What is one to make of the six retired generals who, in recent days, have called not only for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but have questioned whether U.S. troops should remain in Iraq much longer? Only that it will further embolden America’s enemies who are betting the United States is weak, morally corrupt and lacks the stomach for protracted conflict.
It is apparently less newsworthy that other retired generals, including Richard B. Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Tommy Franks, former commander of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, support Mr. Rumsfeld.
On Al Arabiya television, Mr. Rumsfeld said, “Out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed, we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round around here.” On Fox News Channel, he said: “It’s a test of wills. If they can’t win a battle, where can they win? The only place they can win is the capitals of Western countries. And with trying to persuade the American people and other Western nations, free people, ‘Look, it isn’t worth the cost, it isn’t worth the time, it isn’t worth the money.’ And to get them to toss in the towel and say it’s not worth the effort. Well, it is worth the effort because terrorists are against free people for behaving as free people.”
Anyone doubting Mr. Rumsfeld should consider the testimony of Zacarias Moussaoui. During the death penalty phase of his trial for involvement in the September 11, 2001, attacks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Spencer asked Moussaoui if he thought the United States is destined to fall. He coldly replied, “I know it. I know it.”
“You wake up every day to destroy the United States, don’t you?” asked Spencer.
“To the best of my ability,” Moussaoui responded.
Moussaoui said it was “my pleasure” to accept a suicide mission from Osama bin Laden. He mocked relatives of those who died on September 11, saying he wishes more had been killed. He called those relatives who shed tears during their testimony “weak.”
Moussaoui isn’t retreating or calling for the resignation of Osama bin Laden or any other leader in the terrorist war on America and the West.
Neither is Iran retreating or in doubt about its nuclear weapons program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad openly defies and ridicules the West and the United Nations, as they ponder meaningless resolutions and call for equally meaningless diplomacy against a religious nut case who thinks he has been commissioned by his false god to usher in Armageddon. One can be sure no Iranian general — active or retired — will be questioning Mr. Ahmadinejad’s politics or theology, if he wants to be around for the “last battle.”
The growing expressions of negativity in America about the war may be having the effect on public opinion desired by our enemies. A USA Today/Gallup Poll found nearly half of those surveyed said the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along as best they can on their own.”
That might have worked in an era before terrorism and intercontinental missiles. Today, it is unrealistic. As President Bush has repeatedly said, if we don’t defeat them over there, they will come after us over here. That means September 11 will not have been a unique event.
In an April 14 editorial, the Wall Street Journal correctly noted: “The further we move away from September 11 without another domestic attack, the more tempting it is to believe that awful day was an aberration, to think that we can return to normalcy if we merely leave Iraq and the other Middle Eastern regimes to their own purposes. But the forces of radical Islam aren’t going to leave us alone merely because we decide that resisting them is too hard.”
This isn’t about one defense secretary or six generals who don’t like his policies. This is about winning the most dangerous and important war America has ever fought. These generals’ public criticisms in the midst of the war are making victory more difficult. They are encouraging the enemy to fight on, believing we will ultimately surrender. No good that can come from the comments of the former leaders of our volunteer soldiers, at least no good for what they once called “our side.”
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.