View Full Version : Public squabbling over war’s progress can undermine U.S. troops’ confidence

04-04-06, 01:39 PM
April 10, 2006
Public squabbling over war’s progress can undermine U.S. troops’ confidence

It is unfortunate that a retired major general turns to the editorial pages to air his mostly ad hominem grievances about the Bush administration and its conduct of the war.

I am not an apologist for Donald Rumsfeld or the Bush, Clinton or any other administration. I am the head of the world’s largest wartime veterans’ organization — a group comprising Democrats, Republicans and independents.

We at the American Legion have no partisan agenda.

Many of our members served in Vietnam. They remember the dissension on the home front. They know Vietnam was a war won on the battlefield and lost in the media and the halls of Congress. It was a war lost because the will of the American people was broken.

It didn’t happen by accident. The top North Vietnamese general, Vo Nguyen Giap, openly admitted, “We were not strong enough to drive a half-million troops out of Vietnam. We sought to break the will of the American government to continue the conflict.”

Need we make the same mistake again? In his column [“A warrior places blame at the top,” Back Talk, April 3], retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton quotes a World War II pamphlet: “It is impolite to criticize your host; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies.”

That sets up a convenient straw man to knock down, but we need to ask the question: How many allies did we really have in World War II? Britain was nearly beaten, and Russia had its back to the wall. Who needed whom?

Today, the U.S. leads a coalition of 27 nations. We lead it because we have the best logistics, the best equipment and the most manpower. However, all of our partners have contributed to the war effort. To say we have no allies is an insult to freedom-loving people everywhere.

Furthermore, it is difficult for this Air Force veteran to believe that decorated and experienced officers such as Gens. Peter Pace, Richard Myers and Tommy Franks would cower at what Eaton calls “Rumsfeld’s bullying.” It is more likely that they have continually offered their well-considered military expertise in private, just as Eaton should have done.

We must never forget as we engage in this war, no matter where it takes us, that it was America that was attacked. We did not seek this war, but once in it, we plan to win it. And our military forces are confident that they can do just that.

We should not allow their mission to be denigrated or their confidence undermined by the public squabbling of retired generals who are not at the front.

Frankly, there are some points — especially those regarding force structure — where the American Legion agrees with Eaton.

However, we believe the place for debates about tactics and national strategies is not in the media, where the war in Vietnam was lost, but at the counsel table of those entrusted with the conduct of the war in the White House, the Pentagon and Congress.

Giap is an old man now, but you can bet that the most notorious terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, shares his desire to divide and conquer the American people by sowing seeds of doubt and dissension on the home front.

From time to time, we all need to be reminded that terrorists are the enemy, not other Americans.

Thomas L. Bock is national commander of the American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans’ organization with 2.7 million members.