The Revolt of the Generals- 4-20-06

The Revolt of the Generals


Richard J. Garfunkel

April 20, 2006



President Truman once said while commenting on the “draft” versus a professional army and I paraphrase, that because we have a “draft” a President is made much more careful about using citizens in foreign adventurism. Basically what he was alluding to was the fact that in a “free” country, when men/women are inducted involuntarily to serve in combat or harm’s way, the country had better have a good reason for that action, or the public will speak out at the polls. Whether the public was right or wrong, in their righteous indignation, they spoke out in 1952 and 1966, and 1968. Of course each era is a bit different, and each circumstance requires a different mindset and rationalization. Whether Cindy Sheehan, the Tillman family or other “Gold Star” mothers are right or wrong is up to historians of the future. But for sure when people lose their sons and daughters they have to feel that their sacrifice was not done in vain, They must understand, and it should be made crystal clear from the commander-in-chief, that this effort was justified for our security, and that the country was better off for their supreme sacrifice.


Therefore Truman was wise in his understanding that the “draft” was a type of political “check and balance” on the unlimited war-making powers of the chief executive. Of course we are told that times are different, and we are told that a “draft” is unnecessary at this time. Of course we also know the downside to a “draft” and I personally will not waste time elucidating its shortcomings. I, like many others, understand the reality and necessity of a professionally trained standing army. I also know the problems of drafting the poor, the under-educated, and the middle and upper middle class college aged youngsters. What comes of that action is usually a combination of incompetence and discontent. We do have a highly motivated and professionally trained armed force that is quite capable of dealing with the new demands of the computer age battle arena. But still numbers count, and “boots on the ground” still win wars.


Therefore I am not advocating a return to the “draft” for political or military reasons. But on the other hand, the current crisis of “manpower” has started to decimate and erode our standing forces, reserves and National Guard with potentially dangerous consequences. We are already facing erosion in our elite leadership. Recently it was reported that one-third of our West Point graduating class of 2000 is resigning and all who read the newspapers know and understand what has happened to our Guard and the re-enlistment of our reservists. They have faced the total brunt and burden of this so-called Fourth World War by being the only ones making the sacrifice. Truman fired MacArthur for insubordination. And though the Korean War was unpopular, and General MacArthur was worshipped and respected by millions in this country, many understood the supremacy of civilian control over the military. Many others saw the failure of MacArthur’s vision and the danger of his proposals. MacArthur was warned by many about the build-up of massive Chinese forces on the Yalu River, and he ignored those “red flags.” After the Chinese intervention and the subsequent disaster that ensued, MacArthur called for the use of atomic weapons to be used along that frontier separated by the Yalu. Truman understood the inherent risk of nuclear war, the danger of enlarging the conflict and the divided message MacArthur was sending and therefore he took action in recalling him. Ironically the situation has almost reversed itself. Many people are having their eyes and minds opened by the six generals, who have publicly criticized Defense Secretary Rumsfeld for his mismanagement of the war effort from its instigation, rationalization and prosecution. It seems now the roles have been completely reversed. It is the President, who is rattling the nuclear sword of Damocles. It is the President, through his strategy of “war-on-the cheap” and “go it alone” diplomacy and war making, who is reaping the wild-wind of failure in this vital region. I ask, where is our “grand coalition” and what is our purpose there? If is for oil, then so be it. Make it plain. But like the “Emperor’s New Clothes” we are all patently aware that oil is the issue, plain and simple.


Maybe one could defend the war by being against dictatorship, but there are countless dictators and some of them have been our friends and allies. One could also say that we are obsessed with the addiction of “cheap” energy and that we must commit endless treasury and manpower to protect those resources and supply lines. We have always, since the days of Stephen Decatur, fought to keep our sea-lanes and our access to markets open. The Berlin Airlift was a classic example of our desire and will to keep our treaty obligations to West Berlin. Maybe one could “buy in” to the rationale that we must promote democracy in the Middle East and that once it is imparted and implanted in Iraq it will spread throughout that cursed region. That may be so, and if it were possible it would be a noble endeavor. But in reality one just has to read Assassin’s Gate by George Packer to learn the “real” plans concocted by the neo-cons with regards to Iraq. But that is an old story today. We all know that this war had little to do with dictatorship or democracy but with oil and possibly revenge over the blunders of George Bush in the first Gulf War.


