Civilian control over the military is a long established democratic tradition in our country. It was the military that was believed by our founding fathers to be susceptible to plunging our country into foreign adventure. Presently, however, the boondoggles, crimes and recklessness of draft-dodging George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and former Air Force pilot, Donald Rumsfeld, together with their draft-dodging neo-con associates, have turned this expectation upside down. The civilians are the war-mongers.
Probably the least told story of the Iraq war-quagmire is the extent to which the Pentagon military, especially the U.S. Army brass, disagrees with and despises these civilian superiors. Donald Rumsfeld, one of the most disliked of the Secretaries of Defense, has spent much energy making sure that high level dissent in the military is muzzled and overlayered by his loyalists.
Just last week Rumsfeld demoted three military service chiefs in the Pentagon hierarchy and replaced them with three loyalists who previously worked for his buddy Dick Cheney.
Right from the beginning the U.S. Army brass opposed the invasion of Iraq for both military and strategic reasons. They believed such an attack would absorb massive human and material resources that would divert from the chase after the 9/11 terrorists and the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They disagreed with the paucity of soldiers that Bush/Cheney and Rumsfeld were to send there. They were appalled by the lack of post-war planning directives by the Administration.
At the 4 star general level, the Army brass knew Saddam Hussein was a tottering dictator, embargoed, surrounded and contained by the U.S., Britain, Turkey, and Israel, and unable to field an army equipped with minimum loyalty and equipment. They also knew that going to Iraq would be the gigantic equivalent of batting a large bee hive. To this day Army commanders in Iraq, most recently General George Casey, recognize that the U.S. military occupation is a magnet for more and more terrorists from inside and outside Iraq. CIA Director Porter Goss was more explicit before Congress last February testifying that occupied Iraq is a recruiting and training ground for more terrorists who will return to their countries for more disruption.
When Colin Powell was at the Pentagon, he developed what came to be known as the Powell Doctrine—know clearly what your military and political objectives are, follow up with overwhelming force and have a clear exit plan. Bush/Cheney, Rumsfeld violated this Doctrine. Their only objective was to topple their former ally, in the Eighties, Saddam Hussein. After that, they were clueless and surprised by the insurgency.
To top Army officers, the worst of all worlds is Iraq. Their Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, after testifying before Congress about the need for over 300,000 soldiers for any such invasion, found his retirement accelerated. Draft-dodger Paul Wolfowitz, then number two in the Pentagon, rejected his estimate and recommended less than half that number.
Retired high military officers, diplomats and intelligence officials, with good sources inside the Department of Defense, say that the military is furious with Bush/Cheney. The latter orders torture with thinly veiled instructions and dubious legal memos and when disclosed, as at Abu Gharib, the Army takes the rap to its reputation.
Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld start these so-called commando groups, which included ex-Saddam toughs, and their predictable atrocities against young Sunni men becomes the U.S. Army’s headache to restrain. The idea behind these outlaw, death squads, reported The New York Times Magazine last year, was to enable summary destruction of arbitrary suspects’ and terrorization of the Sunni population. The Army kept telling Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld that such Administration-approved mayhem was backfiring and fueling more hatred by the Sunnis against the U.S., its troops, and these hired gangs.
The Administration finally responded by telling the Army to assign more men to advise and monitor these gangs which the U.S. is equipping and paying.
Other sources of irritation within the military is Bush/Cheney making sure that the fallen soldiers and the injured soldiers are returned in stealth fashion at Dover Air Force base and Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington, D.C. Bush/Cheney do this for political reasons, knowing opposition to the war increases as U.S. casualties mount.
Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld still refuse to count officially U.S. soldiers who are injured outside a combat situation, again for political reasons. This keeps the official injury count at about one third of the real total. Career Army officers do not like their solders being used this way.
The Army is also upset over the loss of some of their senior officers and non-commissioned officers to the giant corporate contractors operating in this cost-plus environment of maximum profit for less than maximum service. These companies are hiring away these experienced soldiers with offers that double or triple their salaries to do the very privatized jobs which the Army used to do for itself. In a tight skilled manpower situation, the Army finds this drain to be undermining its mission.
On the surface, Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are heavy on their photo opportunities with the troops, heavy with the flattery that these political tricksters heap on the soldiers and alert to any potential public dissent.
There was a recent slip up though. At a Pentagon news conference, November 29th, a reporter asked General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what should American soldiers in Iraq do if they witness Iraqi security forces abusing prisoners. The General’s reply: “It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene and stop it.”
Standing next to him, the calculating conniver, Donald Rumsfeld tried to distort the words of the forthright Pace by saying that American soldiers only had an obligation to report any mistreatment.
In a nutshell, that is the difference between the Pentagon military and their arrogant civilian superiors who have disrespected their judgment and ordered them to shut up and follow unlawful policies. Meanwhile the quagmire bleeding Iraq continues in its way to bleed America. Speak up military. Remember the Nuremberg principles.