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Understanding General Zinni

Updated

It's a little hard right now. Brit Hume reported on Special Report yesterday that Gen. Zinni's recent criticisms of Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq are quite different from what he said in 2000 when he worked under President Clinton: http://wizbangblog.com/cgi-bin/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&id=11186&blog_id=1#
Quote

Former Clinton CENTCOM commander, Anthony Zinni -- the most prominent of the retired generals attacking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- now says that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, "What bothered me ... [was that] I was hearing a depiction of the intelligence that didn't fit what I knew. There was no solid proof, that I ever saw, that Saddam had WMD."


But in early 2000, Zinni told Congress "Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Gulf region," adding, "Iraq probably is continuing clandestine nuclear research, [and] retains stocks of chemical and biological munitions ... Even if Baghdad reversed its course and surrendered all WMD capabilities, it retains scientific, technical, and industrial infrastructure to replace agents and munitions within weeks or months."

Expose the Left has the video.

So what's going on with all the recent criticism? Tony Blankley has an interesting yet disturbing piece in which he sheds some light on the recent criticism:

Consider two hypothetical situations. In the first, a United States Army general officer in a theater of war decides by himself that he strongly disagrees with the orders of the secretary of defense. He resigns his commission, returns to private life and speaks out vigorously against both the policy and the secretary of defense.


In example two, the top 100 generals in the Army military chain of command secretly agree amongst themselves to retire and speak out -- each one day after the other.

In example one, above, unambiguously, the general has behaved lawfully. In example two, an arguable case could be made that something in the nature of a mutinous sedition has occurred in violation of Article 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice procedure. When does an expanded version of the simple honesty and legality of the first example cross over into grounds for a court martial?

More specifically, can a series of lawful resignations turn into a mutiny? And if they are agreed upon in advance, have the agreeing generals formed a felonious conspiracy to make a mutiny?

And where does Blankley come up with this theory? From Richard Holbrooke's recent article in the Washington Post:

In this article he predicts that there will be increasing numbers of retired generals speaking out against Sec. Rumsfeld. Then, shockingly, he writes the following words: "If more angry generals emerge -- and they will -- if some of them are on active duty, as seems probable . . . then this storm will continue until finally it consumes not only Donald Rumsfeld."


[snip]

He takes that model one step further later in his article when he compares the current campaign against Rumsfeld with the MacArthur event and with Gen. George McClellan vs. Lincoln and Gen. John Singlaub against Carter, writing: "But such challenges are rare enough to be memorable, and none of these solo rebellions metastasized into a group, a movement that can fairly be described as a revolt."

A "revolt" of several American generals against the secretary of defense (and by implication against the president)? Admittedly, if each general first retires and then speaks out, there would appear to be no violation of law.

But if active generals in a theater of war are planning such a series of events, they may be illegally conspiring together to do that which would be legal if done without agreement. And Ambassador Holbrooke's article is -- if it is not a fiction (which I doubt it is) -- strong evidence of such an agreement. Of course, a conspiracy is merely an agreement against public policy.

Blankley then proceeds to explain how these generals' actions may violate three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Mixing the military with politics is not only inappropriate, but it's also unbelievably dangerous for the security of our country. When generals and other military personnel start placing allegiance to their political party over allegiance to America, our military becomes severely compromised. This is what could be happening here: generals suddenly resigning because they want to undermine President Bush for political gain.

Update: Melvin Laird and Robert Pursley have an editorial in today's Washington Post in which they ask an important question: why are these generals speaking up now?

The retired general officers who have recently called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld want to convince the public that civilian control has silenced military wisdom regarding the war in Iraq. They have chafed at Rumsfeld's authoritarian style and they may even have legitimate differences of opinion with his decisions. But, while their advice and the weight of their experience should be taken into account, the important time for them to weigh in was while they were on active duty.


The two of us have experienced many of the circumstances confronting Rumsfeld. Our experience and connections at the Defense Department tell us that these generals probably had numerous opportunities to advise and object while on active duty. For them to now imply otherwise is disingenuous and quite possibly harmful for our prospects in Iraq. And it misrepresents the healthy give-and-take that we are confident is widespread between the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the capable military hierarchy. A general officer is expected to follow orders, but he is also entitled to advise if he thinks those orders are flawed.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer weighs in with this:

On This Week Joe Klein, whom no one can accuse of being a Bush fan, said that Bush repeatedly asked the generals in Iraq if they had everything they needed and they repeatedly assured him they did. But when Jerry Bremer asked them what they would do with an additional division, they said, we'd clear Baghdad. Excuse me? The American army in Iraq does not have a single general with enough guts to respond to the president's question with "depends on what you want us to do?"


Sorry, guys, civil control of the military is not our problem. Gutless military leadership is.

Instapundit also comments:

If things were so bad before, they should have resigned in protest instead of complaining publicly once they were safely in retirement and, in some cases, had books to promote.

I'd like to know the names of the generals who are hoping to make a quick buck.


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Comments (11)

Intriguing. Think, just wh... (Below threshold)
epador:

Intriguing. Think, just who would sit on these Courts Martial? Hmmm. Might get Verrrrry Interrresting. Bring it on!

Yes, and what the Generals ... (Below threshold)

Yes, and what the Generals should realize is that they don't control the military - and for good reason.

The military is an EXTENSION of me and my policies, and you and your policies, commanded at the direction of the people I elect, and you elect.

They have ZERO right to decide what the policy will be. They are instruments of MY policy, not the other way round.

