Believe Petraeus, if nothing else

I was chided by an anonymous poster who claims to be — and who, from the tone and context of the message, I believe is — a U.S. soldier back on this post:

I am a US soldier, and Iraq war vet scheduled to go back in 2009, and not a "professional nut job". I think we SHOULD pull all troops out immediately–we soldiers accomplished the missions given to us, don’t change the mission on us now, especially under Bush’s leadership…

Fortunately, I can read that with a clear conscience because it was very clear in my post who I was referring to as the unelected professional whack jobs, and it was obviously not this soldier. All one had to do, if confused, was click on the link.

I was reminded on this when I read this piece by another American in uniform, this one a Marine. I hope you will read it. It examined head-on the truths behind this ugly fact:

(A)ccording to an August CNN poll, 68% of Americans said Gen. David Petraeus’s congressional testimony on Iraq this week would not sway their personal view one way or the other. Worse, 53% of Americans do not trust him to report what’s really going on in Iraq, according to a USA Today/Gallup Poll published Monday.

He wrote of "the blatant absence of common ground" in our pathologically partisan political culture:

First, the Republicans declared the enemy in Iraq defeated before we started fighting, later employing invective to attack rational critics of the order of battle. Then Democrats declared the war lost just as we employed a new strategy. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has been especially careless, declaring defeat last spring, labeling the new strategy and the surge in troops a "failure" before it began, slandering an elite warrior in Marine Gen. Peter Pace, and continuously undercutting Gen. Petraeus–most recently dismissing his forthcoming testimony as "Bush’s report."

He ended with a plea — a demand — that whatever we think about the politicians who have never risked enemy fire or led those who do so, we should take the general at his word:

…Gen. Petraeus is a guardian whose lifelong calling is service to his country. He knows the enemy. He knows our limitations. And he is telling the truth.

This rings true with me because of something that goes beyond Gen. Petraeus, beyond Iraq, even beyond the realm of the military, of war and peace.

Over the past 30 years or so, the profoundly destructive dynamic of Democrat vs. Republican has become something that to its adherents supercedes truth or honor or anything so alien to the practitioners’ value system as honor.

Such people — those who believe in the left-vs.-right nonsense the way others among us believe in God — don’t trust any code that claims to be above their own. Not only do they not trust soldiers, they don’t trust the FBI, or local cops, or anyone who has devoted his or her life to public service outside of the partisan sphere.

Here’s one way this manifests itself: Instead of letting the "bureaucrats" who do it for a living investigate a potentially criminal matter independently, we create monsters called special prosecutors, to conduct the inquiry along partisan lines. This has always disgusted me. You see, I trust people who devote their lives to public service outside the self-serving realm of partisan politics. I respect bureaucrats. But the partisans spit on them.

And now, they’re doing it to soldiers, whom I respect even more, but for some of the same reasons. All in the service of their partisan gods.

4 thoughts on “Believe Petraeus, if nothing else

  1. James D McCallister

    I agree about the ultimate enervating effect of the bitter partisanship we have in this country (it’d be nice to have multiple viable parties, yes?), but changing the way of counting the dead to serve the PR needs of the administration hardly seems to be the act of an honorable public servant. Just my opinion.

  2. Mike Cakora

    I could not agree more about the respect due those in public service, especially the military. I probably got a little carried away (moi?) in my rant about the treatment Petraeus has received at the hands of our elected officials and the wingnuts, but I’ve been in or around the military for a long time and hold guys like Petraeus in awe: they undergo great personal sacrifice just to make sure we can sleep safely at night.
    How many folks would suffer a work-related accident like Petraeus’s in 1991 — getting shot in the chest during a live-fire training exercise while in garrison — and then shortly return to work as if he’d just suffered a broken rib?
    How was your day at the office, honey?
    Those with a modicum of fairness acknowledge Petraeus’s intellect and seriousness:

    Tell me how this ends.” That famously is the question that Gen. David Petraeus posed to journalist Rick Atkinson in March 2003 as U.S. troops were moving to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. And it’s still the right question after Petraeus’s sober progress report to Congress on the U.S. troop surge in Iraq.

    Those with an axe to grind continue to misrepresent the impetus for Petraeus’s testimony (Congress ordered it) and his motivation:

    The whole point of the Petraeus PR offensive, after all, is to decouple the war from the president. If it’s the president’s war, no one will vote to keep it going.

    It’s okay to hate Bush, it’s okay to be against the war, but going after the folks who serve to defend the nation is foul.

  3. bud

    Mike, Petraeus works for the citizens of the United States of America. As one of those citizens I believe he can and should be questioned hard but fairly regarding his report. Congress did just that. Just because he wears a uniform does not mean he’s off limits to criticism. To the contrary, because he’s making vital decisions that affect the security of our nation it is crucial that he be questioned hard. I find it insulting that anyone should suggest that we cannot “go after” (an arbitrary choice of words that I find offensive) the folks who serve to defend the nation. What Petraeus is doing has nothing to do with defending our nation. If we bring our troops home from Iraq we enhance our security.

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