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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Retired General William Odom argues for immediate withdrawal in Iraq, regardless of what happens next.

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HH: Welcoming now to the Hugh Hewitt Show General William Odom. General, a real pleasure to make your acquaintance. Thanks for being on the program, thanks for your service.

WO: Thank you for the opportunity to be on your program.

HH: Now I read with great interest your piece in Sunday’s Washington Post on February 11th, Victory Is Not An Option, and a piece very similar to it from 2005, General, and I’d like you to explain to the audience who haven’t had a chance to read it what you think America should do in Iraq right now.

WO: Well, we can’t do much of anything that’s useful for ourselves until we begin to withdraw. We are diplomatically and strategically paralyzed in Iraq. As we begin to move out, countries who are not very cooperative with us, or wish us evil, are going to be worried about the aftermath. We cannot stabilize the whole region by ourselves. We’re going to need really important allies, not just our allies that we’ve bought to come in there with us for the invasion. And we’re going to need them both on the borders of Iraq, and we’re going to need Europeans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and others to help us.

HH: How quickly do you want us…

WO: They will, I think, begin to respond to us once we get out. They will not as long as we’re still there.

HH: How long do you want us to take to get out, General?

WO: Well, to me, that would be an issue that would have to be resolved with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Commander out there. But if we could do it in six months, I’d like to do it. If it takes nine, fine. I would not complain if we did it in four.

HH: Now let’s talk a little bit about two of the key points that really intrigued me, and I disagree with them, General, but I want to hear you out on them. The first is that the Arab and Muslim political cultures just aren’t ready for democracy. Can you expand on that for the audience?

WO: Well, they’re ready for democracy. They’re not ready for constitutional orders.

HH: Okay, and can you expand on that please?

WO: Yes, there are only about 24, 25, 26 countries in the world of 191 members at the United Nations that have truly liberal democracies. There are lots of democracies, but they’re illiberal, meaning that they have various levels of tyranny. Rights are not secure, Russia has elections, India has elections, it has a great reputation as a democracy, but your property rights are not stable at the lower, at the village level. A mother-in-law can throw acid in the face of a daughter-in-law and not be taken to the court. There are lots of illiberal things about it. Now those countries are all in the Western political tradition, with a very few exceptions. Japan and I would include South Korea and Taiwan now. The rule on political scientists is their constitutional order generally sticks if it lasts for a generation, about 20 years or more. So the countries I count are ones that have had stable, liberal orders for more than a generation.

HH: Now in the Washington Post article, you said none is a country with Arabic and Muslim political cultures. Does Turkey not qualify in your calculation, General?

WO: It’s a borderline case, but it hasn’t yet been 20 years since the last military intervention.

HH: And so that’s not a counterexample to your hypothesis?

WO: No, it’s not yet. I would like for it to be, and it is the white hope.

HH: What about Indonesia?

WO: Indonesia’s about as illiberal as you can get.

HH: But does it have a constitutional order? They’ve had a couple of elections…

WO: No. No way. Here’s what constitutes a constitutional order. It’s not a piece of paper. A piece of paper, as the Russians, they can put up with anything written on it. The British don’t have a written constitution. It is an agreement on three things at least. Rules to decide who rules, rules to make new rules, rights the state cannot abridge. Now who must agree? If you have a referendum, that’s irrelevant. The elites must agree. Who are the elites? Anybody with enough guns or enough money, or both, to violate the rules with impunity if they want to. Now every one of those countries have groups that violate the rules with impunity, even though they have a constitutional order, I mean, a piece of paper. So I’m looking at countries where the rules have been made stick. By this standard, when did we get a Constitution? Only in 1865.

HH: And so is it your proposition that Muslim and Arab countries simply can’t develop that constitutional order?

