Finally Some American Realism!

February 18, 2007 at 6:39 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Military, neo-conservatives, North Korea, Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan, Republicans, Rumsfeld, Vietnam, violence, War, War on Terror, World Events | Leave a comment

This is the second time I recommend an interview on the Hugh Hewitt show, but he’s getting people on there who are unafraid to tell it how it is. This time, he has Retired General William Odom who said it like it is and smacks Mr. Hewitt’s attempts to smear him back to the stone age. I’m glad to see some smart talk finding its way again on the conservative side. It’s been a while. Perhaps someday soon conservatives will realize the poison they’ve been drinking at the well of neo-conservatism.

After the bump, I’ve got some of the better sections of the interview. Upon reading these quotes, note that you are reading the words of a man who is not afraid. Note the use of fearmongering in Mr. Hewitt’s questions. Instead of following the bait, General Odom paints the clear picture of reality.

HH: Now I read with great interest your piece in Sunday’s Washington Post on February 11th, Victory Is Not An Option, and a piece very similar to it from 2005, General, and I’d like you to explain to the audience who haven’t had a chance to read it what you think America should do in Iraq right now.

WO: Well, we can’t do much of anything that’s useful for ourselves until we begin to withdraw. We are diplomatically and strategically paralyzed in Iraq. As we begin to move out, countries who are not very cooperative with us, or wish us evil, are going to be worried about the aftermath. We cannot stabilize the whole region by ourselves. We’re going to need really important allies, not just our allies that we’ve bought to come in there with us for the invasion. And we’re going to need them both on the borders of Iraq, and we’re going to need Europeans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and others to help us.

HH: And so the purple finger elections of 2005, of no counterargument to you?

WO: Oh, look. Elections are easy to hold. I grew up in Tennessee, where Boss Ed Crump rigged the elections every year. We knew that. Mayor Daley, the Pendergast machine, boss Tweed? Come on, don’t tell me about elections in the U.S. being honest.

HH: I didn’t make that…I was saying what did that mean, the people, the millions that turned out?

WO: It meant that we held an election out there, and people came and voted.

HH: And what did that, do they aspire to order, General?

WO: Sure, they want order, but voting doesn’t produce order.

HH: I know that, but I’m trying to get at, do you think they aspire to freedom?

WO: Sure. But the question is, how do they get the elites to agree on the rules so that their freedom doesn’t just mean free to kill each other?

HH: And do we help them get closer to the order in which freedom can flourish?

WO: We have made it much worse.

WO: Look, I mean, I…this a kind of a pointless argument. I mean, the issues…all of your things can be true. They don’t make it any better for us. We are on a path to suffer every month we stay. The defeat we face will be larger, and we will put off the time at which…and where we will have even less resources to recover. If you remember the Second World War, Hitler had 600,000 troops thrown into Stalingrad, refused over four, five months to withdraw them, at the plea by, from his generals, and he ends up losing them all. If he had withdrawn them as they said, asked him to do, and let Stalingrad go, he could have shortened his lines by seven or eight hundred kilometers, and had nearly, had over 600,000 troops survive. Now that’s…a military commander that doesn’t know when to retire from one area so he can approach the conflict from another area, is not a smart commander. And it seems to you’re advocating a kind of policy where you have a president who jumps off the Empire State Building, and he goes by the 50th floor, and he says I’m on course. Well, I want a president who knows how to change course.

WO: And following…let me ask you. Are you enthusiastic enough to put on a uniform and go?

HH: No. I’m a civilian.

WO: Okay, but we can recruit you.

HH: I’m 51, General.

WO: And I don’t see all these war hawks that want to…none of them have been in a war, and they don’t want to go.

HH: Well, General, are you advocating that only uniformed military should have opinions on this?

WO: No, you can have an opinion, but if you…you can’t start telling me that you’re going to just pay no attention to what people like myself say.

HH: No, I am paying…that’s why you’re on this program.

WO: Okay.

HH: I want to hear it, and I want…but I want to know what you think it’s going to look like, because I’m not indifferent to the aftermath.

WO: I don’t know. I’m prepared to accept whatever it looks like, if it’s not killing Americans, and we’re not losing U.S. resources, because eventually, it will settle out out there, and our capacity to help it settle out earlier with allies will be greatly improved. I think actually, that it will come out much better than these scare pictures you’re describing, and I include John Burns as somewhat of a scaremonger in this regard.

