Friday, June 15, 2007

The Air Conditioned Battlefield

The big news from General Peter Pace is that he stated in no uncertain terms that he was forced from the Joint Cheifs of Staff. But the reason he gives for not wanting to voluntarily step aside is what really grabbed my attention:
"I said I could not do that for one very fundamental reason," which is that no soldier or Marine in Iraq should "think _ ever _ that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield.

"That is unacceptable as a leadership thing, in my mind,"
As far as claims to be involved on the battlefield, General Pace has a eensy weensy bit of a claim. He has visited Iraq and Afghanistan on several occassions. However the experience of Pace when he goes into theater is entirely different than the experience of the typical American soldier in the field in Iraq.

Pace's excursions to the theater are more in tune with the typical American politicians experience. Spending a couple of days in tightly secured safe locations, and perhaps making a foray into the street surrounded by layers of security and media. Or giving speeches to gathered troops and meeting with Iraqi politicians, all happening far removed from any danger. To be clear when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, Pace has never experienced the day to day danger that the soldiers who actually are fighting on the battlefield endure.

Pace's statement hearkens back to the day when the Generals leading their armies actually did take the battlefield, calling the shots on the scene as the two sides slugged it out. The mortality rate of military leadership in modern wars is a pittance of the wars in World history. This is a result of technology making it necessary for the leadership to stand off and control the battlefield from over the horizon. But if Pace were to actually follow his own rhetoric and lead from the theater, expecting his peers and subordinates to behave in like manner, the casualty rate of the General officer corps would certainly be much higher.

In fact most of General Paces leadership of the war effort has been conducted on front lines comprised of his desk at the Defense Department, in the halls of Congress and the White House, and speaking to the press from various locations scattered about the U.S. capitol. I believe this is as it should be, but for Pace to say that he was on the battlefield is a real stretch.

But one must look at the fact that Pace has worn the uniform for many years and give him credit on that score at least. Pace putting himself front and center on the battlefield is less of a stretch than Tony Snow placing George Bush on the front lines during this exchange at yesterdays lie fest:
Q I have one follow-up. Are there any members of the Bush family or this administration in this war?
MR. SNOW: Yes, the President. The President is in the war every day.
Q Come on. That isn't my question.
MR. SNOW: If you ask any President who is a Commander-in-Chief --
Q On the front lines --
MR. SNOW: The President.
That is beyond weak and Snow would feel ashamed at saying this type of thing if he had any sense of decency. Trying to place the President in the front lines of the war is just moronic! It is reminiscent of the time that Hugh Hewitt (right wing radio drone) got all up in Michael Ware's grill about who was where in the war on terror. In case you don't know, Ware is the reporter for Time Magazine, stationed in Baghdad, and has been embedded with front line military units in nearly every major battle in Iraq. Here is Hewitt trying to capture some of that glory while interviewing Ware in March of 06:
Ware (MW):'re sitting back in a comfortable radio studio, far from the realities of this war.

Hewitt (HH): Actually, Michael, let me interrupt you.

MW: If anyone has a right...

HH: Michael, one second.

MW: If anyone has a right to complain, that's what...

HH: I'm sitting in the Empire State Building. Michael, I'm sitting in the Empire State Building, which has been in the past, and could be again, a target. Because in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America. So that's...civilians have a stake in this. Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago.
This is the mentality of these right wing war pushers. They try to bask in the reflected glory of American support for the troops, by pretending that pushing a botched war and advocating it stretch on for the foreseen future is the equivalent of the efforts of the soldiers who are truly on the front lines. The real consequences of this war are sanitized, tabulated, and rhetorical when these Bush apologists and the rest of us have to deal with them. The main difference between Bush apologists and the rest of us is that the rest of us have the good sense to recognize that commuting to work in our air conditioned gas guzzlers and generally conducting ones life as we all do on the homefront does not equate to being on the front lines in the so called war on terror. We should treat those who try to draw that outlandish equation with the contempt they deserve.

MR. SNOW: Yes, the President. The President is in the war every day.
I think I am sick now! What a crock of sh*t!
You have to wonder if they actually believe their own bull****.

I've listened to that whole interview with Ware, btw, and Ware mops the floor with HH in my opinion.
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