April 12, 2006

Holding The US Military Leadership To Account

Newly converted anti-war WaPo critic Richard Cohen starts his long walk back towards journalistic redemption with a look at Vietnam's Forgotten Lessons:
Too many senior officers put their careers first and candor or honesty second. One who did not, the then-Army chief of staff, Eric K. Shinseki, was rebuked by Rumsfeld and his career essentially ended. After that, the brass knew that the path to promotion was to get with the program. They saluted Rumsfeld and implemented a plan many of them thought was just plain irresponsible...

No American institution can escape blame for the disaster of Iraq -- not Congress, not the CIA and certainly not the media. But the military has both a constitutional duty and a solemn obligation to its troops to be candid with the American people. Yet in testimony before Congress and in statements from the field and elsewhere, all we get are ridiculously optimistic assessments, no calls for more troops and no suggestion that Rumsfeld and Bush were mismanaging the war. The occasional peep of dissent is quickly reversed. From the very sound of it, you would be entitled to think that everything has gone swimmingly in Iraq. Instead, the military has participated in a debacle.

In several ways -- some obvious, some not -- the war in Iraq has been likened to Vietnam. Certainly, it has opened the same credibility gap, has been funded by deficit spending and has turned into a quagmire. Maybe, though, this sense of deja vu is felt most keenly at the Pentagon. Within that building, it must be Vietnam all over again -- another asinine strategy, another duplicitous civilian leadership, more conformity and careerism, and, of course, more unnecessary loss of life.


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