“I felt as though I had been used politically”

“I FELT AS THOUGH I HAD BEEN USED POLITICALLY”….You know how George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are constantly telling us that they provide their generals in Iraq with everything they want? Why, if they want more troops, all they have to do is ask.

Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004, and then turned down a promotion and resigned in 2005 in protest over Rumsfeld’s handling of the war, has a different story to tell:

Over the course of the year-long tour, Gen. Batiste says he had to deal regularly with troop shortages….Gen. Batiste told Mr. Wolfowitz about this problem during the June 2004 visit, saying increased unrest in his sector was the “direct result of the boots-on-the-ground decrease.”

….Gen. Batiste says he also relayed his concerns to his military bosses in Baghdad. “I always spoke out within my chain of command. I spoke my mind freely and forcefully,” he says.

Just weeks before his troops left Iraq [near the end of 2004], the general had an opportunity to confront Mr. Rumsfeld publicly….Mr. Rumsfeld, accompanied by reporters, met with Gen. Batiste in his plywood office, in the corner of one of Saddam Hussein’s unfinished marble palaces. Mr. Rumsfeld asked the general whether he had been given everything he needed, Gen. Batiste recalls. Not wanting to discuss problems in front of the press, he says he deflected the question, by talking about his efforts to train Iraqi security forces.

The defense secretary then turned to Gen. Batiste’s boss, Gen. Metz and asked: “What has Batiste told you he needs that he has not received?” according to a Dec. 26, 2004, account of the meeting by the Associated Press. Gen. Metz made no mention of troop levels, but said that Gen. Batiste could use some more unmanned spy planes and Iraqi linguists, the 2004 AP report says.

Today Gen. Batiste says the encounter left him furious with Mr. Rumsfeld. “We had fought and argued about these issues internally ad nauseam and a decision had been made … . You get what you get and do the best you can. I am not going to air our dirty laundry in public. That is our culture,” he says. “It was an outrageous question and he knew I couldn’t give him an honest answer in a public forum. I felt as though I had been used politically.”

Isn’t that charming? Deny their requests and then put them on the spot in public where you know they won’t contradict you. Then use that as evidence that they’re getting all the troops they need.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

UPDATE: Rick Perlstein emails to remind us that this is hardly a new trick: “LBJ did the exact same with Westmoreland on the third anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Westmoreland asked for 200,000 more troops. LBJ called up 57,000, and made Westmoreland say that’s what he asked for.”

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