WO: Well, let’s put it this way. They have not yet done so, and people like Professor Huntington have looked at various groups, and said that some religious areas are more easily disposed to constitutional deals than others. Confucian societies and Islamic societies have been terribly resistant. Hindu Buddhist societies seem to be neutral. Protestants have been more easy to make into constitutional orders than Catholic, although the record on that’s improving somewhat. So just looking at the record, those are just facts. Now I have not said that Arabs can’t be good democrats. I said that in the article. They’ve become very good liberal American citizens.

HH: But what about Lebanon, General? Prior to Arafat’s arrival, and the ruinous introduction of the PLO in exile…

WO: They’ve never had a constitutional order, because there were always factions there that have made the rules when they wanted to. I mean, it’s been…there are almost no stable constitutional systems with three or four or five constitutional orders. Look how unstable Canada becomes occasionally over the French. Switzerland is a huge exception. Britain, with four tribes, is suffering devolution.

HH: But then…now, that’s where I get confused, because are you arguing that there’s just no hope, they need strong men there because they simply cannot support…

WO: No, I’m saying that we can’t do much about it. I’m saying if you’re going to go in, and by ventriloquy expect to create this kind of an order, then you’re not going to be able to do that. You’re going to fail at that. I’ve been involved in several practical cases. In Vietnam, I wrote a book after I retired, reflecting on three cases, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Philippines, but what I was always thinking about was my year involved in pacification and development in Vietnam.

HH: And so the purple finger elections of 2005, of no counterargument to you?

WO: Oh, look. Elections are easy to hold. I grew up in Tennessee, where Boss Ed Crump rigged the elections every year. We knew that. Mayor Daley, the Pendergast machine, boss Tweed? Come on, don’t tell me about elections in the U.S. being honest.

HH: I didn’t make that…I was saying what did that mean, the people, the millions that turned out?

WO: It meant that we held an election out there, and people came and voted.

HH: And what did that, do they aspire to order, General?

WO: Sure, they want order, but voting doesn’t produce order.

HH: I know that, but I’m trying to get at, do you think they aspire to freedom?

WO: Sure. But the question is, how do they get the elites to agree on the rules so that their freedom doesn’t just mean free to kill each other?

HH: And do we help them get closer to the order in which freedom can flourish?

WO: We have made it much worse.

HH: Much worse than Saddam?

WO: Yeah.

HH: You believe that people in Iraq…

WO: Oh, there’s many more people been killed each year we’ve been there than were being killed during Saddam’s period.

HH: How many people were being killed under Saddam, General?

WO: I don’t know, but it was not a very high number we’re discovering.

HH: General, the mass graves? Those are not signifiers?

WO: Well, look. You know, I haven’t counted the people in the mass graves, but I think that that would be a very instructive figure to get some hard data on and compare them. I’d like to see it. I don’t think that Saddam…he had enough intimidation so that he didn’t have to kill on the rate that we’re killing.

HH: And so…

WO: …or that they’re killing each other.

HH: Now you also write in the article that we must, that you dismiss the idea it will get worse if we leave.

WO: No, I said it doesn’t matter how bad it gets, it’s not going to get better by us staying there. You see, I’m not one of those…I personally think that we might end up finding less of a terrible aftermath than we’ve pumped ourselves up to expect, because the President and a lot of other people have really made a big thing of trying to scare us about that. What I’m saying is even if their scare scenarios turn out to be the case, that is the price we have to pay to get out of this trap, and eventually bring a stability to that region which if the Iraqis and other Arab countries want to become liberal systems, they can do it. They’re not going to do it the way we’re headed there now.

HH: From your Sunday Post piece is this couple of lines. “Lawmakers gravely proclaim their opposition to the war, but in the next breath, express fear that quitting it will leave a bloodbath, a civil war, a terrorist haven, a failed state, or some other horror. But this aftermath is already upon us. A prolonged U.S. occupation cannot prevent what already exists.” Do you…

WO: I think that’s a pretty accurate description of what’s happened over the past four years.

HH: So you don’t think it can get worse?

WO: Yeah, it can get worse. It’s gotten worse every year.

HH: But how much worse could it get if we weren’t there?