Therefore in regards to strategy General Anthony Zinni anticipated the ongoing failure, and it is summarized on page 119, of Assassin’s Gate. Packer wrote, “General Anthony Zinni, who proceeded (General Tommy) Franks at Centcom, had anticipated just that. (The country would disintegrate) The allied bombing of Iraqi targets in December of 1998 had rattled the regime in Baghdad, and Arab leaders had warned privately of a power vacuum if Sadaam fell. Zinni, realizing that the responsibility for a postwar would fall on the military, began work on a plan for Iraq’s reconstruction to go along with his war plan. Desert Crossing covered the protection of the infrastructure, the sealing of the borders, humanitarian crises, politics, economy and even social issues like the role of women.”


In 2000 he left this plan with Franks, and though he stated it was not complete it went far along the correct path. He said, “It should be seamless with the military plan.” “Shortly before the war, he called Centcom and said, ‘You guys ought to dust off Desert Crossing, take a hard look at that.’ The deputy commander asked, ‘Desert Crossing, what’s that? Never heard of it.’ At the Pentagon, Zinni learned, Desert Crossing had been dismissed because it assumptions were ‘too negative…’ Franks made one effort to get Zinni’s advice before the Iraq war began. He was stopped by someone higher up.”


To my many conservative and patriotic friends, this is not just a matter of “better be red than dead” leftists” opposing the war and putting their xenophobic heads in the sand. I could hardly be associated with that way of thinking. I have no real cares about Iraq, or its people. I have no real cares about the Arab world and its future. I have no real cares about the pipedream of democracy in the Arab world. Just look at the disaster in so-called Palestine and its democratic support for the terrorist group Hamas that blows up restaurants with its insane, suicidal and exploited youth. These people have no concept of democracy, of how it works and what sacrifices it demands. This is “democracy” in the same way that the Nazis were elected in Germany in 1933. What Hitler said in his best-selling book Mein Kampf was no secret to the German people. They German people were “willing executioners” in the words of Daniel Goldhagen.  The attitude and desires of Hamas are no secret to the Arab people living in the West Bank and Gaza. What I do care about is American and its future. What I care about is our national sanity and well being, our economy, and the future of our children and children’s children. What I do care about is the need for honesty with the American people, a sound strategy for victory, if possible, or a sensible withdrawal. To fight an endless war of attrition, with the resultant draining of our resources, the debilitating of our armed forces, the continued split in our nation state seems to me a fool’s journey. We have seen what that result has caused when actions are built on a mountain of lies. We have seen our national unity in the wake of 9/11 evaporate. (The latest Gallup Poll shows a 32% support of the war!) We have seen the failure of our effort in Afghanistan as the Taliban brigands, religious fanatics and terrorists have melted into the warm bosom of the countryside. We have seen the failure of our strategy when we linked the Taliban to the repressive but anti-clerical regime of Sadaam Hussein. We have spread the war from one of the most barren and isolated places in the world to a vital area astride a large percentage of the world’s oil supply. If the war is for oil, how come it is not being protected and pumped from Iraq to the world markets that needs it and can pay for it? It was these revenues that were promised be used to re-build Iraq, pay for our effort and solve all the problems of the region. What happened? What about those empty promises? How come the price of oil and gasoline keeps on skyrocketing? How come? Who should be held accountable? We all should cry out and ask. But of course there are no answers from the administration, only double-speak from its minions. The only answer we will get is at the polls. That is the ultimate arbiter.


Just read Carl Bernstein’s article in Vanity Fair called, “Senate Hearings on Bush, Now.” Please read the article I just sent by Sean Wilentz “The Worst President in History,” and if you have a chance read Assassin’s Gate by George Packer. Of course there are many, many other books, by people like John Dean, Kevin Phillips, Joe Wilson, etc, who aren’t paragons of the left who have exposed this administration’s incompetence, lies and criminality.


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