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Ask, And Ye Shall Be Used

The Wall Street Journal has a report on how General-turned-critic John Batiste claims he's been repeatedly denied additiional troops and other necessities in this war - and Paula Zahn is a despicable bushbot harpie

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Six days after he called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to leave his post, retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste faced a crushing moment of doubt.

Earlier that morning, Mr. Rumsfeld had brushed off Gen. Batiste and other critics as inflexible bureaucrats, uncomfortable with change. A few hours later, President Bush vowed to stand by his secretary.

Now CNN's Paula Zahn was grilling Gen. Batiste: "So, do you plan to continue with these kinds of attacks ... when the president has made it clear he's not budging?"

"I have yet to determine if I will do that or not," Gen. Batiste said.

Afterward, the 53-year-old officer retreated to a deserted parking garage outside the television station. For 30 minutes, he paced up and down, he says, literally shaking. Military officers, like Gen. Batiste, are constantly reminded that their role is to advise civilian leaders and execute their orders -- even if they disagree with them.

Now he was stepping way out of that culture. Gen. Batiste and his wife, the children of career military officers, had spent their entire lives in the Army. He fought in the first Gulf War, led a brigade into Bosnia, and in 2004 commanded 22,000 troops in Iraq, losing more than 150 soldiers.

"I was shocked at where I was," he says. "I had spent the last 31 years of my life defending our great Constitution." Over the course of the war in Iraq he says he saw troop shortages that allowed a deadly insurgency to take root, felt politics were put ahead of hard-won military lessons and was haunted by the regretful words of a top general in Vietnam.

. . .Gen. Batiste stands out among the generals who have called for Mr. Rumsfeld to resign because he is the only one who served in a high position in the Pentagon and commanded troops in Iraq. He turned down a promotion and resigned last fall. He then spent the next seven months trying to decide whether to speak out in public, weighing a strong sense of duty and respect for his chain of command against a feeling that he owed it to his soldiers and their families to speak out.

Among the generals who have spoken out, "the only one that really shocked everyone was Batiste," says Don Snider, a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

. . .In 2001, Mr. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz arrived at the Pentagon with a mandate from President Bush to transform the military into a lighter, faster force. Mr. Wolfowitz tapped Gen. Batiste, who had been recommended by his superiors, to become his senior military assistant.

Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz kicked off their tenure with a massive review of military spending. To ensure that the generals and Congress didn't organize to block change, Mr. Rumsfeld insisted that much of the review initially be conducted in secret. As Mr. Wolfowitz's aide, Gen. Batiste had access to some of the high-level discussions.

Initial plans called for shrinking the Army by as much as 20%, to pay for high-tech airplanes, space and missile defense systems. In discussions with Mr. Wolfowitz, Gen. Batiste argued the virtues of a big Army, drawing on his Bosnia experience.

Some on Mr. Wolfowitz's staff say Gen. Batiste often offered a parochial Army view. He touted the Crusader artillery cannon, which was too heavy to move by plane and didn't mesh with President Bush's vision of light, agile forces. Studies dating to the Clinton administration branded the cannon unnecessary. Mr. Rumsfeld eventually spiked it.

The general says he forged a close relationship with Mr. Wolfowitz. "He is a brilliant, dedicated hard-working man," Gen. Batiste says. "I didn't always agree with him, but he listened. He was a fair man." Mr. Wolfowitz declined to comment for this article.

Gen. Batiste didn't feel the same way about Mr. Rumsfeld, who served as a Navy pilot from 1954 to 1957. Mr. Rumsfeld's plan to cut the Army by 20%, before 9/11, reflected a belief that new technology made it possible to win wars with smaller ground formations. "He came in with a lot of ideas about warfare that I thought were just bankrupt," Gen. Batiste says.

But he kept his reservations about the war plan to himself. "You don't know what you don't know until you are there on the ground," Gen. Batiste says. In January 2004, after a personal sendoff from Mr. Wolfowitz, his division deployed to Iraq. Gen. Batiste oversaw a territory about the size of West Virginia in the heart of the Sunni Triangle.

Once in Iraq, he believed some of his reservations were justified. Like most units in Iraq at the time, the 1st Infantry Division's humvees lacked armor. His soldiers contracted with Iraqis to weld whatever metal they could find to the sides of their humvees.

