General Petreaus and Moveon.org Ad

There has been an outcry from the GOP about Moveon.org's ad.  The GOP quickly pounced on the ad calling for the Democrats to denounce the ad.  The progressive blogosphere has, by and large, followed suit condemning the ad.

What is lost in this discourse from both sides, Left and Right, is one thing; how do the active-duty and veterans feel?

It was a former General, Colin Powell, a person with unquestioned credibility, who went before the United Nations and made accusations against Saddam Hussein that later proved to be false.  After the facts were known, Colin Powell faded into history with a "blot" on his record.  Colin Powell blamed the low-level intelligence analysts for his failed speech.

As Rep. Wexler notes, General Westmoreland gave the American people much of the same in 1967 when America was escalating our forces during Vietnam.  General Westmoreland's command of forces in Vietnam ended in 1968; just one year after telling America how rosy Vietnam was going.  General Westmoreland, in his memoirs, blamed the South Vietnamese and President Johnson for the failure in Vietnam.

Remember General Tommy Franks?  He "retired" in July, 2003, just four months after the invasion of Iraq.  Here is how Fox News reported the event:  

Rumsfeld credited Franks with changing the original war plan for ousting Saddam Hussein after the Bush administration took a chance and launched bombs on a location where the deposed leader was expected to be meeting with other Iraqi officials.

Rumsfeld said "Tom Franks is truly a soldier's soldier" with a "deep loyalty to his troops and country."

Franks told the crowd to be sure to remember the 300-some U.S. soldiers who have died during the global war on terror. Those deaths remind us "that freedom isn't free," Franks said.

"The prize we seek at this time in history is a way of life -- it's called freedom, liberty.

"But we will never forget the 3,000 who lost their lives on 9-11-01," he added, his way of reminding everyone what the war on terror is all about.

Of course, we now know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.  We now know that the "prize" we seek in Iraq is not freedom, not liberty, not democracy, but oil and permanent military bases in the Middle East.  We now know that it was General Franks who, according to Donald Rumsfeld, who has since left in disgrace himself, changed the original war plan that led the U.S. to invade with too few forces.  

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended Donald Rumsfeld, who left in disgrace.  General Pace "retired" after only two years as Chairman.  Sec. of Defense Gates had this to say about Gen. Peter Pace being re-nominated as Chairman:

But after talking with Republican and Democratic senators over the past several weeks, Mr. Gates said, he concluded that confirmation hearings would have focused "on the past, rather than the future, and further, that there was the very real prospect the process would be quite contentious." (NYT article behind registration wall)

Jon Soltz of Votevets.org said it best in response to Dan Senor, former senior adviser to Paul Bremer.  Mr. Soltz said:

"When you were in Iraq, I believed you. I trusted you. Our soldiers needed your leadership. You told us weapons of mass destruction, we've turned the corner in Iraq. So I'm not going to sit here and be lectured by someone like you. I just can't have that. I can be lectured by Gen. Petraeus, I can be lectured by our generals. But you spun me once, you spun me twice, you can't spin me a third time."

Paul Reickhoff, another Iraq veteran and co-founder of IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), is another soldier who has spoken out against the leadership during the Iraq war.  In his book, `Chasing Ghosts`, Mr. Reickhoff chronicles his time in Iraq.  From the publisher of `Chasing Ghosts`:

"Rieckhoff was shocked to see that sometimes the greatest challenges his platoon faced did not come from enemy combatants. He saw firsthand the disastrous results of disbanding the Iraqi army, sending thousands of armed, angry, and unemployed men out into the streets. And he saw what happened when we tried to conduct a war on the cheap, by bestowing government contracts to the lowest bidder and sending our military into battle inadequately protected and armed. What followed, over the next ten months, set him on a course that would forever change his life."

"When he finally came home from his tour of duty, Rieckhoff vowed to tell Americans the truth about what was going on in Iraq. He demanded accountability from elected officials and was the first Iraq veteran to do so publicly. He created Operation Truth, which grew into IAVA, the first and largest veterans' group specifically for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through this organization, he has become a leading spokesman for troops, veterans, and their families, and a critical voice in the ongoing debate surrounding this conflict."