WO: I don’t know. I don’t think it…look, it will eventually get as bad it can get if we stay there long enough.

HH: But if we precipitously withdraw, do you expect genocide?

WO: I would call some of the things…I mean, you know, that’s a definitional term.

HH: Do the numbers…

WO: I mean, it depends on what you define as genocide.

HH: Do the numbers matter at all to your analysis? If someone came to you and said 100,000 people will die…

WO: Yes, they matter, and what I’m telling you is that we can’t affect, we cannot improve the numbers of survivors by staying longer.

HH: Well here…do you follow the work of John Burns, New York Times correspondent?

WO: Yeah.

HH: Here’s John Burns on that subject from last week.

JB: If the United Nations is correct in saying that 3,700 Iraqi civilians died in October, and that’s a morgue’s count. It may be an underestimate, we don’t know. But he said if it’s correct that 3,700 people died in October across Iraq, think about this. You take the American troops away in this situation, leaving Shiite death squads to move into Adamiya in force, without any kind of protection, he said it won’t be 3,700 dead in the month, it will be 3,700 dead in the night in Adamiya. Now that may be an exaggeration, but it reflects the kind of fears that are quite widespread, amongst Sunnis in particular, but also to some extent amongst Shiites in Iraq about the consequences of an American troop withdrawal.

HH: So General, should we be indifferent to that?

WO: Yes.

HH: Why?

WO: Because we can’t affect it. He’s assuming we can make it different, and we are the cause that that situation exists today. John Burns, he’s forgot that we invaded the country, and they weren’t having those deaths that rate when Saddam was there.

HH: But it was a nation of…

WO: You insist, you are arguing that they…you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that there were more deaths when Saddam was there, and say that we’re improving things by staying there, and seeing them get worse every year.

HH: Actually, I believe that we have some significant numbers of the number of killed under Saddam over the course of his lifetime, and that those are much higher than have died in the four years under the American occupation.

WO: Well, I’d be very surprised to discover that, because he’s not…he was not that efficient at killing people. Now Stalin was.

HH: Did you see any hope for Saddam’s regime to change, General?

WO: No.

HH: Would his sons have been at least as worse as he was if…

WO: Sure.

HH: And so…

WO: And I can think if dictators much worse than him that we don’t bother with.

HH: But of course, he had attempted…

WO: So why do we pick out this one among all the dictators in the world we could pick out and go overthrow?

HH: Well, because he shot at American planes because he…

WO: He…who…we shot at him.

HH: Well, he had U.N. resolutions that were being enforced by American planes…

WO: And we were doing a pretty good job of containing him.

HH: But that’s one…he was clearly hostile to the United States, right, General?

WO: Sure.

HH: And he had invaded Kuwait.

WO: He was hostile to his neighbors our there, too.

HH: Yeah, he had invaded Kuwait, he invaded Iran…

WO: Look, I mean, I…this a kind of a pointless argument. I mean, the issues…all of your things can be true. They don’t make it any better for us. We are on a path to suffer every month we stay. The defeat we face will be larger, and we will put off the time at which…and where we will have even less resources to recover. If you remember the Second World War, Hitler had 600,000 troops thrown into Stalingrad, refused over four, five months to withdraw them, at the plea by, from his generals, and he ends up losing them all. If he had withdrawn them as they said, asked him to do, and let Stalingrad go, he could have shortened his lines by seven or eight hundred kilometers, and had nearly, had over 600,000 troops survive. Now that’s…a military commander that doesn’t know when to retire from one area so he can approach the conflict from another area, is not a smart commander. And it seems to you’re advocating a kind of policy where you have a president who jumps off the Empire State Building, and he goes by the 50th floor, and he says I’m on course. Well, I want a president who knows how to change course.

HH: I’m actually just trying to figure out what you think Iraq would look like if after four months hence, we leave, what it would look like in a year?

WO: It’s going to look worse if we stay.