HH: So how many people do you think will die?

WO: …when you start these kinds of things, you have to take what you’ve bought into. You have bought into this situation, so you’re going to have to live with the casualties.

HH: And so how many do you think that will be?

WO: I don’t know. You don’t know, either. So why do you keep asking me a question that I’m giving you an answer to?

HH: I know, but do you have a scale of magnitude?

WO: No, I don’t.

HH: And as a result, that doesn’t matter, though?

WO: And so you can sit there and fantasize any scale you want to, to scare people into continuing to do stupid things.

HH: All right. Next in your article, you wrote, “We must continue the war to prevent Iran’s influence from growing in Iraq.” That’s one of the arguments you attribute to proponents of staying. And I do believe that’s a very important issue. Do you believe that Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons?

WO: Sure. They’re going to get them.

HH: And should we do anything to stop that?

WO: No.

HH: Why not?

WO: Because we can’t. We’ve already squandered what forces we have, and we’re going to have more countries proliferate. If somebody told us not to proliferate, and that if we wanted to do it and we started, that they were going to change our regime, you damn well bet we’d get nuclear weapons. Well, that’s the approach we’ve taken. We could not have increased Iranian incentives for getting nuclear weapons faster, or more effectively, than the policy we’ve used to keep to prevent them from getting them.

HH: Do you believe they would use a nuke against Israel?

WO: Not unless Israel uses one against them.

HH: Could you be wrong about that?

WO: Of course you can be wrong about the future.

HH: Are you gambling with Israel’s future, then, to allow a radical regime…

WO: No, Israel’s gambling with its future by encouraging us to pursue this policy.

HH: So Israel should not take unilateral action, either?

WO: That’s up to them, but I think it’ll make it worse for them. Israel’s policies thus far have made its situation much worse. If you read all of the Israel press, you’ll find a lot of them there are firmly in my camp on this issue. And I’ve talked to many Israelis who are very sympathetic with the view I have on it. You’re making it much, much worse for Israel.

HH: Are you familiar…

WO: If I were an Israeli right now, given Olmert’s policies and Bush’s policies, I would fear for my life.

HH: Are you familiar with…

WO: So I would say the policy you’re advocating is a very serious threat to Israel.

HH: Are you familiar with Mullah Yazdi?

WO: No.

HH: Or 12th Imam theology?

WO: No, I’m not.

HH: Would that matter to you if those…

WO: No.

HH: It doesn’t matter if they’re Millennialists who want to bring in…

WO: No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t.

HH: So what they think and what their intentions are don’t matter, General?

WO: You don’t know what their intentions are. You’re just listening to their rhetoric.

HH: Well, should we ever pay attention to what people say?

WO: Yes, we should pay attention sometimes, but I can…I’d pay attention to that, and when I do, I see that it’s very much really the way Kim Jung Il uses his rhetoric. He knows how to cause us to jump up in the air and get all excited, and cause people of your frame of mind, and particularly the neocons’ frame of mind, to start doing things that are not in the U.S. interests. And then as you hit the ground, we’d pay him off and bribe him.

HH: Yes, but did Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain ignore the statements of Hitler, and put it down as just rhetoric?

WO: This is…Ahmadinejad is not…he does not have German industry. He does not preside over a country which was becoming the major industrial power in Europe.

HH: Yeah, but he will have…

WO: He’s in a backward country with a group of people who are becoming poorer and poorer as a result of his policies.

HH: But he will have…

WO: And if you can’t see the difference between that, then I’m very disappointed in your judgment.

HH: The United States could deny him nukes, couldn’t it?

WO: No, it can’t do it, because we’ve used our military up. We can’t occupy the country. You can bomb and set it back. You will not prevent it.

HH: Bombing and setting it back, would that be a good thing?

WO: No.

HH: Why not?

WO: Because you’ll end up doubling or quadrupling or to the tenth power the number of enemies you’ve got in the area. We will never solve the situation in the Middle East, and bring some kind of stability there, until we work out some kind of deal with Iran. Now Iran has tried to make a deal with us when we were invading Afghanistan. And we just pushed them off.

