Retired Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Thomas McInerney was my guest today, and his belief in the ability of the American military to destroy the Iranian nuclear program is complete. Radioblogger will have the transcript up later.
I also asked the General about the criticisms of SecDef Rumsfeld and the war from retired Generals Batiste, Newbold, Eaton and Zinni. McInerney was not complimentary of some of these criticisms, and his comments echoed those made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace made today:
In the last couple of days there have been several articles, opinion pieces, editorials about the responsibility of senior U.S. military officers to speak up, to tell the truth as we know it, and that is a sacred obligation of all of us who are fortunate to represent all the members of the armed forces and to have the opportunity to participate at this level.
Let me just give you Pete Pace’s rendition of how the process worked building up to Iraq. First of all, once it became apparent that we may have to take military action, the Secretary of Defense asked Tom Franks, who was the commander of Central Command, to begin doing some planning, which he did. Over the next two years, 50 or 60 times, Tom Franks either came to Washington or by video teleconference, sat down with the Secretary of Defense, sat down with the Joint Chiefs and went over what he was thinking, how he was planning. And as a result of those iterative opportunities and all the questions that were asked, not once was Tom told, “No, don’t do that. No, don’t do this. No, you can’t have this. No, you can’t have that.” What happened was, in a very open roundtable discussion, questions about what might go right, what might go wrong, what would you need, how would you handle it, and that happened with the Joint Chiefs and it happened with the Secretary.
And before the final orders were given, the Joint Chiefs met in private with General Franks and assured ourselves that the plan was a solid plan and that the resources that he needed were going to be allocated. We then went and told the Secretary of Defense our belief in Tom’s plan and in the resources, and I know for a fact, because I was there, that when the Joint Chiefs were called over to the White House, several of the questions that the president asked specifically were about our understanding and belief in the plan, and whether or not the amount — proper amount of resources had been allocated. He did that both with us, just the Joint Chiefs, and then again when all the combatant commanders were in from around the globe well before a final decision was made.
We had then and have now every opportunity to speak our minds, and if we do not, shame on us because the opportunity is there.
It is elicited from us. You know, we’re expected to. And the plan that was executed was developed by military officers, presented by military officers, questioned by civilians as they should, revamped by military officers, and blessed by the senior military leadership.
Then, when we go to Congress, part of our confirmation process is, “Will you, General Pace, if confirmed, give your personal opinion when asked?” And the answer to that question is, “Yes, I will, sir.” And I have been for almost five years now asked my personal opinion multiple times by members of the Congress of the United States in testimony, and I have spoken my personal opinion.
Now, I’ve given my best military advice to the Secretary and to the president, as have the other officers who have the privilege of being Joint Chiefs or being combatant commanders. Our troops deserve and will continue to get our best military thinking.
I wanted to tell you how I believe this system works, and I wanted to tell you how I have observed it working for five years, because the articles that are out there about folks not speaking up are just flat wrong.