September 26, 2006
Three retired U.S. Army Officers address a congressional committee on the war in Iraq in starkly harsh words Monday.
"I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste told a forum conducted by Senate Democrats.
A second military leader, also a retired two-star general, Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, assessed Rumsfeld as "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically."
A third officer, retired Col. Paul X. Hammes, joined Batiste and Eaton in testimony before the Democratic Policy Committee of the U.S. Senate.
The unusual location was chosen, Democrats said, because the Republican leadership in the Senate has not permitted thorough oversight of the war in Iraq from the Senate Armed Services Committee. Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said majority Republicans had failed to conduct hearings on the issue, adding, "if they won't ... we will."
All three officers who testified served in Iraq, and Batiste also was senior military assistant to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.
Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, also blamed Congress for failing to ask "the tough questions."
He said Rumsfeld at one point threatened to fire the next person who mentioned the need for a postwar plan in Iraq.
"Mr. Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making," General Eaton said.
Last March General Eaton said the Secretary of Defense should resign. General Eaton wrote in a commentary in The New York Times that "Rumsfeld is not competent to lead America's armed forces," and that President Bush should accept the resignation that Rumsfeld has offered in the past. Mr. Eaton was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004.
"Rumsfeld has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his Cold Warrior's view of the world and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower. As a result, the US Army finds itself severely undermanned - cut to 10 active divisions but asked by the administration to support a foreign policy that requires at least 12 or 14, General Eaton wrote in The New York Times Op-Ed on March 20, 2006.
Eaton also said of Mr. Rumsfeld, "his failure to build coalitions with U.S. allies from what he dismissively called 'old Europe' has imposed far greater demands and risks on American soldiers in Iraq than necessary."
Hammes was also critical of the equipment available to the Army world-wide. He said all the good equipment had gone to Iraq, leaving troops training to go without their full complement. Hammes said that not providing the best equipment was a "serious moral failure on the part of our leadership."
Hammes was responsible for establishing bases for the Iraqi armed forces. He served in Iraq in 2004 and is now Marine Senior Military Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, National Defense University.
The testimony was the most riveting I have heard since I first came to the halls of Congress in 1972.
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