Iraq War news

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Top military leaders had chance to oppose Iraq war plans

Stars & Stripes: "Recent statements by retired generals that accuse military officers of remaining silent when disagreeing with civilian leaders “are just flat wrong,” Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, “we had then, and have now, every opportunity to speak our minds,” Pace told Pentagon reporters. “And if we do not, shame on us because the opportunity is there. It is solicited from us. We are expected to.”

In the April 9 issue of Time magazine, Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the Pentagon’s top operations officer on the Joint Staff during the planning stages of the Iraq war, wrote that “with few exceptions, [military leaders] acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard.”"

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace answers a reporter’s question during a news conference at the Pentagton Tuesday. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is at right.

As a result, “my sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight 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,” he wrote.

In the essay, Newbold also regrets he “did not more openly challenge” civilian leaders while he was there.

And on “Meet the Press” on April 2, retired Marine Gen. Tony Zinni said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should resign.

Zinni, the former head of U.S. Central Command, said also that others should follow Rumsfeld’s lead, including “those who have been responsible for the planning, for overriding all the efforts that were made in planning before that, [and] those who stood by and allowed this to happen, that didn’t speak out.”

Zinni added, “There are appropriate ways within the system you can speak out, at congressional hearings and otherwise. I think they have to be held accountable.”

Pace told reporters his comments were not directed at anyone specifically.

Pace, like Newbold and Zinni, first saw combat as a young lieutenant in Vietnam.

That experience, Pace has said, led him to vow never to keep silent if civilians sent troops into war and micromanaged tactical details that should be left up to military experts.

“To speak up, to tell the truth as we know it … is a sacred obligation of all of us who are fortunate enough to represent all elements of the armed forces and to have the opportunity to participate at this level,” Pace said Tuesday.

But betraying that obligation is exactly the charge being leveled against the Pentagon’s military leaders by Newbold and others.

“Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard,” Newbold wrote.

“The consequence of the military’s quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaida, became a secondary effort.”

Pace said Tuesday that the Iraq war plan “was developed by military officers, presented by military officers, questioned by civilians, as it should [be], revamped by military officers, and blessed by the civilian-military leadership.”

“Our troops deserve and will continue to get our best military thinking,” Pace said.


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