Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Retired military officer: Administration "… did not tell the American people the truth" about Iraq war

Three retired military officers, all of whom are Veterans of the Iraq war, called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign, in testimony yesterday before an oversight hearing called by Congressional Democrats -- in the absence of any move by Republicans to observe those responsibilities.

Retired officers Major General John R. S. Batiste, Major General Paul Eaton and Colonel Paul X. Hammes testified in brutally honest terms before a panel convened by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND). Dorgan said of the Republican failure to perform any oversight whatsoever over the Bush White House "if they won't ... we will."

And the retired Iraq-war leaders got right to the point in their opening statements.

"I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," said Batiste, who described himself as a "lifelong Republican" who was so discouraged with the military under Bush and Rumsfeld that he chose to retire.

"I left the military on principle on November 1, 2005, after more than 31 years of service," said Batiste. "I walked away from promotion and a promising future serving our country. I hung up my uniform because I came to the gut-wrenching realization that I could do more good for my soldiers and their families out of uniform."

"Our nation is in peril," Batiste continued. "Our Department of Defense’s leadership is extraordinarily bad, and our Congress is only today, more than five years into this war, beginning to exercise its oversight responsibilities."

Batiste then went directly after Rumsfeld, characterizing him as a failed leader who has allowed the military to deteriorate, while making America less safe.
"Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader. He knows everything, except how to win. He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq, or the human dimension of warfare.

"Secretary Rumsfeld ignored 12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build 'his plan' which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace, and set Iraq up for self-reliance. He refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. Bottom line, his plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today."
Here's the full video (about 10 minutes ) of General Batiste's opening remarks:

Retired Major General Paul Eaton, who has two sons currently serving in Iraq, lashed the Bush administration, calling the planning for the latter stages of the Iraq occupation "amateurish at best" and describing Rumsfeld himself "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically."

"There is a failure on the part of this administration to understand what strategic planning is all about," said Eaton. "Mr. Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making."

"The president is not well served by this Secretary of Defense, a man history will not treat kindly."

Major General Eaton's opening statement is roughly eight minutes:

Retired Colonel Thomas Hammes said that the Bush administration has called the war in Iraq the central front in the war on terror and such a major threat to U.S. security and yet has done nothing to lead Americans to address that risk.

"The administration has repeatedly stated that the war in Iraq is critical to the security of the United States and yet has made no effort to mobilize the American people or industry," said Hammes. "We have left the war to less than one percent of our population that has served or is serving in Iraq -- and we have failed to support them.

"I find it remarkable that a nation that could produce 4,000 aircraft a month in World War II, is limited to 48 armored vehicles per month today," he said. "The disconnect between our rhetoric and our actions is both astonishing and immoral."

Hammes, who was in charge of establishing bases for the Iraqi armed forces and served in Iraq in 2004, joined Batiste and Eaton in calling for Rumsfeld to resign.

"Senior military leaders have failed to speak out for their troops. At a more senior level, the Secretary of Defense has not acknowledged the numerous, serious mistakes made to date. His refusal to see the problems means he cannot solve them. It is time for him to provide the nation with the last of a long series of services and step down.

Hammes's opening statement (about seven minutes) is here:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) put the icing on the cake by once again calling Bush and Dick Cheney on their total failure to provide true security for the American people.

"When the U.S. intelligence community confirmed that America is losing the war on terror because of Bush failures in Iraq, this White House lost all credibility on matters of national security," said Reid. "With Iraq in a civil war, Afghanistan moving backwards and our own borders unsecured, it's clear George Bush and Dick Cheney are desperate to hide their record and distort the truth."