Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Man Bites Dogs. Pigs Orbit Earth.
Two retired senior Army generals, who served in Iraq and previously voted Republican, are now openly endorsing a Democratic takeover of Congress. The generals, and an active-duty senior military official, told Salon in separate interviews that they believe a Democratic victory will help reverse course from what they consider to be a disastrous Bush administration policy in Iraq. The two retired generals, Maj. Gen. John Batiste and Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, first openly criticized the handling of the war last spring, when they called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "The best thing that can happen right now is for one or both of our houses to go Democratic so we can have some oversight," Batiste, who led the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, told Salon. Batiste describes himself as a "lifelong Republican." But now, he said, "It is time for a change." Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, agrees that Democratic control of Congress could be the best way to wrest control from the Bush administration and steer the United States away from a gravely flawed strategy in Iraq. "The way out that I see is to hand the House and the Senate to the Democrats and get this thing turned around," Eaton explained, adding that such sentiment is growing among retired and active-duty military leaders. "Most of us see two more years of the same if the Republicans stay in power," he said. He also noted, "You could not have tortured me enough to vote for Mr. Kerry or Mr. Gore, but I'm not at all thrilled with who I did vote for."And it's not just some retired brass saying this, either:
As Salon reported recently, there are signs that support for Bush and the GOP is eroding in a Virginia congressional district saturated with military voters. Salon has also learned that more than 100 current members of the military have now joined a campaign formally appealing to Congress to immediately withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.So have they all become hippies? Not hardly:
It's not that the current and former military leaders are suddenly eager to see liberal House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi take more power in Congress if the Democrats win control. Instead, the embrace of the Democrats, they say, is purely pragmatic. They hope the Democrats will succeed where Republicans failed and conduct critical oversight to help the Bush administration fix its stalled and failing strategy for Iraq. "Over five years our Congress has abrogated [its] oversight responsibilities," Batiste said. "They have not held serious hearings about this war." The military leaders also say that Democrats might be willing to put up the massive infusion of cash they believe will be required to fix a military stretched thin, and to permanently increase the size of the Army. In July 2005, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. Hillary Clinton introduced a bill that would boost the Army by 100,000 soldiers. In the House, Pennsylvania's John Murtha and Missouri's Ike Skelton, ranking Democrats in military matters, have also indicated support for a beefed-up military. While the Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation temporarily increasing the size of the Army, a permanent move in that direction is anathema to Rumsfeld -- who has battled for a smaller, ever more technology-dependent military.But that's not the most remarkable thing. This is:
The Bush administration's handling of the war, meanwhile, has come under extraordinary fire from within the military. More than 100 service members, including those on active duty and members of the Reserves, have now sent "appeals for redress" to members of Congress asking for the "prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq." The appeals are a form letter designed to air a complaint without running afoul of official regulations restricting what members of the military can say. Although they are sent individually, the unusual wave of appeals has been organized by antiwar groups including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace. It appears to be one of the first examples of an organized effort by active-duty and reservist military members in opposition to the war in Iraq. It also signals a level of desperation -- since those troops who contacted Congress have potentially invited retribution from their superiors and put their military careers at risk. "It is significant because it is a clear voice from people who are dedicated to the military and dedicated to service, but not dedicated to this war," said J.E. McNeil, the executive director at the Center on Conscience & War who is providing some legal advice to those participating. "For every one of those guys," McNeil claimed, "there are 2,000 or 3,000 guys who are not willing to go public like this. These men and women represent the tip of the iceberg."To understand how extraordinary this is, you have to understand a bit about the US military. Persons in uniform, with rare exceptions, are not allowed to criticize a president, especially not a Republican one. These people are putting their careers and their livelihoods on the line against a régime with a proven track record for vicious retaliation.
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