HH: I know that, but what do you think it will look like? I know you believe that…

WO: I don’t know. I don’t know. You don’t know, and it’s just a guess. And I don’t see killing more Americans based on your guess.

HH: Did you see Cambodia coming, General?

WO: And following…let me ask you. Are you enthusiastic enough to put on a uniform and go?

HH: No. I’m a civilian.

WO: Okay, but we can recruit you.

HH: I’m 51, General.

WO: And I don’t see all these war hawks that want to…none of them have been in a war, and they don’t want to go.

HH: Well, General, are you advocating that only uniformed military should have opinions on this?

WO: No, you can have an opinion, but if you…you can’t start telling me that you’re going to just pay no attention to what people like myself say.

HH: No, I am paying…that’s why you’re on this program.

WO: Okay.

HH: I want to hear it, and I want…but I want to know what you think it’s going to look like, because I’m not indifferent to the aftermath.

WO: I don’t know. I’m prepared to accept whatever it looks like, if it’s not killing Americans, and we’re not losing U.S. resources, because eventually, it will settle out out there, and our capacity to help it settle out earlier with allies will be greatly improved. I think actually, that it will come out much better than these scare pictures you’re describing, and I include John Burns as somewhat of a scaremonger in this regard.

HH: Did you predict or see coming the Cambodian holocaust after our withdrawal from Southeast Asia?

WO: That would have happened if we’d stayed.

HH: But did you predict it?

WO: We didn’t…we were not in Cambodia.

HH: But did you…

WO: We [helped] perpetrate that.

HH: Did you or anyone you work with at the time see it coming? Did you see the reeducation camps in Vietnam?

WO: No, we didn’t. I wasn’t focused on that then. I was focused on Vietnam.

HH: And what about the reeducation camps and the boat people?

WO: Well, what about them?

HH: Did we foresee that? Did anyone sit down…

WO: Well, we said that things much worse than that were going to happen.

HH: John Kerry, when he testified before the Senate, actually thought it would be a couple of thousand people that would be…

WO: Well, I’m not John Kerry, and I don’t…I’m not defending John Kerry’s position. I’m saying the big scare in Southeast Asia was that there will be a whole group of countries that became pro-Soviet bloc, and pro-Chinese. Well, two more went communist, but they were not pro-Chinese. We were pursuing a war to contain China, the Soviet policy had become containing China. We were presenting a half a million U.S. troops in pursuit of Soviet foreign policy objectives. Right now, we are pursuing al Qaeda and Iranian foreign policy objectives in Iraq.

HH: But General, what I’m trying to do…

WO: And you want to continue to do that.

HH: I’m trying to figure out if you and others have thought through how bad it can get in Iraq.

WO: I have thought this through, because I’ve seen it in Vietnam, and I’m prepared…

HH: So how many people do you think will die?

WO: …when you start these kinds of things, you have to take what you’ve bought into. You have bought into this situation, so you’re going to have to live with the casualties.

HH: And so how many do you think that will be?

WO: I don’t know. You don’t know, either. So why do you keep asking me a question that I’m giving you an answer to?

HH: I know, but do you have a scale of magnitude?

WO: No, I don’t.

HH: And as a result, that doesn’t matter, though?

WO: And so you can sit there and fantasize any scale you want to, to scare people into continuing to do stupid things.

HH: All right. Next in your article, you wrote, “We must continue the war to prevent Iran’s influence from growing in Iraq.” That’s one of the arguments you attribute to proponents of staying. And I do believe that’s a very important issue. Do you believe that Iran is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons?

WO: Sure. They’re going to get them.

HH: And should we do anything to stop that?

WO: No.

HH: Why not?

WO: Because we can’t. We’ve already squandered what forces we have, and we’re going to have more countries proliferate. If somebody told us not to proliferate, and that if we wanted to do it and we started, that they were going to change our regime, you damn well bet we’d get nuclear weapons. Well, that’s the approach we’ve taken. We could not have increased Iranian incentives for getting nuclear weapons faster, or more effectively, than the policy we’ve used to keep to prevent them from getting them.

