Why didn’t you say so?
TIME Magazine is running what it calls a “full-throated” critique of the Iraq war by Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold (Ret.) He’s one of two generals who opposed the plans before the war, calling the Iraq war “unnecessary” and a distraction from Afghanistan. As he says, “I would gladly have traded my general’s stars for a captain’s bars to lead our troops into Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”
So opposed was he that he resigned his position as director of operations for the Join Chiefs four months before the war … and then kept his mouth shut until now.
I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice.
Well, gee, forgive me if I don’t think he should be given a lot of credit. If he was so opposed to the war, why did he stay silent? Why did he sit by for three years while others “paid in blood” for what he feels is a flawed policy? It’s easy to be opposed to the war now. Why come out now? A clue is here:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent statement that “we” made the “right strategic decisions” but made thousands of “tactical errors” is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.
It’s a valiant sentiment to support the men and women fighting the war, and his critiques of Condi’s statement and Rumsfeld’s micromanaging is dead on. But we’ve heard all this before. Anyone following the war can see it’s being run poorly from the big office at the Pentagon and that the civilian leadership has done everything to push blame elsewhere. Again, why now? Why didn’t you say something earlier, Lt. Gen. Newbold, once you were *retired* and could without fear of retaliation? You blame others for timidity or thick-headedness. “A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent.”
And, incredibly, you go on to blame Congress and the the media.
Members of Congress — from both parties — defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs Joe Hoar and Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views. These are the same news organizations that now downplay both the heroic and the constructive in Iraq.
Nice, cheap shots. Republicans controlled Congress and were in lockstep with the Bushies. The Dems, as minorities, have almost no power to exercise oversight. A high-profile resignation of — oh, I don’t know — maybe the Joint Chiefs’ director of operations might have provided them some political cover to get something done. And, gee, maybe it might have gotten some attention from the media, who then might have given Zinni and others’ more weight. And now you say we downplay the heroic and the constructive. “Is this the kind of heroism you mean?”:http://www.time.com/time/archive/printout/0,23657,1174682,00.html
Don’t lecture us about heroism and constructive roles to play, Lt. Gen. Newbold *(Ret.)* You could have done something then, and you didn’t. You could have been a powerful symbol, even if you would have taken a lot of flak from your old bosses. You say officers swore an oath to the Constitution, not the men appointed above them, yet you betrayed it with your three-year silence. It’s been said that for evil to triumph, all it takes is for good men to do nothing. Well, you did nothing. You don’t get to be considered good now.