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The General Election

By Rachel Dry
His first revolt, two years ago today, was expository: a 1,054 word op-ed in the New York Times describing why Donald Rumsfeld had "shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically" and why Rumsfeld was "far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq."

Now, five years into that important mission, Retired Lt. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, is registering his concern in a different way. "I'm convinced that if Senator McCain is elected, a lot of the players of the last administration will roll over into next administration," he told The Trail.

So he is campaigning for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Eaton is one of more than 30 former admirals and generals supporting Clinton, including retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, who endorsed her in September 2007 and whom Clinton counts as a friend of more than 25 years and Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, the officer who led the Army's investigation into abuse at Abu Ghraib.

These high ranking former officers have joined Clinton at rallies, headlined events of their own and recorded testimonials and ads for the candidate they believe is most suited to lead the country's armed forces. It's support that the campaign is aggressively touting in the long stretch until Pennsylvania voting, where Clinton is emphasizing her readiness to be commander in chief.

Though it was the administration's actions that led Eaton into public commentary, its mishandling of the war in Iraq ultimately led Eaton "into the arena of the Democratic candidates," he said. "[It was] the extraordinary incompetence of the current administration, which I lay at the feet of the Republican party as much as at this president," he said.

Eaton describes Clinton as "pragmatic, a realist, brave and very very bright" and he campaigned for her in Texas before the primary there.

He said he was happy with the impressive field of Democratic candidates, but found himself traversing Texas on behalf of Clinton because he believes she is most prepared to serve. "I find her to be the candidate who's most aligned with the way I view the world."

While none of the other generals who also spoke out publicly against then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld in what was dubbed "The Generals' Revolt" have yet joined Eaton in publicly backing a Democrat, several have left the Republican party, concerned that a McCain presidency will be more of the same leadership that they already rebelled against.

The generals, totaling roughly half a dozen, stress that their effort two years ago was not coordinated and certainly no one presumes to speak for the group. But, on the whole, they express concern on two fronts: the direction in which the Republican party -- the party most say they have been affiliated with their entire lives -- is moving, and, as all except for Eaton said, the high profile way former generals are being used in the current campaign.

Eaton has made the clearest break, but others seemed primed to follow. Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, said he went to vote for a Republican candidate in his Rochester, New York precinct on Feb. 5, but couldn't bring himself to do it. "I walked in and ended up walking out without voting. I chose not to cast my vote. But I did go in and make an effort. I was there. I zeroed out all the levers and pulled it. I'm a very disgruntled Republican."

Batiste said he is still looking for a candidate who understands the challenge of "global Islamic extremism" -- using something very close to McCain's frequently used phrase "radical Islamic extremism" to point out what he perceives as the candidate's shortcomings.

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper, who spoke out against Rumsfeld in the spring of 2006 as well, said he has never publicly supported a candidate and has no plans to do so this year. He said he is "very encouraged" by the new defense team in place, but is critical of the current administration.

"After 48 years as a staunch Republican, I no longer consider myself a member of the party," he said. "Paraphrasing former President Reagan, the Republican Party left me; I did not leave it!"

Former head of the U.S. Central Command, retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, has also not endorsed any candidate though, he said, a number have asked for his support.

Zinni said he is surprised at the number of retired generals who have endorsed and are actively campaigning. "Obviously, we can't help it. We have an ongoing conflict," he said. "It's just unusual that there's such a high number."

Zinni pointed to the nature of the ongoing conflict as part of the reason, perhaps, that the candidates are able to tout their lengthy lists of general supporters. "It's not resolved purely on the battle field. Something else has to go on politically and diplomatically."

And perhaps that's the message of campaign events where candidates are flanked by former high-ranking officers. But maybe the problem is that the stage isn't crowded enough. Retired Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, who was director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff until late 2002, published an essay in Time magazine in April 2006 titled "Why Iraq Was a Mistake."

He said he doesn't believe that generals need to be involved in the political process, especially because the military must be, by its nature, loyal to all.

"In time of war, I can understand the emphasis on participating fully in the national security debate, but it still leaves me a little uncomfortable," he said. "I'd be more comfortable if the participants included ambassadors, a secretary of commerce, former intelligence officials and others. Those who equate strong national security strictly to defense are not thinking broadly enough."

Batiste agrees on that point:

"Quite frankly, I would have thought we would have learned long ago that the military can't do it alone," he said.

By Washington Post editors  |  March 19, 2008; 4:50 PM ET
 
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Next: While McCain, Obama Trade Barbs on War, Voters Have Other Questions

Comments

Jimmy Carter has been vilified for his exorbitant deficit yet when when Reagan's terms ended, the deficit was 3 times more it was when he went in! I seem to remember it was "communist-communist" under every rock during that time. When he was replaced, I guess the "communist" went away. Now Bush is costing 12 billion a month in deficits for his fracus. What has happened to the Republican Party? Does the Party think there has to be a conflict every time? I don't like Hillary, I kept up with what she was doing most of the time, but I don't want to vote for a war loving candidate either.

I have noticed there is no problem borrowing money for the war. I have also noticed that the only thing ever mentioned to be cut are domestic programs. I should think the citizens of the US should come before foreign aid and other programs that go to other countries.

