When retired Lt. General Recordo S. Sanchez came to address the Military Reporters and Editors Luncheon in Washington D.C., he came with a purpose. He came to speak on behalf of the eight hundred troops that had died under his command in Iraq. He’d read the biography of each and every one of them, so he felt like he knew them personally. So he had no intention of watering down his message to assuage the feeling of either the press, or the prima donna sensitivities of the Washington establishment. In short, he didn’t come to hobnob—and he certainly didn’t come to take any prisoners.
Anyone who truly admire the military had to love this spectacle—a three star general, in full battle mode. He stripped off his stars, came down in the field, and showed those Washington chicken-hawks exactly what it meant to have their asses chewed up and spit out by a real general. All the souls in Arlington Cemetery had to be standing at attention, saying, “Well, it’s about damn time!—Sir.”
He started by leveling his guns at the press, and spoke with an unequivocal decisiveness rarely seen in Washington. He told them that he’d witnessed “...the worst display of journalism imaginable by those of us that are bound by a strict value system of selfless service honor and integrity.” He pointed out how the press blaze inaccurate information across the headlines, then when given accurate information, they would correct the story in small print deep within the paper—if they corrected it at all. He said that instead of searching out the truth, they went for sensationalism in order to get headlines. He also said that they were motivated more by self-serving aggrandizement than by a search for the truth. He pointed out that they measured their individual worth not so much by keeping the American people informed, but rather, how many stories they could write that made headlines. He also indicated that their mistakes and agenda driven biases are contributing to a corrosive environment, and that they were too willing to be manipulated by “high level officials” who leaked stories. He then went on to say that the uninformed and speculative reporting characterized by the media is becoming the Industry standard.
He then turned his guns down range towards the politicians. He said, “There has been a glaring, unfortunate, display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders.” Then he ask of Congress, “Who will demand accountability for the failure of our national political leaders involved in the management of this war? They have unquestionably been derelict in the performance of their duty. In my profession, these types of leaders would immediately be relieved or court-martialed.”
As the general spoke, my mouth dropped wide open. I, literally, could not believe my ears. I expected him to be blunt and plain-spoken, but, while I’m not a historian, it sound to me like he had come closer than any American general has ever come to suggesting that the commander in chief be impeached, and his cronies put on trial.
Regarding the war, the general pointed out that “Since the start of this war, America’s leadership has known that our military alone could not achieve victory in Iraq. Starting in July 2003, the message repeatedly communicated to Washington by Military commanders on the ground was that the military alone could never achieve ‘victory’ in Iraq.”
Again I was shocked. That didn’t square at all with what Bush has been telling the American people. Bush said he’s been following the recommendations of his commanders on the ground. If what General Sanchez says is true, that means that Bush has been lying to us for the past four years. Yeah, I know, what else is new? But actually, that is new—because now we have inside conformation that Bush has been lying. It also suggests that Bush has been knowingly allowing American troops to die for no reason whatsoever—no reason, that is, other than the opportunity for his cronies to prosper from the profits of war.
The general was also blunt about the current condition of our military, and what that means to our national security. He pointed out that “A critical, objective assessment of our nation’s ability to execute our national security strategy must be conducted. If we are objective and honest, the results will be surprising to all Americans. There is unacceptable strategic risk.”
In other words, if we knew how bad a shape our military is in, we’d be scared to death—and this comes at the worse possible time. Bush and his cronies are so strategically inept, and so blinded by their greed and war profiteering in Iraq, they are completely oblivious to what’s going on in the rest of the world. Our military readiness has been so severely damaged in Iraq that we’ve allowed ourselves to become vulnerable to other countries—specifically, China and Russia.
It was reported last week that Russian bombers have been spotted flying near the Alaskan border for the first time since the end of the Cold War. It was also reported last week that Russia is developing a new nuclear missile system that can defeat the U. S. defense shield. Where are we going to get the money to counter that initiative—we’ve blown it all in Iraq. So, if the Russians are successful, we’re completely vulnerable—our nuclear capability will have been neutralized, and our military won’t have the capability to repel a conventional attack. According to General Sanchez, “America must understand that it will take the army at least a decade to fix the damage that has been done to its full spectrum readiness.”
With that, I’ll allow General Sanchez to close this article:
“Too often our politicians have chosen loyalty to their political party above loyalty to the constitution because of their lust for power. Our politicians must remember their oath of office and commit themselves to serving our nation and not their own self-interests or political party. The security of America is at stake and we can accept nothing less. Anything short of this is unquestionably dereliction of duty.”
Think about that as you listen to your favorite political candidate evade the truth.
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at