Rummy & the Generals

Although it will be forgotten very soon, the flap generated by the generals with regard to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s job-security leads to some interesting observations. Even though the generals are all civilians now and certainly have the right to voice their opinions and – more importantly perhaps – write their books in order to gain a little cash to help them stay above the poverty level (about $82,600 per year pension for retired major general, 25 years service), they seem a bit like whiners. This could be the result of Rumsfeld’s treatment of them (real or imagined) in somewhat the same way they treated subordinates at times – with little patience. General officers are not often shy and may even be overbearing to a contemptible extent.

As civilians, they can vent their spleens, but one wonders how that actually plays during a time of conflict. Treason is defined in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate, 11th edition, as: “the betrayal of a trust: TREACHERY.” It is the latter term that sticks in the craw, since what the generals have done gives aid and comfort to the enemy, encouraging it to see a non-existent split and consequent weakening in this nation’s high command – an undermining of not only Rumsfeld, but the Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, as well. This puts the troops on the ground into more danger and bodes ill for the conflict lasting longer than it should, taking more lives than it should.

Sedition is thusly defined: “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.” It is the former of the two elements that gives pause. The generals, whether in concert or not (no one expects them to say), have appeared in print and in the electronic media all over the place in an obvious effort to whip up resistance to the military’s plans/handling concerning the conflict, their hope apparently being to bring enough pressure on the president to make him fire Rumsfeld. Just the opposite has happened, of course, Bush having made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of doing that. In addition, other military “experts” have roundly defended the current military policy, although everyone involved officially in the “war on terror” has admitted that surprises in Iraq, such as the level of hatred the Iraqis/Moslems have for each other leading to the consequent murdering of each other, have adversely affected the situation on the ground. Military strategists agree that battle plans look fine on paper, but that when the bloodletting begins the plans often go out the window because of the surprises, and that adjustments have to be made, as has been the case in Iraq.

There is precedent, of course, regarding military officers expressing their views, sometimes even while still in uniform (as they’re allowed to do), but even then only in constructive ways and certainly not in concert or in collusion or in correspondence with the enemy. Senator Kerry provides a case in point in which the opposite was true. While the USA was yet in mortal combat in Vietnam in 1970, Kerry, then still a member of the U.S. military (Naval Reserve), had discussions, though certainly in no official capacity, in France with the “other side.” He admitted as much before a congressional committee (Fulbright Committee) in April 1971. In July of that year, he held a press conference in D.C. at which he said essentially that American POWs would be returned on a date certain if President Nixon would just set a date for withdrawing troops from Vietnam, thus, of course, surrendering and trusting the enemy to keep its word concerning the POWs. Sound familiar? How does that play with respect to TREACHERY/treason, especially in light of the fact that Kerry was still in the service? It was Kerry who said then that this country had participated in genocide

In an interview with Bob Schieffer (CBS-TV) on 04 December last, Kerry made some strange statements with regard to terrorism. He implied that U.S. troops are going into the homes of Iraqis at night and terrorizing families. He gave no examples to support that claim – certainly presented no documents – so one wonders how he came by that information, or if he considered that American troops were engaging in genocide. He made an even stranger statement when he continued by saying that the Iraqis (presumably Iraqi soldiers) should be doing that, i.e., doing their own terrorizing of women and children, which is what the Iraqi insurgents are/were already doing, though mostly in broad daylight by just blowing them into smithereens wherever they are unlucky enough to be – buying groceries, sipping tea, attending school…just the usual things. These are the ramblings of a U.S. senator, but how do they play with respect to sedition regarding incitement of resistance. Does this performance put the senator in the same class as the generals, since he’s now a civilian with an obvious axe to grind, having lost the election in 2004? How do the senator’s statements play in Iraq? Do they encourage the enemy to fight on?

The generals have had their say and probably have written or are writing or will write their books, at least some of them, and so it goes, but one wonders at their reasons. Major General Paul Eaton, an outspoken critic who retired in January was responsible for re-training the Iraqi army for a year beginning in May 2003. This is a quote from a February column by Thom Shanker of the New York Times: “In a Sept. 5, 2003, briefing in Baghdad for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, General Eaton proposed speeding up the program by sending former Iraqi Army officers for training at a base in Jordan, and setting up a separate academy in Iraq for training noncommissioned officers. Mr. Rumsfeld approved the plan.” In April 2004, the Iraqi army contingent ran instead of fighting in the first Falluja battle. Eaton had a hard time setting up the machinery to do his job, but he was operating in the same tense environment as everyone else. One wonders if his experience soured him on Rumsfeld.

Another Shanker quote: “The only serious mistake I committed was that I did not stop the employment of the Second Battalion in Falluja,” General Eaton said. "This battalion had been originally recruited to defend Iraq from external enemies. And as they attempted to move over land to Falluja, they ran into a Shiite mob that fired into the trucks and cajoled these young Iraqi men for fighting with the occupier against their own citizens." He said the Iraqis the Americans had selected "failed their leadership; they failed in contact." Did this have anything to do with Eaton’s current gripe? Who knows?

General Anthony Zinni, General Tommy Franks’s predecessor and author of The Battle for Peace: A Frontline Vision of America's Power and Purpose, had figured that securing Iraq would require nearly 400,000 troops. Mr. Rumsfeld suggested that General Franks should be able to do the job with 125,000 troops. Obviously, Rumsfeld was far more accurate in his assessment. Could Zinni be exhibiting a sort of “sour grapes” attitude because of this? Who knows? At the end of the day, it seems these generals should have kept their thoughts to themselves while the conflict is underway. The finger-pointing could have waited. Shades of Kerry and Vietnam!