Thursday, April 13, 2006

Those unethical self-promoting blatherers

Four days ago, I wrote this: "Three retired and highly decorated military leaders, including a three-star Marine Corps general yesterday, have publicly assailed the administration's handling of the Iraq war, and have publicly called for the removal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. I await the inevitable attacks on their motivations and characters."

Well, that didn't take long. The wait is over.

In the wake of the news today that a fourth military leader -- retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-05 -- has now gone public to assail the administration's war strategy and to demand Rumsfeld's ouster, a prominent conservative commentator has stepped forward to attack their motivations and characters.

Victor Davis Hanson argues today that nobody should listen to these "frenetic" guys, because they are "self-appointed ethicists" and "talking heads" who "blather" on television, and because they may be trying to "hype" a book.

The hype remark is a jab at retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who has authored a new book on Iraq (the other three are not book authors). Hanson basically argues that the act of authorship should be considered a character flaw -- and possibly unpatriotic as well.
In Hanson's words, there are "ethical questions involved in promoting a book or showcasing a media appearance during a time of war."

Unethical, unpatriotic, self-promoting...let's see... what else is wrong with these guys?
Oh, yes: They are "pensioned."

I was always under the impression that it's appropriate for retired officers to collect government pay after serving their country. I never realized that the word was a pejorative, or that it was meant to suggest that such officers should keep their mouths shut in exchange for their stipends.

Assailing the officer corps might not be the greatest strategy, if only because, as this article reports, the ranks of the dissenters may well continue to swell:

"(W)e are witnessing the rumblings of an officers' revolt, and things could get ugly if it were to take hold and roar....It is startling to hear, in private conversations, how widely and deeply the U.S. officer corps despises this secretary of defense. The joke in some Pentagon circles is that if Rumsfeld were meeting with the service chiefs and commanders and a group of terrorists barged into the room and kidnapped him, not a single general would lift a finger to help him."

There is one conservative voice, George Conway, who is sticking up today for those four officers, here. But Hanson's putdown prompts me to wonder:

Since even military guys are apparently grist for attack, is it possible for any American to ask hard questions about this war and this administration without having one's character impugned?