The Fox and the Weasels: CENTCOM Commander Resigns under Pressure from White House

Admiral Fallon and his lessersIn the wake of a favorable profile article just published in Esquire magazine, CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon, a former fighter pilot with the nickname "Fox," has resigned. The Esquire article, written by former Pentagon official Thomas P.M. Barnett, describes what had been the Admiral's on-going "challenge" to official Bush Administration policy regarding Iran: Fallon had stated in interviews and in meetings with Mideast leaders that an unprovoked, preemptive U.S. attack on Iran was "not on the table," directly contradicting saber-rattling words by White House officials including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who have both asserted that "all options" (presumably including aggressive war) are, indeed, on the table. In fact, Fallon's attempts to reassure friendly regimes in the Middle East were in direct contradiction to the standing views not just of the Bush Administration, but also of leaders in Congress, among them three U.S. Senators currently running for President: Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, along with Republican John McCain, have all refused to categorically rule out a military option against Iran, leaving Fallon with no one other than fellow military commanders to publicly or privately express grave reservations about commencing a third war to complement the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan in which the United States is mired with attendant, perilous depletion of the war-making ability of its armed forces.

Admiral Fallon's disputes with White House decision-making have not been limited to military and diplomatic policy regarding Iran. When the Bush Administration appointed General David Petraeus to head military operations in Iraq, his first meeting with Admiral Fallon in Baghdad turned ugly when Petraeus, having attempted to ingratiate himself to the CENTCOM head, received a sharp rebuke. Although, in the Esquire article, the Admiral denies this exchange transpired, sources familiar with the incident report that Fallon called Petraeus "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and went on to add, "I hate people like that." The disconnect between Fallon's view of Petraeus and that of members of Congress was stark. When Petraeus testified on the Hill, congressional representatives fawned shamelessly over him; and the U.S. House of Representative went so far as to overwhelmingly pass a resolution condemning the anti-war group for having mocked Petraeus' name in an advertisement opposing the Bush Administration's plan to send a "surge" of troops to Iraq, a plan Petraeus had been installed, at least in part, to promote.

A permanent replacement for Admiral Fallon has not been named, but it seems certain that the choice will be governed not by the need for top-notch command-level leadership, but instead by the ideologically driven imperative of White House officials to empower only those who are certain not to deviate in words or actions from Bush Administration war-making policies, guided as they are by neo-conservatives like Vice President Dick Cheney who have never served in the armed forces. Concern is being expressed in some quarters that the resignation of Admiral Fallon has removed one significant remaining barrier to a pre-emptive attack on Iran that would not only solidify Bush's legacy as a war President, but also embroil his successor, whoever ends up being elected, in three simultaneous wars. Because such a scenario now looms considerably more feasible in the wake of Adm. Fallon's resignation, the candidates running for President might very well find their unwillingness to take war with Iran off the table a moot point.

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