It is time to set the record straight. Those who President Bush was
really attacking were his commanders, his former Secretary of State,
leaders of the NATO alliance among many others who have warned him of
dangers and urged him to change course.
Time and time again, itemized in detail below, George Bush has shown
contempt for his commanders, disrespected their advice, demeaned them
publicly and privately, and taken action after action that directly
harmed the safety of our troops and caused great damage to the mission
and our national security.
In the Washington Post of September 26 I was both honored and
outraged to read four full pages of American heroes lost in action in
Honored because these young men and women, many of them 18 to 21
years of age, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, are truly the best that
America has to offer. There are not words to fully express the honor
they bring in the long line of American patriots, from the days of the
Continental Army until every next morning in the America they defend for
Outraged because these American heroes deserved a damn sight better
than they have gotten from the politicians in Washington and the nation
that celebrates its tax cuts and housing bubbles while their blood is
shed in the sands of the Middle East
What we have witnessed on a massive scale is a dereliction of duty of
unparalleled proportion, from those who sent these young men and women
to war, where they heroically did their duty, while politicians used
them as cannon fodder for partisanship while committing derelictions of
duty that did them great harm.
On issue after issue our hyper-partisan President has abused both the
chain of command and his trust as Commander in Chief.
Congress should conduct televised public hearings, now, that would
bring every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, every commander of the
Iraq mission, and a significant number of enlisted men and women who
have served in Iraq, to testify publicly and fully about what they truly
believe about what should be done now.
They should be put under oath, not to question their truthfulness,
but to protect them from any more abusive pressure or misrepresentation
from civilians in the Administration or Congress.
And if Congress and our President can agree on any one thing, they
should award a special and substantial hardship bonus to every man and
woman who has served in Iraq and in the cases of those who have left us,
to their families who honor them, and make us proud to be their
neighbors and fellow patriots.
It high time we end this abuse of command influence, these attempts
by the President and Secretary of Defense to ignore the advice of
commanders, and to threaten or intimidate them into not speaking out,
and then to publicly misrepresent their views.
I dare any Republican, I dare any conservative, I dare any
neoconservative to put their name on paper and challenge any one of
these blunt and true assertions:
This whole Iraq venture began when our commanders presented a war
plan that would have required 400,000 troops.
I challenge the President and his partisans:
Is it not true that our commanders were bullied, beaten down and
rudely and unprofessionally treated to force them into a war plan that
they believed had far too troops for the mission?
Did our commanders not despise the shameful, unethical, and abusive
treatment of General Eric Shinseki when he tried to warn us and was
treated with ridicule and abuse by the neocons and our President?
Did it not do real damage for morale when General Shinseki was forced
into early retirement while George Tenet and others who failed were
given the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
Did not our commanders repeatedly, time and again throughout this
venture, advise against inadequate troop strength, then be ordered to
stop advocating what they believe is right, and read in the newspapers
our President promising, falsely, that he always gives the commanders
the troop levels they believe they need?
Do you not admit that at the very beginning of this unfortunate
venture, grave damage was done to this mission by ignorant words and
ignorant policies by a smirking President and arrogant Secretary of
Defense when they spoke of Old Europe, when they made snide and
condescending comments about NATO, when they guaranteed that this
mission would never have the support that President George Herbert
Walker Bush, who they also demeaned in the media at that time, achieved
for the first Gulf War.
Do you not now admit with humble apologies you committed a grave
injustice, and did real harm to our troops, when those with zero combat
experience insulted a long list of retired generals as "armchair
generals", when they spoke truth to power, and in fact spoke for a
majority of active duty generals, despite false statements by ideologues
and partisans to the contrary.
Did not our commanders warn against the failure to provide equipment
that was so extreme and so dangerous that the Marine Corps pathologist
found that up to 70% of our casualties were preventable, meaning their
serious injuries and deaths were not caused by their mistakes, or the
enemy's success, but by derelictions of duty on a massive scale by those
who sent them to war but disrespected the advice of commanders.
