Last week, the growing chorus of criticism being leveled at U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his steerage of the invasion and occupation of Iraq reached a crescendo as a coterie of retired generals who were involved in the planning and implementation of America’s involvement in Iraq began calling for his resignation.
It all started March 19 when Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton (U.S. Army-Ret.) penned an op/ed piece in The New York Times. Eaton commanded the training of Iraqi security forces until 2004.
Eaton calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation, citing first “his failure to build coalitions with our allies, what he dismissively called ‘Old Europe,’ has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary. Second, he alienated his allies in our own military, ignoring the advice of seasoned officers and denying subordinates any chance for input.”
Meet the Press‘s April 2 broadcast featured an appearance by Gen. Anthony Zinni (USMC-Ret.), the former head of U.S. Central Command. Zinni criticized the absence of a coherent strategy for Iraq.
“We are paying for the lack of credible planning, or the lack of a plan,” says Zinni. “Ten years’ worth of planning was thrown away; troop levels were dismissed out of hand … These were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes made back here. Don’t blame the troops.”
In the April 9 issue of Time, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold (USMC-Ret.), the Joint Chiefs of Staff director of operations from 2000-2002, was quoted saying his “sincere view is that the commitment of our forces was done with a casualness and a swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results.”
In the April 12 edition of The Washington Post, Maj. Gen. John Baptiste (U.S. Army-Ret.), the former commander of the First Infantry Division in Iraq, also called for Rumsfeld to leave office: “We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork.”
Former director of Objective Force Task Force, Maj. Gen. John Riggs (U.S. Army-Ret.) told NPR on April 13 that the Bush administration only needs “military advice when it satisfies their agenda. I think that’s a mistake and that’s why I think [Rumsfeld] should resign.”
And finally, the April 14 edition of the Times brought the opinion of Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack Jr. (U.S. Army-Ret.), commander of the 82nd Airborne Division as recently as 2004, said, “We need to continue to fight the global war on terror and keep it off our shores. But I do not believe Secretary Rumsfeld is the right person to fight that war based on his absolute failures in managing the war against Saddam in Iraq.”
The Eye will note that some fightin’ words directed at Rumsfeld could come from sour grapes. Zinni is promoting a book critical of the Bush Administration’s march to war, and Riggs left the DoD after butting heads with civilian leadership in 2004 and is being investigated by misuse of civilian contractor personnel.
However, The Eye thinks that most of the generals’ statements have merit. Rumsfeld’s stewardship after three years has no one expecting the return home of large numbers of American troops.
Also, the generals are of one mind when it comes to criticizing Rumsfeld and his staff for inserting themselves into the military decision-making process, often ignoring input for military commanders.
Last Thursday, White House press monkey Scott McClellan said, “The president believes that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a fine job during a challenging period in our nation’s history.”
Uh-huh, mused The Eye, and this would be the same president who’s two-stepping his way around his previous statements regarding the justifications of the invasion and CIA spy leak.
What troubles The Eye is that if there is growing dissension among the big (retired) brass, who had their boots on the ground, then what’s to become of the devotion to duty of the junior officer corps and ordinary troops?
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