Autum Ozog

Posted by: redhotpapasan | March 20, 2008 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Growing up when I read about all the wars our nation fought, I would think wow, Civil War 1861-65, 4 years of fighting that must have been terrible, WWII wow , 4 years of fightiong terrible, I couldnt imagine a war lastinglonger than Worl War 2 , I mean cmon the whole world is at war, but here we are 5 years later still in Iraq, longer than we took to defeat the wehrmacht, amazing if it wasnt so sad.

Posted by: Jackson_dem_73 | March 20, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Growing up when I read about all the wars our nation fought, I would think wow, Civil War 1861-65, 4 years of fighting that must have been terrible, WWII wow , 4 years of fightiong terrible, I couldnt imagine a war lastinglonger than Worl War 2 , I mean cmon the whole world is at war, but here we are 5 years later still in Iraq, longer than we took to defeat the wehrmacht, amazing if it wasnt so sad.

Posted by: Jackson_dem_73 | March 20, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Earl Chapman-You need this Clue.

Yes, Active Duty Military needs to be Non-Partisan, or at least quiet about it.

BUT, the Presidency IS the Job for Military and Business people.

Even though I think Wesley Clark is an Idiot, he has more right to be running than the totally UN-QUALIFIED Congressional Lawyers Billary!

What you said, is what scares me the most about the People who Vote Dimocrat. You obviously do not understand how our Government is meant to function, BUT, you Vote and get political ANYWAY! :-(

Posted by: rat-the | March 20, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

"Eaton is one of more than 30 former admirals and generals supporting Clinton, including retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former supreme allied commander of NATO"

McCain doesnt even know who we're fighting, he confuses the sunni's w/ the shiites, Al Qaeda w/ Iran..too bad, he's had a great and noble career but he is so out of touch.

HILLARY 2008

Posted by: Jackson_dem_73 | March 20, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

"I'm convinced that if Senator McCain is elected, a lot of the players of the last administration will roll over into next administration,"

GOD HELP US ALL.

Posted by: mobedda | March 20, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The military should remain nonpartisan. As a veteran and a long-time Democrat, I am saddened to see the lengths by which both parties go to align the military with their politics. This is not good in my estimation.

Posted by: earl.chappell | March 20, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I think that most Americans and now it seems members of the military agree that we need a pragmatic and wise next President to be Commander in Chief and that person is Hillary Clinton.

Her understanding of the military after serving for years on the Armed Services Committee, as well as her understanding of the civilian role in making decisions on foreign policy involving our troops, will be crucial as we remove our troops from Iraq in a way that is both sane and safe.

The threats we face in the Middle East will not go away because we leave Iraq and we may be required to send more troops into Afghanistan.

We need a President who understands the global issues we face and understands and has traveled the world to meet both the leaders and people of the nations we need to work with. Clearly Clinton has much more of that experience than does Obama.

Posted by: peterdc | March 20, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I think its great that our military leaders are standing up to the corruption in the republican party. Lt. Gen. Eaton and Gen. W. Clark along with 28 other Admirals and Generals in our military are stating the truth and campaigning and backing Clinton. This, along with many other real Americans are turning the tide. President Hillary Clinton is now at hand. V.P. Westly Clark is next.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | March 20, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

zukermand,

How about any time that an article contains Obama's name without some sort of negative headline, you avoid it. And any article about Clinton that has a positive one, you read it.

That way you don't have to read anything that you don't agree with and get all upset. you'll feel much better about life that way.

Posted by: perryair | March 19, 2008 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Rachel Dry demonstrates why the Washington Post's continued publishing of the juvenile hissing of Anne Kornblut and Shailagh Murray clearly constitutes journalistic malpractice and a breach of the public trust.

Posted by: zukermand | March 19, 2008 05:31 PM

Not agreeing with you is journalistic malpractice??

Posted by: old_europe | March 19, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Rachel Dry demonstrates why the Washington Post's continued publishing of the juvenile hissing of Anne Kornblut and Shailagh Murray clearly constitutes journalistic malpractice and a breach of the public trust.

Posted by: zukermand | March 19, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

BTW, are the "phone records" from Hillary also published from her stint as first lady?

Posted by: davidmwe | March 19, 2008 05:18 PM

David, no, neither are her tax records.

Posted by: old_europe | March 19, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

How about if John SIDNEY McCain pledged to not roll-over anyone higher than Deputy-Secretary level? Would that satisfy Gen. Eaton (Ret.)?

Posted by: JakeD | March 19, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Generally, the military is Republican orientated- thus this says something, as do these Internet Indicators;

Obama vs Clinton vs McCain - a Web Comparison:

http://newsusa.myfeedportal.com/viewarticle.php?articleid=76

BTW, are the "phone records" from Hillary also published from her stint as first lady?

Posted by: davidmwe | March 19, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The Only General I care about is Colin Powell. The only thing I care to hear him say is Yes, President McCain, I'm on board! ;~)

Posted by: rat-the | March 19, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

LOL!-SHE, can Have them! :-D

Now, wanna see President McCain's list? ;~)

Posted by: rat-the | March 19, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

According to the New York Times, the schedules of Hillary Clinton as a first lady "The White House Years" are published now.

http://tpzoo.wordpress.com/2008/03/19/hillary-clintons-schedules-as-first-lady-revealed/

Posted by: old_europe | March 19, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

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