Thursday, April 12, 2007

Now hiring: War czar - inquire at White House

The London Guardian's Ewen MacAskill reports today, under the headline "Top US generals reject war tsar role for Iraq and Afghanistan" (and the subhead "Bush struggles to find candidate for new post; Chaotic approach and Cheney attitude blamed"):
Three retired generals approached by the White House about a new high-profile post overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reporting directly to the president have rejected the proposed post, leaving the administration struggling to find anyone of stature willing to take it on.

One of the four-star generals said he declined because of the chaotic way the war was being run and because Dick Cheney, the vice-president and the leading hawk in the Bush administration, retained more influence than pragmatists looking for a way out.

The deputy White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, confirmed yesterday that George Bush was considering restructuring the administration to create a new post, dubbed the war tsar by US media. It would involve co-ordinating the work of the defence, state and other departments at what she described as a critical stage in the wars. One of the retired generals approached, Marine General John Sheehan, told the Washington Post: "The very fundamental issue is they don't know where the hell they're going."

The unwillingness of the generals to take the job undermines recent attempts by the Bush administration to put a positive spin on the Iraq war...

Gen Sheehan said Mr Cheney and his allies "are still in the positions of most influence" in spite of two leading pragmatists, the defence secretary, Robert Gates, and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, winning support in the past four months for a diplomatic approach. After two weeks of discussing the job with Mr Hadley, Gen Sheehan rejected it: "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks.'"
Meanwhile, Dick Cheney remains even more delusional than Dubya, his nominal boss, as the Guardian story goes on to suggest:
Mr Cheney last week reiterated claims of links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein's Iraq in spite of newly released US intelligence assessments saying there had been no evidence. Mr Cheney, unlike Mr Gates and Ms Rice, also favours air strikes against Iran's nuclear sites.
As Kurt Vonnegut—may he rest in peace with the spirit of Bokonon—wrote, in Mother Night (1961),
Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.
Meanwhile, NPR's Day to Day reported on Thursday that "recent graduates of the West Point military academy are leaving active duty at the highest rate in more than 30 years," despite the expenditure of $1 billion in bonuses by the Pentagon last year to retain members of the military. The rate of attrition for West Point graduates has ranged from 10-30% over most of the past three decades, but the dropout rate has risen to around 50% for recent classes.

This news comes at a time when the Pentagon has just extended tours of duty in Iraq from 12 to 15 months.

* * * *

All of which leads me back to what the incomparable Vonnegut once wrote*:
True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.


*Source unknown, but widely attributed to him.

GRAPHIC: Nicholas II of Russia, the last czar.

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