HH: How many years have they been pursuing them, though, General? Long before we invaded Iraq.

WO: Yes, and we had been talking about changing the regime for many years before.

HH: Yes, but the fact remains that they’re very much closer now than they have been in the past, and you don’t think we should do anything to stop that?

WO: No.

HH: And do you believe the statements of Khatamei…

WO: If we can…look, we tried to stop Pakistan, we tried to stop India, and as soon as they go them, we turned around and loved them.

HH: Are the statements…

WO: Now that’s the policy of proliferation that we pursued.

HH: Are the statements of President Ahmadinejad alarming to you?

WO: No.

HH: Why not?

WO: Because I’ve done a study on Iranian foreign policy back from the fall of the Shah’s time up to about 1995. And not withstanding all the rhetoric, and which I believe some of, that we would find the Iranians pursuing a very radical foreign policy in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They were not. They were pursuing…they did not try to steal nuclear weapons up there. They did not spend money into the hands of Islamic radicals. The money that came in for Islamic radicals was brought by Pakistani bagmen from Saudi Arabia. The Iranians pursued a very conservative policy. They’ve had two radical policies. One was toward Hezbollah and Israel, and the other’s been toward us.

HH: Do you believe that they were responsible for the massacre of the Jews at the synagogue in South America?

WO: They might well have been.

HH: Do you believe that they have armed Hezbollah with the rockets that rain down on Israel?

WO: Yes.

HH: Do you believe they would use a nuke against Israel?

WO: Not unless Israel uses one against them.

HH: Could you be wrong about that?

WO: Of course you can be wrong about the future.

HH: Are you gambling with Israel’s future, then, to allow a radical regime…

WO: No, Israel’s gambling with its future by encouraging us to pursue this policy.

HH: So Israel should not take unilateral action, either?

WO: That’s up to them, but I think it’ll make it worse for them. Israel’s policies thus far have made its situation much worse. If you read all of the Israel press, you’ll find a lot of them there are firmly in my camp on this issue. And I’ve talked to many Israelis who are very sympathetic with the view I have on it. You’re making it much, much worse for Israel.

HH: Are you familiar…

WO: If I were an Israeli right now, given Olmert’s policies and Bush’s policies, I would fear for my life.

HH: Are you familiar with…

WO: So I would say the policy you’re advocating is a very serious threat to Israel.

HH: Are you familiar with Mullah Yazdi?

WO: No.

HH: Or 12th Imam theology?

WO: No, I’m not.

HH: Would that matter to you if those…

WO: No.

HH: It doesn’t matter if they’re Millennialists who want to bring in…

WO: No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t.

HH: So what they think and what their intentions are don’t matter, General?

WO: You don’t know what their intentions are. You’re just listening to their rhetoric.

HH: Well, should we ever pay attention to what people say?

WO: Yes, we should pay attention sometimes, but I can…I’d pay attention to that, and when I do, I see that it’s very much really the way Kim Jung Il uses his rhetoric. He knows how to cause us to jump up in the air and get all excited, and cause people of your frame of mind, and particularly the neocons’ frame of mind, to start doing things that are not in the U.S. interests. And then as you hit the ground, we’d pay him off and bribe him.

HH: Now General, you are a distinguished and long-serving member of the American military, in the Military Hall of Fame, you’re a Lt. General. I actually served alongside of you in the Reagan administration when you were running NSA. So I mean no disrespect by this next question.

WO: Yeah, you’re obviously going to call me a son of a bitch or something.

HH: No, I’m not. No, I’m not, General. I would never do that, because I esteem your service quite a lot, and I know your reputation as an intelligence professional, because I was the special assistant to Bill Smith running the FISA stuff, when you were over at NSA. So I know your credentials, and I esteem you. But it sounds like…

WO: I am a hard-liner.

HH: You would have been with which party in Great Britain in the 30’s? Let me ask it that way. Was Churchill…

WO: I was…it’s not analogous to today at all.

HH: Why not?

WO: Because it’s completely different. Germany was a powerful industrial company that had been dealt a terrible injustice with the Versailles Treaty.

HH: 70 million…

WO: Lloyd George and the…Clemenceau struck a deal, and didn’t even invite the Germans who…and remember, it was an armistice. They were not defeated and invaded by France and Britain and the U.S. It was an armistice, and they weren’t even invited, and they were forced into a terrible period. Hungary was truncated. It essentially opened the door to Hitler, and it certainly opened the door to the Nazis.

HH: Yes, but did Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain ignore the statements of Hitler, and put it down as just rhetoric?

WO: This is…Ahmadinejad is not…he does not have German industry. He does not preside over a country which was becoming the major industrial power in Europe.

HH: Yeah, but he will have…

WO: He’s in a backward country with a group of people who are becoming poorer and poorer as a result of his policies.

HH: But he will have…

WO: And if you can’t see the difference between that, then I’m very disappointed in your judgment.

HH: But General, he will have the weapons that Hitler aspired to and never acquired. So in many respects, his 70…

WO: In another situation where we have many more of them, which ensure his annihilation.

HH: But it he’s not deterrable because of theology, does that matter? Earlier, you said no.

WO: How do you know that he’s not deterrable?

HH: I take very seriously what Yazdi writes, and what Ahmadinejad says.

WO: Well, are you going to…you’re betting your future on what he says.

HH: No, I am unwilling to allow Iran to have nukes, and I think we ought to take…

WO: Well, you don’t have the power to keep him from…

HH: Of course not. I’m just advocating. I’m just a pundit. I’m just a radio guy.

WO: Okay, nobody has the power to do that right now.

HH: The United States could deny him nukes, couldn’t it?

WO: No, it can’t do it, because we’ve used our military up. We can’t occupy the country. You can bomb and set it back. You will not prevent it.

HH: Bombing and setting it back, would that be a good thing?

WO: No.

HH: Why not?

WO: Because you’ll end up doubling or quadrupling or to the tenth power the number of enemies you’ve got in the area. We will never solve the situation in the Middle East, and bring some kind of stability there, until we work out some kind of deal with Iran. Now Iran has tried to make a deal with us when we were invading Afghanistan. And we just pushed them off.

HH: Now General, have you read the book, The Looming Tower?

WO: No.

HH: Are you familiar with Qutub, the founder of…

WO: Look, I’m running out of time.

HH: Okay, I’ve got three more minute, four more minutes. Are you familiar with Qutub, the founder of the Muslim Botherhood?

WO: No.

HH: All right. When you write that we must prevent, that, “We will not be able to prevent al Qaeda in Iraq,” what do you think al Qaeda will do…

WO: Be able to prevent them in Iraq?

HH: Well, I’ll read your paragraph here. “We must prevent the emergence of a new haven for al Qaeda in Iraq as one of the reasons you offered on Sunday for people who are arguing to stay in Iraq.”

WO: Right.

HH: And then you go on to say, “Whether such foreign elements could remain or thrive in Iraq after the resolution of civil war is open to question.”

WO: That’s right.

HH: Now they are deterred by our presence there, are they not?

WO: No. They’re absolutely ecstatic over it. They’re killing us. They couldn’t get to us otherwise.

HH: Do you believe that safe havens for al Qaeda will empower them to strike the United States again as they did on 9/11?

WO: Look, they’re getting one back in Afghanistan. They’ve got one right now in Pakistan. They’ve got them in other countries. If you get out of Iraq, there’s one thing, two or three things you can be sure of. They cannot operate effectively in Kurdistan right now. The Shiites will catch them and decapitate everyone they can get their hands on. Most Sunnis don’t like them. They deal with him largely because they provided them suicide bombers, et cetera, to take on the Shiites. With us getting out of the scene, and if the Shiites were to win that civil war, the al Qaeda will be gone.

