By Lonna Gooden VanHorn
General Tony McPeak is a retired four star general who was the head of the U.S. Air Force under President GHW Bush during Operation Desert Storm.
As chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, he was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for the organization, training, and equipage of a combined active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian force of over 850,000, serving at approximately 1,300 locations around the globe.
General McPeak is the recipient of the Silver Star, Distinguished Service Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a fighter pilot and flew over 300 combat missions in Vietnam.
He was the Oregon chairman of Bob Doles presidential campaign, and in 2000 he was the co-chairman of Oregon Veterans for Bush/Cheney.
But, he came to Roswell this week campaigning for John Kerry. I caught his speech at the VFW on September 27th.
General McPeak said Bush claims he has made America stronger and safer, but in reality he has made the United States weaker and less safe. He said he is a life-long conservative, but he would not vote for Bush again if he was running against Grandma Moses, even though Grandma Moses has been dead for a couple of decades.
He said going into Afghanistan was the right thing to do, we had the world with us and U.N. support. In fact, he said, a German 3 star general is in control in Kabul now. But, he said we mistakenly pulled troops out of Afghanistan in this administrations rush to go into Iraq. We did not finish the job there, so it is a toss-up whether even our intervention in Afghanistan will be successful or not.
He said the Coalition is a joke. He is from Oregon, and if Oregon were a nation, the 800 or 850 national guardsmen it has in Iraq would make it the 8th largest force, right before or after Australia, and more countries pull their troops out of Iraq all the time.
He said he was going around before the war making speeches to anyone who would listen saying there were no WMD's in Iraq. He knew then there was no reason to invade Iraq, it was not an imminent threat. He said this administrations foreign policy has been a wall to wall disaster.
He said after 9/11 everyone loved us. Now, everyone hates us. Never in his life has he seen American prestige as low as it is now -- in or near the single digits nearly everywhere. He said Bush cannot go to a public event anywhere in the world. He could not in Ireland. He could not even have a press conference in Ireland.
McPeak said the United States is the essential nation in the world. We have to be able to lead. We cannot do that as long as Bush is president because no one will follow. He said if you are a leader you cannot go around insulting other nations simply because they disagree with you.
The war in Iraq, he said, is Bush's "vanity war." It has nearly wrecked our military, and it has taken our focus off bigger problems like North Korea and Iran. It is certainly likely to wreck the Reserves and the National Guard.
He said the rebuilding in Iraq is not going well and it will not go well until Iraq and its borders are secured. He said the administration was told they needed more troops going in, but they would not listen.
He said at the Pentagon he had an office by Colin Powell. He admired him very much. The administration would not listen to Powell. [sic. And Powell went along with their war plans against his better judgment. Of course many high-ranking military and ex-military people were not enthusiastic about invading Iraq. Among them was Desert Storms Norman Schwartzkopf, and Wesley Clark, who said that if we went in unilaterally and without sufficient troops we were likely to enhance recruiting for Al Qaeda. Col. Hackworth thought it was a mistake, and Mideast specialist General Zinni, who like McPeak voted for Bush in 2000, said we were about to embark on something that we would rue the day we ever started. Zinni later said Bush was leading us over a cliff] but, Bush/Cheney and the neocons would not listen to Powell or Shinseki. They would not listen to anyone who told them anything they did not want to hear.
He said Powell cares about his legacy. And his legacy will now be tarnished.
McPeak said he is and always has been a conservative, but this administration is being run by neocons, and he cannot support them.
He said, we are in such a mess now, NO ONE knows how to get us out of it. But we have a chance with Kerry because the world does not hate him. We have no chance if Bush is elected.
He is also appalled at Bushs economic and environmental policies, but his expertise is in military policy and foreign relations.
He said he does not know if the draft will have to be reinstated. He does not think Americans would take well to a draft. He said if it is reinstated, it cannot be run the way it was during the Vietnam War when sons of the privileged did not have to serve. Everyone would have to be included.
He said his favorite deferment chaser of the non-military hawks in this administration is John Ashcroft. Ashcroft received 7 deferments to avoid Vietnam -- the last one because he was in an "essential" job -- teaching law somewhere.
He said Bush wanted the first debate to be on National Security because Bush thinks National Security is his "strong" suit. He says he does not know why Bush thinks that, but he does.
He said Bush and company have led us into such a disaster he does not know how they have managed to garner enough support that this election can be even close.
He said Kerry is everything Bush is not. Intelligent, curious. Open to ideas and suggestions.
He said Bush had just said he would invade Iraq again, even knowing what he knows now. He basically said "How can anyone be that stupid?" He said when a kid bangs his head against a cement wall once you admire his determination, but when he keeps on doing it you have to accept that he is just not very bright.
He said the president lives in a world of spin, protected from everything and everyone except those who adore him. He is not capable of learning. And the United States and the world are suffering for it. It will take decades for the United States to recover from the damage Bush has done to this country and to our relationships with the rest of the world, IF we ever can recover from it. McPeak said this administrations rosy assessments of the situation in Iraq are so far removed from reality, he is not sure what planet they live on.
He said what absolutely made him the angriest in the whole Iraq debacle were the memos that went from the lawyers to the White House saying Bush did not have to adhere to the Geneva Convention. He said we adhere to the Geneva Convention for the sake of our own troops. It is to protect our troops from torture that we do not torture our prisoners. If we do not treat prisoners humanely, we cannot reasonably expect that our troops in the custody of others will be treated humanely.
McPeak also said he is very afraid of what Bush might do during his "lame duck" time between November 2nd and inauguration day IF, hopefully, he has a lame duck time.
He said he would be glad when the election is over. He does not like making speeches. He does not want to get good at it. But, for the sake of the country and our childrens future Bush has to go. So he is making speeches.
McPeak has just added himself to my list of Republican heroes who put the good of the country before their loyalty to party.
President Eisenhowers son, General John Eisenhower, another life-long Republican, also added himself to my list of Republican heroes when he, too, for much the same reasons as General McPeak, determined that he could not, now, vote for George Bush, and wrote an article for the Concord, New Hampshire Union Leader explaining why he would be enthusiastically casting his vote for John Kerry in the coming election. http://www.theunionleader.com/articles_showa.html?article=44657
Bio: Lonna Gooden VanHorn is the mother of 6 and a grandmother. She began writing out of her frustration at the medias failure to provide the people with the information they need to make informed decisions.
Raised on a small farm in Minnesota, she now lives in New Mexico with her husband, a veteran who served 18 months in Vietnam.
She has a journal of observations about the Bush presidency and this campaign which can be accessed at: