Thursday, May 24, 2007

Enough is enough!

I tired of hearing smug self satisfied critics state categorically that somehow a retired military person, particularly a retired flag officers , are under some kind of a lifetime gag order because they served in the military.

For that matter, I have never accepted the premise that first amendment rights don't apply to serving active military personnel either.

Because neither statement is true. Especially for retired officers. The so-called "custom" never did exist and it does not exist now.

This was the article that set me off.

Gen. Sheehan's comments and a commentary subsequently published on April 16th have been cited by numerous media outlets and various politicians as proof of the problems within the administration. As a member of the active duty military, however, I find his comments appalling and
embarrassing. In his commentary, Gen. Sheehan wrote that to have accepted the job would have required "a great deal of emotional and intellectual energy" to coordinate the various governmental agencies, and ultimately, he wrote, "I concluded that the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically." To which I respond: How about using your ostensibly powerhouse resume (former supreme allied commander, commander-in-chief of U.S. Atlantic Command, etc), to bring order to the chaos you cite, to recommend policy revisions and use the
immense reputation conferred upon a retired U.S. Marine Corps general to solve these longstanding problems? This position carried with it a direct line to the president; armed with such power, a capable man could surely have made a difference. But instead, the general only talks about the challenges -- and his personal discomfort.
So to sum: Gen. Sheehan is willing to allow the men and
women of our armed forces to continue languishing in a lethal environment that he believes to be dysfunctional, but refuses to get involved because it would be hard and might cause him to "develop an ulcer."

It sounds good, is red meat for war supporters and allows everyone who agrees with the writer to walk away with a self satisfied pat on the back.

Its also a very wrong point of view.

First of all, there is only one war czar, The President of the United States. If he cannot or will not get his cabinet departments to work together, the blame lies with him, not with the creation of another bureaucrat to blame. Gen Sheehan recognized the position as the pig in the poke that it is. Similar to asking for a Change of Command on the Titanic at 11:59 PM April 12, 1912. The General actually took a nice way to explain that, instead of the more effective, " this idea is as fucked up as Hogan's goat!"

Sheehan was right to refuse it and the fact that it did should tell you a lot about the real motivation of the administration in creating this job. Learn why here.

The administration sold the "surge" plan on the basis that it was the idea of new U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus, the "brilliant" officer who had supervised production of the Army's new field manual on counterinsurgency. The administration then argued that having confirmed Petraeus's appoint to the top job in Iraq, Congress couldn't then turn around and pass legislation that blocked Petraeus from giving his surge plan time to succeed. Except the surge plan--more accurately described as the "escalation strategy"--wasn't the brainchild of Petraeus. No, the escalation scheme sprang from the minds of Frederick Kagan and retired general Jack Keane, prominent members of the American Enterprise Institute and luminaries in constellation of neoconservatives who got us into this Iraq fiasco in the first place.

The injection of Petraeus and the surge bought the administration six more months of "past bedtime" time, but as Ambassador Crocker's remarks indicate, six months won't be enough to accomplish whatever was supposed to be accomplished. Time has run out months before its time.

Little wonder then that as we hear that yet another timeline/benchmark can't be met, we get another smoke and mirror show about the new "War Czar."

Quite simply, if Sheehan really wanted to help the troops from his position now, he would run for office, or at the military lobby hard with Congress, pointing out that when it comes to defense issues-it has always said one thing, and then done another.

Its his right as an American. If a retired General supports the war he is just as entitled to speak out. Maybe if the two groups of folks had publicly fought this out in 2002 we would not be in the mess in Iraq we are now.

The popular contention is that retired officers speaking out, in effect becomes a lobby for the active duty military. I would ask the question, what is wrong with that? Its part of the job description since the Hatch Act prohibits military people from organizing politically. If it were not for the screams of many retired folks, the sins of Dr David Chu or the disdain of so called military supporters like Duncan Hunter for military personnel and veterans would never have come to light.

I've said before and I will say it again, this type of activism is a positive development, particularly if it means that more veterans-on both sides of the aisle, run for public office.

Disagree with their ideas if you will. But don't ever say they don't have the right to say them.

Do not go quietly- make them drag you out the door kicking and screaming!


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