HH: And why do you believe we haven’t been attacked since 9/11, General?

WO: I don’t think…we’ve been attacked in Iraq. They’ve been killing us left and right over there. It’s over 3,000.

HH: Why have we not been attacked in the United States since 9/11?

WO: You don’t know and I don’t know. Mr. John Miller’s done a very good study saying they don’t have the capabilities. There’s a very lot of intelligence evidence that suggests they don’t have the capabilities to do it.

HH: And did we…

WO: All these so-called cells that the last administration, or this administration seems to have discovered here turned out to be mythical.

HH: Would Libya have disarmed its nukes and chemical weaponry, General, if we…

WO: It’s not analogous. If you are trying to pay a general rule to cause something to happen in all countries, that is…you know, I’d flunk you on a sophomore international relations course.

HH: I’m asking whether or not you thought the Libyan disarmament had anything to do with our invasion of Iraq?

WO: None.

HH: And do you believe that the Oil For Food scandal would have been detected if we’d left Saddam in power?

WO: Look, we would have been less worse off, much better off, had the food scandal gone on, and Saddam were still there.

HH: Fair answer. Last question, General, do you think David Petraeus is a competent officer?

WO: He’s a very competent officer. I don’t think he can afford to tell you what he really thinks about the prospects of counterinsurgency working.

HH: You believe when he testified to the Senate under oath that he was misleading the Senate?

WO: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.

HH: You think that’s a possibility?

WO: Well, have you ever been up there?

HH: Yes.

WO: To do that, when there was a civilian master sitting on your side, and making sure you don’t say anything they disagreed with?

HH: Oh, I have testified under oath before Congress with civilian…

WO: Yeah, but if you’ve been in a uniform with a civilian political…

HH: No, I told you I’m a civilian, but I…

WO: …with a politico keeping you in line?

HH: Are…you really…

WO: Yeah, the officer has a real dilemma here. He can do one of two things, and I used to discuss this with General Goodpastor who worked six years for Eisenhower in the White House. Should an officer, when he really disagrees, resign? Or should he knuckle down and do the best he can to get on inside? You can argue that both ways. When a lot of officers, my contemporaries, saw no senior officers resign in Vietnam, and we were unhappy about that, and you saw this young officer now, who was a colonel in the Army, H.R. McMaster. McMaster wrote Dereliction of Duty, damning the joint chiefs for not standing up to McNamara during the Vietnam War. I’m sure somebody’s going to do this on some of the senior officers today. The officers who’ve tried to stand up to it within have…were destroyed by Rumsfeld.

HH: Who would that be?

WO: Pardon?

HH: Who? Who?

WO: Well, Shinseki was probably the first one.

HH: Shinseki, though, had been, when he announced that we need 200,000 troops, had already announced his retirement, General.

WO: He hadn’t announced his retirement. He had a set period, four years in the Army. He wasn’t announcing his retirement, and he had more than a year left to go, and he was urged out precisely because he did that.

HH: All right, there are different accounts of that.

WO: And he was publicly abused by Paul Wolfowitz for having done so. And there were lots of other generals over there…look, a lot of them just pull their heads down. I did that in the Vietnam model, not when I was a general, but as a Lt. colonel.

HH: And has any…last question, General, has any general officer of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines resigned in protest over this war?

WO: No, I think the Marine general who was the J-3, I can’t remember his name right now, says he did.

HH: Batiste?

WO: No, that’s an Army major general. Whether they did that for that reason or not, I don’t know. But they have, as I say, I’m not sure that you can argue that they should, or you can argue that they should stay in. Goodpastor used to argue that they should stay in. I argued that they should not do so. Goodpastor persuaded me that I might be wrong. I think you can make that case both ways.

HH: Last question, General, do you believe you could be wrong about all this?

WO: Of course.

HH: I thought…I knew as a professional you’d say that. Thank you for your time, General William Odom, and for your service.

WO: Okay, right. Bye.

End of interview.

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