have enough troops for the mission in increasingly violent Diyala province. . . . “I do not have enough soldiers right now in Diyala province to get that security situation moving,” Mixon said. “We have plans to put additional forces in that region.”
He declined to give details but said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, is planning to send more forces.
Earlier, General Odierno told reporters that he’d need until next spring to determine whether the escalation was working. But since that seemed to contradict General Petraeus’ promise to provide an assessment in September, and went too far for Secretary Gates, Odierno quickly claimed he was misquoted.
This weekend, the Atlanta Journal’s Cynthia Tucker hinted at the reason for Gate’s reticence to allow his Generals to wait until Spring. Noting the criticisms from retired generals, Tucker predicted we’ll also be hearing from active military leaders too. (From Think Progress)
CYNTHIA TUCKER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION:
“Look for a revolt from active-duty generals if September rolls around and the president is sticking with the surge into ’08. We’ve already heard from retired generals. But my Atlanta Journal-Constitution colleague Jay Bookman has lots of sources among currently serving military officers who don’t want to fall by the wayside like the generals in Vietnam did, kept pushing a war that they knew was lost.”
It’s easy to be skeptical that Bush, Cheney, and the Republicans will take any September reassessment seriously, but each day there are more indications that senior military officers will force the President and his dwindling supporters to pay attention. And that assumes the Iraqis haven’t asked us to leave or at least set a withdrawal timetable before then.
John McCain tried to argue to Tim Russert (h/t to Crooks and Liars) that what the Iraqis want doesn’t matter. And for McCain, their views don’t matter, since he assumes he knows what’s good for the Iraqi and American publics better than they do. But will he say that to the Generals in the Pentagon? We’ll see. If by September, American casualties are still running high, the American and Iraqi legislatures have voted to end the occupation, and the Generals agree, the only people left to help McCain’s son and the British heir continue the US occupation of Iraq will be the children of Georgy Bush, Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, and Mitt Romney. That should settle the matter fairly quickly.