Is it not true that our commanders time and again sought help, which
was denied, to provide body armor, fortified vehicles, helmets, bandages
and other equipment that civilian officials failed to provide, despite
repeated, and false, claims that they always gave the commanders what
those commanders sought. Did our commanders not unanimously and
aggressively oppose the use of torture which they unanimously and
aggressively believe creates danger for our troops, tarnishes our
reputation around the world, creates new terrorists and violates
cardinal rules of war that they hold sacred?
Is it not 100% true that the torture practices advocated by this
President directly disrespect two centuries of good advice and military
ethics and directly violate the advice and good judgment of commanders
Is it not true that our commanders were repeatedly and aggressively
subject to abusive interference, and pressure from civilians that would
be grounds for court martial, if it did not come from the President,
Vice President and Secretary of Defense?
Is it not true that every commander is appalled and sickened by
proposals to cut spending for brain injuries for wounded troops?
Is it not true that commanders and enlisted men are disgusted that
civilian leaders have allowed a situation to continue that almost 20% of
active duty troops face such extreme financial hardship they are forced
to pay predatory lenders interest rates from 300% to nearly 800%?
Do you not confess that it is an unpardonable dereliction of duty
that this is ever allowed to happen, to even one man or woman who wears
the uniform of our country?
Is it not true that commanders were disgusted and appalled that they
were ordered to never again say our leaders needed a post war plan for
Iraq, and privately disgusted that they were threatened and bullied and
told they would be fired by those who started a war with too few troops,
and continued an occupation with too much too corruption, and then
demeaned the commanders who proposed a plan?
Is it not true that our commanders were appalled by the misuse and
misrepresentation of intelligence that is so essential in deciding
whether to wage war, and how conduct it, once it begins?
Do you deny that our commanders urgently requested reinforcements at
Tora Bora when we could have killed Bin Laden and were outraged when the
cavalry did not come to finish the kill, but were sent to Iraq instead
by a President who always claimed, falsely, that he followed his
commanders advice and now claims, falsely, that his political opponents
offer nothing but cut and run which he, himself, did at Tora Bora?
Do you dispute that from day one commanders urged a far more
visionary and serious effort for reconstruction of Afghanistan and
warned, correctly, that if this were not forthcoming, which it was not,
that the Taliban would come back, and the war lords and drug lords would
triumph, which they have?
Do you not admit that our commanders were appalled that Republican
operatives and Republican contributors were chosen for lucrative Iraq
Reconstruction projects that saw at least $10 billion wasted, stolen and
Do you not confess that our troops were gravely hurt by stolen money
in corrupt contracts and crony deals, when that money should have gone
to protect our troops, and help Iraqis who's hearts and minds we need to
Do you not admit that our commanders are appalled by scandal and
negligence so rampant that the Iraqi police academy will have to be torn
apart because urine and feces drip down on recruits, while corruption
runs rampant among Iraqi police where many do not do their jobs, others
shoot to kill Americans, and our troops suffer casualties doing the jobs
that Iraqi police have refused to do, for all these years of the
Do you not confess that our commanders are appalled that Iraqi
politicians are unwilling and unable to deal with murdering militias,
who have stepped into the void created by the failure of Iraq police to
stand up, and who spend half their time committing sectarian murder
against each other, and the other half planning the murder of American
Do you believe it serves democracy, our commanders or our troops when
more than 60% of Iraqis support the killing of American troops, and more
than 70% want our troops to leave within range of a year? Do you
question my assertion that time and time again, on issue after issue, at
great cost to the mission and the troops, commanders faced political
pressure and abuse, and were threatened not to speak their minds, while
civilian leaders put on their American flag pins and went to their 4 of
July picnics and stated, falsely, shamefully, that the commanders agree
with every decision the civilians made, and get everything they
privately ask for?
Is it not true today, that our commanders believe we need more
American and NATO forces in Afghanistan?
Is it not true today, that our commanders will be forced to even
greater distortions of troop rotations in Iraq, and that if the status
quo continues unabated, some of the ten year old children we see on
playgrounds today, will someday serve in Iraq based on the "stay the
course" contingency plans that remain active today?
