s skippy the bush kangaroo: the generals, retired, and outraged

skippy the bush kangaroo

Sunday, April 16, 2006

the generals, retired, and outraged

by david ratfink
washington post staff writer
saturday, april 1, page a1

bethesda, md. -- in the angry life of retired general paul d. eaton, the rage begins as soon as he opens his eyes and realizes that his secretary of defense is still donald rumsfeld. the sun has yet to rise and his family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, eaton is out of bed and heading toward his new york times interview.

out there, awaiting his building fury: the joint chiefs of staff, where eaton's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "it is impolite to criticize your host; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies. by that rule, defense secretary donald rumsfeld is not competent to lead our armed forces," is how he describes the rumsfeld's ineptitude, as he wonders what he should scream about this day.

he smokes a cigarette. should it be about bush, whom he thinks should "accept the offer to resign that mr. rumsfeld says he has tendered more than once, and hire a man who will listen to and support the magnificent soldiers on the ground"?

he smokes another cigarette. should it be about maj. gen. john batiste, who thinks rumsfeld was a man who "didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn't build a strong team"?

zinni, he finally decides. gen. eaton will write something about how rumsfeld "ignored competent advisers like gen. anthony zinni and others who predicted that the iraqi army and security forces might melt away after the state apparatus self-destructed, leading to chaos. it will be so filled with outrage that it will accomplish the one thing above all he wants from his anger: to have an effect.

outspoken and uncensored

these are mean times.

"the retired generals who are speaking out ...express the view of hundreds of other officers on active duty," writes well-connected washington post columnist david ignatius. he adds, "when i recently asked an army officer with extensive iraq combat experience how many of his colleagues wanted rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent." ignatius suspects--based on his conversations with senior officers over the past three years--that figure may be low.

crude times, too.

“they only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda. i think that's a mistake, and that's why i think he should resign,” says retired army maj. gen. john riggs.

loud, crass, and instantaneous.

gen. gregory newbold, director of operations for the joints chief before the invasion, writes that the decision to invade "was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions -- or bury the results."

what's notable about this isn't only the level of anger but the direction from which it is coming. not that long ago, it was civilians that were calling for rumsfeld's resgination, and the military that was, at least comparatively, polite. but after three years of being the targets derision or punitive early retirement , the retired generals have gone on the attack. and with ego-centrics in control of washington, they have much more to be angry about.

angry together

riggs joins the growing chorus of angry generals in an interview on npr:

riggs said rumsfeld and his civilian subordinates do not listen to, or even seek, the advice of professional military officers, except when it is convenient...

"i think what happened is that we just grossly underestimated the number of soldiers required for the stability phase," riggs said.

"as a soldier i supported the war in iraq," riggs wrote in an e-mail, answering a follow-up question thursday afternoon. "what i did not support was the way it was being mis/micromanaged by [office of the secretary of defense-rumsfeld. not sure what his agenda was, but it certainly was not to dominate and stabilize the situation on the ground."

to which maj. gen. john baptiste replies:

we went to war with a flawed plan that didn't account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime...we also served under a secretary of defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant and who didn't build a strong team."

and on it goes, every day, around the clock, on in national news publication after national news publication. since its debut three years ago last march, the iraqi war has seen 2585 coalition forces killed and is now averaging about 2.3 american military personnel deaths per day. at any given moment, several dozen people are being shot at, and data shows there is no evidence of the violence subsiding.

all of which gen. paul eaton finds remarkable, especially when he considers his route to this point.

a rant with results

"i'm going to be proud of my nytimes piece," gen. eaton says, as more generals get on board with the "rumsfeld must go" meme. first two. then six. then even more top politicos and officials join in.

"you know what?" eaton says. "i did a good thing today." and for a moment, anyway, he isn't angry at all.
posted by skippy at 10:59 AM |


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