Revolt of the generals

It’s how banana republics do it, says Charles Krauthammer on Fox, who thinks civilian control of our military is at issue here (though I remember taking a general’s anti-Clinton comments seriously and being corrected by reader John Kearney).  In any case, here’s something about it that might counter today’s Chi Trib takeout for some of you:

As retired generals peddle their books and their critiques of our war policy, national security correspondent Douglas Hanson and military historian John B. Dwyer confront them with some awkward history.

Hanson, in part:

These criticisms are nothing new.  [General Anthony] Zinni long ago joined the ranks of retired flag officers who voiced opposition* to a war that they felt was based on intelligence manipulated by the administration.  In addition, Zinni and Cold War-era techno-military author Tom Clancy expanded on this notion of flawed pre-war intelligence to proclaim that there was no casus belli for war with Iraq.

Zinni took over CENTCOM in 8/97, pursuing “engagement” with corrupt Middle Eastern rulers as our only alternative because we had no intelligence apparatus there worth diddly-squat.  In 2/2000 he told a Senate committee Iraq was the region’s biggest problem, it was probably doing WMD research and already had stocks of same, peace with Iraq was unlikely, WMD use was a definite problem, bin Laden et al. were in the market for WMD.

How did he know all this?  Handing CENTCOM command over to Gen. Tommy Franks, who asked about enemy threats in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility, he said, “I wish I could tell you.” 

[W]hat changed between Zinni’s Senate testimony and his handover briefing to Gen. Franks?  Why had he been so confident of the enemy situation in February of 2000 and a short while later, complained of a woeful intelligence picture?  In reality, Zinni had been right all along.  Yet, the charge of a lack of a casus belli persists even with the release of the tens of thousands of documents seized in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  These recordings and papers actually confirm Zinni’s earlier warnings about Saddam and his relationship with Al-Qaeda and Iraq’s pursuit of WMD.

Zinni was right, then; but years later, the President’s rationale for going to war was wrong.  Why?

There’s more, as in this about Zinni’s lucrative post-military career that drew on his engagement with Middle East rulers:

ISLAMABAD, Oct 7 [2003]: Former US Centcom chief, General Anthony Zinni, is arriving here on Oct 24 in his capacity as a director of a multinational company which wants to invest in Pakistan’s telecommunication industry.

A Pakistani-American who is a partner in Gen Zinni’s company, claims that the initial investment will be between $120 million to $150 million that might expand to $5 billion over a period of 10 years.

And in Zinni’s citing five Jewish “neocons” in 2004 as goading us to our pro-Israel policy — “key ideologues who caused this war to occur” — on “60 Minutes.”

And that Zinni and the others rose “mostly” in the Clinton era, as noted by the improbably named blogger YARGB (Yet Another Really Great Blog):

"Why is that important? Because, while progression through the rank of Colonel is more or less based upon military performance, elevation to flag rank is by direct presidential appointment. They are, in a sense, Clinton appointees."

There’s a long history of that, says one comment-writer, recalling Lincoln’s demotion of Gen. McClellan, who then ran against him.  This is politics.  Zinni and the others are making political moves here.

But the Chicago newspaper reader — and WLS-TV news watcher, who heard Ron Magers deliver the mainstream information dispassionately — should wonder why there is nothing in his or her daily papers to indicate any doubts about Zinni’s or other generals’ complaints about Rumsfeld.  There is only reporting what they say and assessing political damage to Bush, who “dug in his heels,” Trib says, in refusing to dump him.

Is that fair and balanced?

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