Do you not admit that the Senate Intelligence Committee report that
you want covered up until after the election will list countless false
statements by high level officials who failed to tell the truth, about
what was in the true interest of our troops?
Do you not agree that because of the stresses and distortions of our
global force structures from this misbegotten and mismanaged venture our
commanders believe there are major dangers in trouble spots around the
world, that we could be unable to address under current conditions?
Do you concede that our current Chief of Staff of the Army is
courageously resisting political pressures and refusing to support a
budget he believes is bogus, and is fighting with honor for what he
believes our troops in fact need?
Do you not admit that our commanders are asking for far more money
than you have told the public, to replace outworn and often destroyed
equipment that must urgently be replaced to protect the security of the
Nation, and maintain a credible military deterrent, around the world?
Do you not accept the incontrovertible fact that our entire American
intelligence community believes that the current Iraq war strategy is
creating new terrorists, more terrorists, and great dangers and that our
commanders have long been fighting like hell for policies that address
political, diplomatic, economic and humanitarian issues that have been
so devastatingly neglected by civilian leaders, over the objection of
Do you not agree that our commanders are deeply offended by the
spectacle of the leader of one our major "allies", Pakistan, making a
deal that gives sanctuary to terrorists in parts of his nation, and then
comes to Washington, and refuses to answer questions, because he has a
book deal with his publisher, which takes priority over American lives?
Do you admit that the commanders and officer corps who have long
advocated more effective reconstruction for Afghanistan are disgusted to
see a Presidential dinner where leaders of two of our most important
"allies" insult and demean each other, while our President sits at the
table between them, five years after 9-11, looking like a pitiful and
And do you not confess and admit that our commanders are appalled
that ideologues run to talk shows and political speeches, and blow the
winds of war from the lips of those who have done enough damage to our
military for a lifetime, who have no experience in war themselves, but
talk of a new war here, and a new war there, as though war is a dinner
party discussion, or cheap talk show talk?
Do you not admit that it would be better for our commanders, for our
troops, for our security if our entire nation was asked to contribute to
whatever war effort we undertake together?
Do you not agree is it shameful that 1% of our country makes close to
100% of the sacrifice, that some are asked to die in Arabia while others
guzzle gas in their cars, that some give their lives and limbs for our
country while others enjoy tax cuts, discuss housing bubbles, and watch
oil executives pocket hundreds of millions of dollars of personal
I am madder than hell because on issue after issue, the commanders
have been right, the civilians have been wrong, the commanders have been
ignored or disrespected, while the civilians use the troops as partisan
weapons, then fail to provide the troops what they need, an inexcusable
I dare any conservative, I dare any Republican, I dare any
neoconservative to put pen to paper, and stand up with honor, and put
your name and reputation behind it, and tell me which of these
assertions you claim is not true.
Therefore: to initiate the long overdue debate and end these shameful
derelictions of duty, Congress should call nationally televised hearings
that would bring our Joint Chiefs of Staff, our commanders and
representative enlisted men and women to public testimony to tell the
country what they really believe.
With no more political influence, no more spin and no more pressure,
no more partisan abuse and no more threats, no more lies and no more
speeches by our President that demean the presidency, and divide the
Nation, and further endanger the troops, and further alienate and anger
the free world.
Now with the intelligence estimate made public for all the world to
see, we know the facts they truly believe. With a new book coming out by
Bob Woodward, which will add to the tales of misrepresentation, failure
and abuse. With a country that hungers for leadership and for integrity
and honor in Washington, let us end this dereliction of duty that has
gone on, for far too long, at too great a cost, with too much blood,
with too many dead, with too much damage done to our country.
We owe a debt to every man and woman who has ever served our country,
to every man and woman who serves anywhere in the world today, and to
every man and woman who will ever serve as guardian of our freedom to be
the best that we can be ourselves, and to be the best that we can be,
We must not be remembered as a generation that fell to dereliction,
we should aspire to be a generation that will pay the price to reach for
greatness, to leave the young who follow us, the world that they
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence
issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when
he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..