Monday, April 17, 2006

Unprecedented Criticism From Retired Flag Officers

Over two years ago when this blog started, one of the main purposes was to focus on the mistakes of past recent wars in order to prevent the same mistakes from happening in Iraq & Afghanistan. But those mistakes are happening in spades again.

As the administration fights to steer aside the mounting critcism from retired generals and admirals, one common theme is not being reported.

Any student of Vietnam, in fact anyone who served in Vietnam, should easily recognize this common theme: Mismanagement, misjudgment, micromanagement, and lack of acting on the advice of senior military staff by the SecDef, creates disasters. One could argue that firing the SecDef is beside the point. As the most recent Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Myers (a strong supporter of Mr. Rumsfeld) points out, criticizing Mr. Rumsfeld is really saying you are criticizing the president.

Yet, Mr. Rumsfeld has made several key wrong strategic decisions (or could have strongly influenced many of those made by the administration). The White House is trying to spin Mr. Rumsfeld's apparently unequalled excellence in the job by providing a bunch of bean counts of how many meetings, how many committees etc. etc. he has championed. And perhaps we can even concede the point that he listened to all the warnings.

But he didn't act on them. From the beginning of war planning (and post-war planning), the handling and use of intelligence, the lack of understanding of the Geneva Conventions resulting in (for example) Abu Ghraib, the making of excuses for not providing the troops with basic safety equipment and protection, the continuing uncontrolled unrest in Iraq etc., and for failing to act on the advice of his senior military experts, Mr. Rumsfeld bears responsibility and accountability.

Several of these generals and admirals now 'coming out of the closet' are reported to have been strongly impacted by the new book Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq -- by Michael R. Gordon, Bernard E. Trainor (a retired Army general) - and especially the stonewalling and firing of Gen. Shinseki. Gen Shinseki in 2003, you may remember, argued for the deployment of several hundreds of thousands of troops to prevent the kind of post-war civil disaster now taking place in Iraq.

After Vietnam, in military schools, in all services, new and older officers debated and discussed what might have been prevented in Vietnam had senior military officials spoken out more strongly when they knew that strategy and tactics were very wrong. Many of the retired officers now speaking out went through those discussions or were involved in the last days of Vietnam.

Some would say they waited three years too long to do so. Shinseki was perhaps the bravest of all of them, publicly voicing his strong arguments on active duty and probably knowing what the result would be.

Regardless, the debate now going on is not going to be squashed anytime soon by the administration. As noted here recently, nearly five dozen veterans are running for Congress - all but two of them Democrats.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link