It has been a new and notable feature of the present administration’s wars that the Prez has “reached down deep” into the command structure to build personal relationships with the U.S. military’s front-line commanders on the ground. He has done this mainly through secure videoconferencing– a technology that he has also used to conduct regular video-conned discussions with government leaders in Iraq and doubtless elsewhere as well.
Now, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of US troops in Iraq, has published a memoir in which he describes how Bush behaved during a secure videocon held in April 2004, after Americans learned of the burning and lynching of four US military contractors in Fallujah.
Sanchez writes (hat-tip to the WaPo’s Michael Abramowitz here) that during that videocon Bush launched into what Sanchez described as a “confused” pep talk:
- “Kick ass!” he quotes the president as saying. “If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! … Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!”
Abramowitz adds that “A White House spokesman had no comment.”
Now, I’m assuming that Sanchez would not have put such shockingly provocative words into the mouth of the US President if he did not have full records (i.e., most likely, a tape of the videocon) to back them up.
“If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them!” … “Stay the course! Kill them!” … “We are going to wipe them out!”
Is this the language of the leader of a self-confident, cultured, and democratic nation? (I noted particularly the irony of the bit about “If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, ve vill seek them out and kill them… “)
But here’s something else this news report reminded me to make note of. Presumably, all these videoconferences have been archived and stored somewhere deep in the archives of the government that organized them?
As a taxpayer in a democratic country, I feel quite entitled to require that
- (1) The archives of those command deliberations not be destroyed, and
(2) These archives be declassified and made available to the public as soon as possible.
I hope that my representatives on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees make every effort to ensure the preservation and speedy declassification of these records.
(I have also previously noted the extent to which the “personal” relationships that Bush has built with front-line commanders have played havoc with the country’s long-established and legally correct command structure, according to which the Prez should communicate with commanders through via his SecDef, the Chairman of the JCS, and the regional CINCs– in this case, the Centcom CINC. Bush’s “reaching down deep” into the structure has had terrible consequences, above all, for the ability of the nation’s military to conduct a rational and sustainable system for achieving force planning objectives. But that’s another story.)