If they don't like that definition, they have an OBLIGATION to immediately resign. I notice most of them did NOT resign the moment it became evident that Saddam didn't have WMD, two years ago.

The important piece of information is always, of course, missing from these stories: Did money play a part in these Generals waiting UNTIL NOW to resign (to, for example, get better pensions)?

You are sounding a bit like... (Below threshold)
James:

You are sounding a bit like a right hand version of the Daily Kos....

I have served with many of these men and they are honmorable people. Few of them disagreed with the decsion to oust Hussein, they disagreed on the methods, and on the ensuing debacles, but strangely not the victories...

Finally, I have enough freinds in Iraq, that I need to point out that WE ARE WINNING.

Don't let the left drive this debate.

James,Certainly th... (Below threshold)

James,

Certainly the Generals are entitled to their opinions.

I would, however, hold their opinions in lower regard if it came out that some of these generals deferred their retirements until they hit the magic 30 years necessary for them to get a much larger pension, and ONLY THEN decided they had some moral qualms about the war.

Show me a General who has quit DESPITE it meaning that he gets a lower pension, JUST BECAUSE he disagrees with the way Rumsfeld is running the war, and I'll grant you that there is a General with an opinion I would regard more highly.

I'm not too happy with Rummy either, btw. I think he should resign because he thinks our military is too large.

I don't think it's large enough, frankly. We should have another half a million soldiers on active duty in the United States.

Imagine, if you will indulge me for a moment, if Bagdhad was suddenly nuked.

What would the consequences be for the United States military?

Don't quite know what to ma... (Below threshold)
docjim505:

Don't quite know what to make of all this. My gut feeling is that, in any large group, there is going to be a variety of opinions. Generals are no different; there are those (apparently including Tommy Franks and Richard Myers) who respect Rummie. Then there are the six or seven who get all the media attention.

I don't have a problem with retired officers "speaking out". They've got expertise and experience than few people have, and their opinions are almost always worth listening to.

My problem is that, as others have pointed out, that this seems to be a hatchet job on the part of the MSM. No surprises there.

It is not that Rumsfeld was... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

It is not that Rumsfeld wasn't warned it would take alot more troops to properly occupy Iraq.
Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO," retired Marine Gen. Mike DeLong told CNN's "American Morning"

"When you walk into him, you've got to be prepared, you've got to know what you're talking about. If you don't, you're summarily dismissed. But that's the way it is, and he's effective."


General Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the then Army chief of staff told Rumsfeld (before the invasion) and the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003 that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure post-war Iraq. As a result, General Shinseki was marginalized and forced out.

This an example of Laird's freely given and taken "cut and thrust" opinion that presumably was not lost on the active military brass and goes along way to explain their silence, if they had any thoughts of dissenting from the then civilian leadership Pentagon party line.

These Generals have RETIRED... (Below threshold)

These Generals have RETIRED! Hello, they are civilians now. The last time I checked this is a free country, and we are allowed to have an open debate on this and darn near every other issue.Therefore, everything should be on the table.

If a General believes that Rummy prosecuted this war in an incompetent manner why shouldn't he be allowed to speak out?

The last time I ch... (Below threshold)
The last time I checked this is a free country...

Indeed it is. And just as they have a right to speak out if they genuinely believe they need to, and you have a right to make an @$$ of yourself in these comment threads, we have a right to call bull$#!t on them and on ... anyone else who we think is making an @$$ of himself.

This post, and so many othe... (Below threshold)
Observer:

This post, and so many others like it going round these days, strike me as yet another example of the lengths that this administration and its supporters will go to to avoid responsibility for their screw ups.

The generals are retired and are totally free to express their opinions. None of us should, or would, take their opinion as gospel truth. But they do have the experience and knowledge which gives us reason to take their opinions seriously.

When in uniform, they should, and most did, express their concerns within the chain of command. It is absurd to claim that they should have resigned if they had any problems with the decisions being made. It would take a very egrigous, downright immoral set of decisions for an active duty officer to conclude that he simply had to resign rather than carry out his orders.

We all know this. The conservatives would be the last ones to support a system in which military officers resigned over any disagreements they might have with their superior's decisions. Thats not what military service is all about.

But when retired, they are not only free, but they should be invited to speak their mind freely so that we, the citizens, can have their side of the story.

Isn't it ironic? The supposedly military-friendly Republicans are now trying to discredit and basically shut-up these generals, because they don't like what they are saying. Pure partisan spin.

These generals have spoken... (Below threshold)
virgo:

These generals have spoken out , and apparently had nothing of substance to offer as to thier opposition to Rumsfeld other than its the correct time to ink a big money book deal..libs

Observer,You make ... (Below threshold)

Observer,

You make the typical liberal fallacy of accusing us of trying to "shut up" the Generals, or otherwise intimate that we think they are NOT FREE to express their opinions.

They are free to do so.

We are then also free to comment on how much BS is involved when they do it, and to wonder if they are doing it because they TRULY believe what they are saying, or are merely advancing their own political beliefs, or angling to be the next Defense Secretary should a Democrat somehow manage to become President.

One way they could have done that would be to have quit two years ago, before they hit 30 years, thus giving up some pension; but so far, none has to my knowledge (although I'd be interested to hear facts presented to the contrary).

As long as there was something in it for them, they stayed in the military (and somewhere along the way, stopped being promoted ... which could easily be another ground for questioning their motives.)

But nobody is questioning their RIGHT to speak out. So, quit intimating that we are.




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