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Armchair Generals Are Just Plain Tsurris
uploaded : Friday 11th Apr 2003 at 01:47
by : The Editor
[Photograph of US Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers by Mike Lynaugh 1 April 2003]
As an accompaniment/update to this editorial we recommend the following :
I have a new view I'd like to share with you folks two weeks into this war. It will surprise and amaze you, what with all the pain American expats suffer and all the complaining done about anti-USA sentiment in the UK media.
I have noticed that despite the setbacks for British forces and the tough battles and lack of supplies (UK forces have had real equipment problems) NO ONE has attacked our Secretary of Defence, Geoff Hoon. NOT ONE Brigadier or other high-ranking British armchair general
or serving officer has opened his mouth to criticise our Minister of Defence Hoon's or American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's war plan.
The papers here have even begun to express concern at the extraordinary level of sniping in Washington aimed at Rumsfeld and at the criticism by Gen Wallace from the field. (No British General would ever be so indiscreet or disloyal as to publicly criticise our own Ministry of Defence during operations.) Perhaps the American military could take a lesson from their UK counterparts.
British Air Marshal Brian Burridge has criticsed, with some considerable ferocity, the tone of the British media in terms of its pro-Saddam bias. The American media have, in turn, used miltary spokesmen to denounce the campaign.
In the New York Times Letters Page of Wednesday 2nd April, Richard Platt wrote : '..Any military officer who verbally degrades his commanders to the press during battle commits an inexcusable sin...I was a soldier for 35 years, and I assure you I would never have considered such an act of disloyalty...'
I had lunch today with a friend whose family is typically British aristocratic military (most Generals here come from the elite class) and she was horrified at the public condemnation that the Pentagon has had to endure. She said the White House's stock has been rising here this past week because the Brits are AT LAST seeing daily briefings and the American officials? talk show appearances, and they are realising how articulate, knowledgable and 'classy ' the Bush team is. She said it would be unheard-of for Generals on active service to talk to the press about 'this is a bit different from what we war-gamed against' etc. or to be as ubiquitous as Gen Barry McCaffrey has been.
We have had our share of British armchair Generals on TV here, but to a man they have been complimentary and constructive in their
commentary and NONE has denigrated Geoff Hoon, Rumsfeld or the UK-American war plan.
The most comprehensive and scathing of this week's attacks on the Pentagon was written by the award-winning and career-busting journalist Seymour Hersh in 'The New Yorker:'
It is notable that the highest officer classes in Britain are usually Eton or Harrow boys who then go on to Sandhurst; upon passing out of the military academy a commission may take them to a foreign posting but whatever their destination their behaviour must be sterling and their character immaculate. Having grown up in the United States I would never wish this analysis to be interpreted as a sweeping put-down of the American brass; boys who went to Penn Charter Academy and passed out of West Point, or boys from underprivileged backgrounds who made it through Annapolis were all of the highest calibre and character.
Nevertheless I have been dismayed by the relentless and often raucous pronouncements made by what seems to be an endless parade of retired American generals and officials who have been trying to suggest that Rumsfeld has conducted ?war on the cheap? and has put coalition forces at risk due to poor back-up. General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came to the defence of his boss at a Pentagon briefing last week and was nearly moved to tears as he repudiated the ?fiction? being perpetrated by armchair generals in the media. (Maureen Dowd, whom some feel harbours a pathological aversion to this Administration, was also duly scathing is her assessment of Operation Iraqi Freedom.)
(From Defence Departmenr Transcript:
Gen. Myers: 'How do you protect tactical surprise when you have
250,000 troops surrounding Iraq on D-day? How do you do that?
Well, you do it by the method he did it: by having the types of
forces -- you do it by starting the ground war first, air war
second. Do you think there was tactical surprise? I think there
was. Do we have the oil fields in the south? About 60 percent of
the oil wealth has been preserved for the Iraqi people. You bet.
Have we had a Scud fired against Jordan or Israel yet? No. Why?
Because we went in very early, even before the ground war, to
secure those places. Do we have humanitarian supplies flowing
into Umm Qasr now? Yes. Why? Because we put the ground forces in
there early. Were we 200 miles inside Iraq in 36 hours? Yes...'
As this article goes to press Iraqi people are welcoming coalition forces in Baghdad and other cities and my only lament is that Iraqi hospitals cannot cope with casualties from the conflict. Seeing the palatial homes of the Iraqi leadership and the squalor in which their people have languished for decades, one can only grieve that the billionaire Saddam did not see fit to build Israeli-style hospitals and medical research centres with his money mountain.
Former 'Times' Editor Andrew Neil has noted, as I have in a previous column, that 'Daily Mirror' Editor Piers Morgan wrote of America and Israel as if these two sparkling democracies were cesspits of human filth. Now Morgan is being compelled to change his tone: his newspaper is, according to Neil, haemorrhaging readers.
And one more word: having now seen the true horrors of the Saddam regime unfolding before our eyes, I rejoice at the feelings of faith I had in the campaign to liberate Iraq and I say to the Bush and Blair Administrations: kol ha kavod.
The quote from General Myers is taken from the United States Defence Department Pentagon news briefing of 1 April 2003.
To read the complete transcript go to:
Photography by Mike Lynaugh: