Retired Diplomats, Soldiers Tell Bush to Beat It
an unprecedented broadside, more than two-dozen top retired U.S.
career diplomats and military commanders, many of whom reached their
top positions under former President George H.W. Bush, have called
for George W. Bush to be defeated in his re-election bid in November.
is time for a change," declared a one-page statement by 27 ex-officials
released at a press conference here Wednesday. "Never in the two
and a quarter centuries of our history has the United States been
so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted."
Bush administration has shown that it does not grasp (the) circumstances
of the new era, and is not able to rise to the responsibilities
of world leadership in either style or substance," the statement
concluded. "It is time for a change."
statement, which had been anticipated since word of its formulation
leaked out late last week, is the latest indication that what is
sometimes called "the permanent government" – the senior ranks of
the professional corps that run U.S. diplomacy, intelligence and
the military – has become entirely disaffected from Bush and especially
his foreign policy.
month, some 60 former U.S. diplomats and other government officials
who served overseas released an open letter to the president protesting
his support for the Israeli government's position in its conflict
with the Palestinians, stressing that it is "costing our country
its credibility, prestige and friends."
of that letter, which was inspired by a similar protest by 51 British
ambassadors and senior government officials who sent a letter to
Prime Minister Tony Blair in late April, included at least 16 former
ambassadors, a handful of who have signed the most recent statement,
which aimed at a higher-ranking group.
last month, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, a former head of the U.S.
Central Command, which covers the Gulf region and Central Asia,
called publicly – and on the most-watched U.S. public-affairs television
show, 60 Minutes – for the resignation of the top civilians
in the Pentagon as well as neoconservative policy-makers in the
National Security Council (NSC) and Vice President Dick Cheney's
a former Marine who was a prominent opponent of the Iraq war, is
particularly highly regarded among the uniformed officer corps.
the latest letter, which was signed by men and women who attained
the highest ranks in the military and foreign services, goes much
further in essentially calling for Bush's defeat.
some of the signers have identified themselves as Democrats and
have been advising Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democrat
nominee for the presidential elections, most of them are seen as
centrists and "realists" who rose to top positions under Bush's
father (1989-1993) and probably supported him in his unsuccessful
1992 re-election bid.
I retired 10 years ago, I signed up as a Republican," said Gen.
Merrill "Tony" McPeak, the former U.S. Air Force chief of staff,
one of half a dozen general-rank military officers, who also included
Admiral William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
under President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) and Gen. Joseph Hoar, head
of the U.S. Central Command under Bush Senior.
added that in the 2000 election he was a member of Veterans for
Bush but is now providing advice to the Kerry campaign.
several retired ambassadors, including two – Arthur Hartman and
Jack Matlock, Jr. – who served in the Soviet Union under Reagan,
and several others, such as William Harrop (Israel), Robert Oakley
(Somalia), and Freeman (Saudi Arabia), who served in sensitive hotspots
under the elder Bush, have seen their careers prosper under Republicans.
fact that such high-ranking officials would constitute themselves
as a group and come out with a strongly political statement is particularly
striking and was justified by their chief spokesperson, Phyllis
Oakley, a former head of the State Department's highly regarded
Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) by the fact that "never
before have so many of us felt the need for a major change in the
direction of our foreign policy."
have not only worked overseas; we have also held positions of major
responsibility in the Department of State, Department of Defence,
National Security Council, and at the United Nations. For many of
us," she said, "such an overt step is very hard to do and we have
made our decisions after deep reflection."
nearly half a century we have worked energetically in all regions
of the world, often in very difficult circumstances, to build piece
by piece a structure of respect and influence for the United States
that has served our country very well over the last 60 years," she
said. "Today we see that structure crumbling under an administration
blinded by ideology and a callous indifference to the realities
of the world around it."
letter itself charged Bush with adopting "an overbearing approach
to America's role in the world, relying upon military might and
righteousness, insensitive to the concern of traditional friends
and allies, and disdainful of the United Nations."
accused the administration of leading the United States "into an
ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain," and charged
that the invasion was justified "by manipulation of uncertain intelligence
about weapons of mass destruction, and by a cynical campaign to
persuade the public that Saddam Hussein was linked to al-Qaeda and
the attacks of Sept. 11 (2001)."
a report also released Wednesday, the commission investigating those
attacks said it found "no credible evidence" of any operational
link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, claims made repeatedly by Bush and
Vice President Dick Cheney to justify the 2003 U.S.-led attack on
the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
the May letter, signers of the Wednesday letter also assailed the
administration's alignment with the government of Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon. "To enhance credibility with Islamic peoples
we must pursue courageous, energetic and balanced efforts to establish
peace between Israelis and Palestinians," they said.
been a complete failure of leadership on the issue," said Ambassador
Michael Sterner, who served as Washington's envoy to the United
Arab Emirates under Presidents Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and Gerald
major challenges of the 21st century, the letter went on, include
weapons proliferation, unequal distribution of wealth, terrorism,
environmental degradation, population growth in the developing world,
HIV/AIDS and ethnic and religious confrontations. "Such problems
cannot be resolved by military force, nor by the sole remaining
of the signers applauded recent indications – particularly at the
United Nations and in Iraq – that the administration is prepared
to compromise with its allies and critics. But Oakley, who also
served in the State Department under Reagan, said they might only
represent a "tactical shift" rather than a "fundamental change in
approach to foreign policy."
we have heard from friends abroad on every continent suggests to
us that the lack of confidence in the present administration is
so profound that a whole new team is needed to repair the damage,"
signers described the current situation in Iraq as a "disaster"
for which the administration, particularly planners in the Pentagon,
was entirely unprepared.
world's finest army is in the process of being dismembered and destroyed"
as a result of the lack of preparation, the demands being made on
it and the Abu Ghraib scandal, said Freeman, who served as ambassador
to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service