GENERALS TAKE EXTRAORDINARY STEP OF SPEAKING OUT AGAINST IRAQ WAR IN PAID TELEVISION ADS
Last month, in an action that is probably unprecedented in American history during a time of war against a foreign foe, we witnessed former military commanders speaking out against the Iraq conflict in paid television advertising.
Major General John Batiste and Major General Paul Eaton, both of whom commanded our troops in Iraq before they retired, actually appeared personally in ads sponsored by a group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, to criticize George W. Bush’s mismanagement of the war.
Among many in the military, it is an unwritten code that general officers should not publicly disagree with the strategic decisions made by the commander-in-chief and his administration. Such outspoken public comments by high-ranking members of the military are always controversial. Imagine how disgusted Batiste and Eaton must have been with the course of events in Iraq, to go public. They are patriotic Americans who have devoted their entire adult lives to the service of their country in the armed forces. Imagine how worried they must be about the future of our nation, and especially the future of our military.
Batiste said this in his ad: "You did not listen, Mr. President. You continue to pursue the failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps. I left in protest in order to speak out. Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women."
Here is Eaton’s statement in the ad: “President Bush says he listens to his military commanders. Well, Mr. President, I was one of those commanders, and you weren’t listening when we warned you of the dangers we’d face invading Iraq. Now our military is overcommitted, and America is less secure. Mr. President, you’re being told we need serious diplomacy, not escalation. And you’re still not listening. If the President won’t listen, Congress must.”
As remarkable as those statements are coming from military generals, here is something that makes them even more noteworthy. They are not the least bit partisan. Batiste describes himself as a “die-hard Republican” and Eaton says that he voted for George W. Bush for president.
One footnote on the Batiste ad: After retiring from the Army, he had been hired as a consultant to CBS News, but after he spoke out in the ad, CBS fired him. Yet while it cost him financially, Batiste said he believes that because he was in a unique position of someone with high-level, first-hand knowledge of the situation in Iraq, that he had a responsibility to speak his mind for the good of the country.
These two former generals are not the only loyal Republicans to speak out lately against George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. None other than Peggy Noonan, who was a high-profile special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and a speechwriter in 1988 for candidate George H. W. Bush when he ran for president, blasted this administration in her column in the Wall Street Journal recently. Mainly, Noonan laments the current Bush presidency for the way it is tearing apart the conservative movement in this country, on issue after issue, and she includes foreign policy among the problems. Here is what she had to say: “The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq. What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom.”
And of course, that lack of wisdom, besides being tragic for our country as a whole, results in deadly sacrifice from some of our soldiers. The killing goes on because of that lack of wisdom, because of that aggressive Bush arrogance of which Peggy Noonan writes. In 2007, the fifth year of this war, Americans continue to die. Pennsylvanians continue to die. The following two soldiers were our state’s first two casualties of this calendar year.
Sergeant Thomas E. Vandling Jr., 26, of Pittsburgh, Pa., died Jan. 1, New Years Day, as most of the nation was probably peacefully watching college football bowl games. He died in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his vehicle as he was on combat patrol. Sergeant Vandling was assigned to the 303rd Psychological Operations Company, a subordinate unit of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.
Sergeant 1st Class Keith A. Callahan, 31, of McClure, Pa., died Jan. 24 of wounds suffered when an IED detonated while he was conducting a combat patrol south of Baghdad. Sergeant Callahan was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
They are among the 3,512 Americans killed in Iraq since the war began. Another 25,830 have been wounded.
Thank You Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo