I know you’ve all read this by now, so I won’t quote much of it, but I think it speaks to a broader point.
The New York Times: Third Retired General Wants Rumsfeld Out
WASHINGTON, April 9 — The three-star Marine Corps general who was the military’s top operations officer before the invasion of Iraq expressed regret, in an essay published Sunday, that he did not more energetically question those who had ordered the nation to war. He also urged active-duty officers to speak out now if they had doubts about the war.
Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, who retired in late 2002, also called for replacing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and “many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach.” He is the third retired senior officer in recent weeks to demand that Mr. Rumsfeld step down.
In the essay, in this week’s issue of Time magazine, General Newbold wrote, “I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat — Al Qaeda.”
The decision to invade Iraq, he wrote, “was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results.”
Leave aside the political issue for now, and go directly to George W. Bush’s conscience, such as it is. Do you think reports like this bother him at a gut level — make him lie awake at night, mulling over the what-ifs? Do you think he has dark misgivings, the way LBJ did over Vietnam?
Yeah, me neither. To Bush this is a political/PR type problem, nothing more elaborate. We may wonder how any president could help but experience agonizing second thoughts, if not outright regret, upon discovering that so many high ranking retired officers, experts in the military arts, believe that his administration has committed a series of horrible blunders over Iraq, resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths.
But that’s not who George W. Bush is. Bush hates experts, or perhaps more accurately, he hates experts who don’t tell him what he wants to hear. In other words, he hates intellectually honest experts. This is a guy who will happily put his gut up against any body of expertise in the world; and where the two come into conflict, his gut always wins out in the end.
Virtually every expert in the world believes that human conduct is contributing to global warming. Bush’s gut disagrees.
Experts on Iraq within the State Department and the Foreign Service believed that going into Iraq would be a whole lot messier than the neocons claimed. Bush’s gut begged to differ.
People in the field argued that we need experts in charge of organizations like FEMA. Bush’s gut thought political hacks would do just fine.
General Shinseki, the Army’s chief of staff, testified before Congress that occupying post-war Iraq might require several hundred thousand troops. Bush’s gut called him a fool, and then quietly showed him the door.
And now several leading military figures call for Donald Rumsfeld’s dismissal. I’ll bet you a bundle that Bush’s gut says that they should all just go screw themselves.
Maybe someday, when Bush is at long last gone from the White House, this will be the inscription placed on the tombstone marking the death of our national greatness: “Here lies America’s greatness: It died for one man’s gut.”
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