During the Iraq war, we have seen General after General come and go; some in disgrace, others in disgust.  General Petreaus is merely the next in a line of General's to follow President Bush off the cliff at the expense of the troops.  What we have yet to see is a General in a position of authority use that authority to the benefit of our troops.

In order to justify the success of the "surge", General Petreaus is using data so skewed that it defies logic.  The troops are not fooled.  They see the violence in Iraq every day.  I saw the violence when I was in Iraq in 2006.  The troops know that the report is not an accurate portrayal of the situation on the ground.  That is why the military started cracking down on military members blogging; because the troops were speaking the truth.

History speaks for itself.  At some point, the rosy testimony is countered by the reality of the growing U.S. soldiers returning home in a coffin.  At some point, the lies being told are exposed and become a matter of public record.  At some point, the incompetence of a leader comes to light.  At some point, the political support given by a General to an incompetent hack comes back to haunt them.  General Westmoreland.  General Colin Powell.  General Tommy Franks.  General Peter Pace.  

The question should not be "did Moveon.org act irresponsibly?"  The question and discussion should be "has General Petreaus betrayed his troops and earned that mantle placed upon him by Moveon.org"?  

The best analogy I can think of to describe what Iraq has become is that our troops are a boxer, the General's are the trainer, Congress is the referee, and Iraq is the boxing ring itself.  Our troops are in the boxing ring and cannot leave.  They are trapped.  Like Rocky Balboa versus Apollo, they are getting pounded on over and over, except, there is no happy ending, no miracle on the horizon this time.  They are simply trapped and the trainer, the General's, the people who can toss in the towel and force an end to this fight, refuse to do so.  Once they see the fight has been lost, they simply walk away and hand the towel to the next trainer, the next General, the next person who yells, "you can win!".  The referee, Congress, doesn't stop the fight either.

The troops have been abandoned by both; General and Congress.  The troops are left to their fate; repeated deployments to a quagmire.

Say it was politically wrong for Moveon.org to do what it did?  Politically, yes.  However, the list of General's betraying our troops in Iraq is getting longer and longer.  To decry the Moveon.org ad is to believe that the GOP wouldn't have seized upon another issue, any issue, to scream and bludgeon the Left over.  

Yes, the continued abandonment of our troops by General after General is a betrayal.  Whether the General leaves in disgrace, or disgust, they have left our troops to fend for themselves.  Yes, cherry-picking facts, skewing data, and continuing to paint a rosy picture despite all known facts in order to justify a failed military position by a General is a betrayal.  

Our active duty military members have been silenced.  They look to our General's to lead and so far, our troops have not seen that leadership emerge; only abandon them.

I, as a veteran of our Armed Forces, am able to speak out and I am glad somebody finally had the guts to say what many wish they could.

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    Why? (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by notinKansas on Tue Sep 11, 2007 at 12:51:47 PM EST
    Why is it politically wrong for MoveOn to expose how statistics are being manipulated and make a statement about it?  Because the subject of the statement is a general?  If Colin Powell's arguments had been adequately challenged, we may have avoided the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of this country.

    The words may be harsh, but the stakes are too high to be afraid to call this what it is.

    The prevailing argument is: (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Michael Gass on Tue Sep 11, 2007 at 05:12:20 PM EST
    ... that General's don't make policy and they merely implement what is given to them.  I agree that General's don't make policy.

    What I disagree with and the the problem with this argument is that it assumes that the policy and what is being asked is lawful in nature.  Any soldier will tell you that, yes, they are required to follow the LAWFUL orders of their superiors.  

    This is why we saw Gonzales, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc, jumping through legal hoops to "justify" their illegal activities.  

    At some point, the General leadership has to say "no Sir, I will not follow that order and I will order those under me to ignore it".

    We had soldiers tried and convicted because of Abu Ghraib.  They too were "following orders".  It just isn't a defense for the enlisted... the General's?  Hey, why hold THEM accountable?

    Yes... it IS a betrayal... and General Petreaus needs to either step up or step out like his predecessors.