HH: All right. When you write that we must prevent, that, “We will not be able to prevent al Qaeda in Iraq,” what do you think al Qaeda will do…

WO: Be able to prevent them in Iraq?

HH: Well, I’ll read your paragraph here. “We must prevent the emergence of a new haven for al Qaeda in Iraq as one of the reasons you offered on Sunday for people who are arguing to stay in Iraq.”

WO: Right.

HH: And then you go on to say, “Whether such foreign elements could remain or thrive in Iraq after the resolution of civil war is open to question.”

WO: That’s right.

HH: Now they are deterred by our presence there, are they not?

WO: No. They’re absolutely ecstatic over it. They’re killing us. They couldn’t get to us otherwise.

HH: Why have we not been attacked in the United States since 9/11?

WO: You don’t know and I don’t know. Mr. John Miller’s done a very good study saying they don’t have the capabilities. There’s a very lot of intelligence evidence that suggests they don’t have the capabilities to do it.

HH: And did we…

WO: All these so-called cells that the last administration, or this administration seems to have discovered here turned out to be mythical.

HH: Would Libya have disarmed its nukes and chemical weaponry, General, if we…

WO: It’s not analogous. If you are trying to pay a general rule to cause something to happen in all countries, that is…you know, I’d flunk you on a sophomore international relations course.

HH: I’m asking whether or not you thought the Libyan disarmament had anything to do with our invasion of Iraq?

WO: None.

HH: Fair answer. Last question, General, do you think David Petraeus is a competent officer?

WO: He’s a very competent officer. I don’t think he can afford to tell you what he really thinks about the prospects of counterinsurgency working.

HH: You believe when he testified to the Senate under oath that he was misleading the Senate?

WO: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.

HH: You think that’s a possibility?

WO: Well, have you ever been up there?

HH: Yes.

WO: To do that, when there was a civilian master sitting on your side, and making sure you don’t say anything they disagreed with?

HH: Oh, I have testified under oath before Congress with civilian…

WO: Yeah, but if you’ve been in a uniform with a civilian political…

HH: No, I told you I’m a civilian, but I…

WO: …with a politico keeping you in line?

HH: Are…you really…

WO: Yeah, the officer has a real dilemma here. He can do one of two things, and I used to discuss this with General Goodpastor who worked six years for Eisenhower in the White House. Should an officer, when he really disagrees, resign? Or should he knuckle down and do the best he can to get on inside? You can argue that both ways. When a lot of officers, my contemporaries, saw no senior officers resign in Vietnam, and we were unhappy about that, and you saw this young officer now, who was a colonel in the Army, H.R. McMaster. McMaster wrote Dereliction of Duty, damning the joint chiefs for not standing up to McNamara during the Vietnam War. I’m sure somebody’s going to do this on some of the senior officers today. The officers who’ve tried to stand up to it within have…were destroyed by Rumsfeld.

HH: Who would that be?

WO: Pardon?

HH: Who? Who?

WO: Well, Shinseki was probably the first one.

HH: Shinseki, though, had been, when he announced that we need 200,000 troops, had already announced his retirement, General.

WO: He hadn’t announced his retirement. He had a set period, four years in the Army. He wasn’t announcing his retirement, and he had more than a year left to go, and he was urged out precisely because he did that.

HH: All right, there are different accounts of that.

WO: And he was publicly abused by Paul Wolfowitz for having done so. And there were lots of other generals over there…look, a lot of them just pull their heads down. I did that in the Vietnam model, not when I was a general, but as a Lt. colonel.

HH: And has any…last question, General, has any general officer of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines resigned in protest over this war?

WO: No, I think the Marine general who was the J-3, I can’t remember his name right now, says he did.

HH: Batiste?

WO: No, that’s an Army major general. Whether they did that for that reason or not, I don’t know. But they have, as I say, I’m not sure that you can argue that they should, or you can argue that they should stay in. Goodpastor used to argue that they should stay in. I argued that they should not do so. Goodpastor persuaded me that I might be wrong. I think you can make that case both ways.

HH: Last question, General, do you believe you could be wrong about all this?

WO: Of course.

HH: I thought…I knew as a professional you’d say that. Thank you for your time, General William Odom, and for your service.

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