He also felt the unit didn't have enough reconstruction funds. When Mr. Wolfowitz came to visit in June 2004, Gen. Batiste said that his division had spent $41 million in three months on rebuilding. It had $23 million left for the remaining six months of the year. That wasn't enough, he says, to repair infrastructure destroyed by decades of misrule and sanctions, such as sewer, electrical or health-care systems. In addition, reconstruction funds put unemployed Iraqi men, who offered a potential recruiting pool for the enemy, on the U.S. payroll.

Over the course of the year-long tour, Gen. Batiste says he had to deal regularly with troop shortages. On three occasions, he was ordered to send soldiers to help other U.S. units in the cities of Najaf and Fallujah to put down revolts. Typically, the Army holds a couple of units in reserve to deal with unforeseen flare-ups. But the desire to keep the force as lean as possible meant there were no extra troops in Iraq.

Each time his soldiers left their area, attacks, intimidation and roadside bombs spiked, Gen. Batiste says. "It was like a sucking chest wound," he says. Relationships that soldiers had painstakingly built with local sheiks -- who had been persuaded to cooperate with U.S. forces at great risk to themselves and their families -- were lost when the soldiers were sent elsewhere, he says.

Gen. Batiste told Mr. Wolfowitz about this problem during the June 2004 visit, saying increased unrest in his sector was the "direct result of the boots-on-the-ground decrease." But he told Mr. Wolfowitz he believed his soldiers were making progress.

Gen. Batiste says he also relayed his concerns to his military bosses in Baghdad. "I always spoke out within my chain of command. I spoke my mind freely and forcefully," he says. His immediate commanders, Lt. Gen Thomas Metz and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, didn't respond to requests for comment. His commanders were sympathetic, Gen. Batiste says, but he doesn't know whether his concerns were relayed to the Pentagon.

Just weeks before his troops left Iraq, the general had an opportunity to confront Mr. Rumsfeld publicly. The secretary, who was making a 2004 Christmas tour through Iraq, came to meet with him and take questions from his troops.

Gen. Batiste introduced Mr. Rumsfeld to his soldiers as a "man with the courage and conviction to win the war on terrorism." The general says he was disillusioned with Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership at the time, but felt he needed to pump up his soldiers who were in the final days of a grueling, bloody deployment.

After the speech, Mr. Rumsfeld, accompanied by reporters, met with Gen. Batiste in his plywood office, in the corner of one of Saddam Hussein's unfinished marble palaces. Mr. Rumsfeld asked the general whether he had been given everything he needed, Gen. Batiste recalls. Not wanting to discuss problems in front of the press, he says he deflected the question, by talking about his efforts to train Iraqi security forces.

The defense secretary then turned to Gen. Batiste's boss, Gen. Metz and asked: "What has Batiste told you he needs that he has not received?" according to a Dec. 26, 2004, account of the meeting by the Associated Press. Gen. Metz made no mention of troop levels, but said that Gen. Batiste could use some more unmanned spy planes and Iraqi linguists, the 2004 AP report says.

Today Gen. Batiste says the encounter left him furious with Mr. Rumsfeld. "We had fought and argued about these issues internally ad nauseam and a decision had been made ... . You get what you get and do the best you can. I am not going to air our dirty laundry in public. That is our culture," he says. "It was an outrageous question and he knew I couldn't give him an honest answer in a public forum. I felt as though I had been used politically."

Of course, the designated spokesliar for Rumsfailed said that Batiste had several opportunities to air his views, but we all know what becomes of his misgivings, they are dismissed out of hand, and if he persists he gets punished in some way.


One of the most telling quote of the article is this one:

His return to the U.S. was jarring. "It shocked me that the country was not mobilized for war," he says. "It was almost surreal." For some Americans, "the only time they think about the war is when they decide what color magnet ribbon to put on the back of their car."

That matches perfectly well with what a commenter named "Bruce Baugh" said over at Crooked Timber:

Talking with Mom and Dad about their personal histories led me to this association: what the war party bloggers have done is recreate the experience of being a child in World War II. They write patriotic essays and make patriotic collages, and get pats on the head and congratulations from the authorities. They watch diligently for the mutant, I mean, for the subversive among us, and help maintain the proper atmosphere of combined courage and vigilance. They are not expected to manage the family books, nor invited into discussion of the nitty-gritty, and it seldom occurs to them that there’s even a possibility there – that’s for the grown-ups, and rightly so.

Children indeed. They believe that "Trust me!" is the correct domestic policy and "Double or Nothing" is the foreing policy that will protect us all. Except they are not the ones who will foot the credit card bill.

via Atrios