Saturday, June 09, 2007

Reasons for Gen. Paces' early deperture from Chair fo the Joint Chiefs of Staff

I can't say that Marine Gen. Peter Pace every impressed me as particularly worthy of the top military job in the Department of Defense. But what do I know? Still, he was Rumsfeld's choice during the period when no military flag-rank officer was promoted unless his political views were approved by Rumsfeld, and the stories in the press were that Pace was a great deal more adept at brown-nosing than most officers of his rank were. That he brown-nosed Rumsfeld was demonstrated by the fact that he was promoted at all. That he was promoted to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff merely demonstrated that he was the best of the crew all trying to do the same thing.

Can you say "Careerism?"

Still, I have been curious as to exactly what his real sins were. Well, there are a few answers out now. First, there is this from Larry Johnson at "No Quarter." Here is Larry's key statement:
Let there be no doubt--Perfect Peter Pace has been shown the door because of his letter to Judge Walton pleading on behalf of Scooter Libby. That letter was the final straw demonstrating his incompetence and political tin ear as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. How can you call call upon troops to conduct themselves with honor and integrity when you make lame excuses for the conduct of a convicted perjurer and obstructer of justice like Scooter Libby? Pace's Libby letter was the tipping point. His status, already shaky with the debacle of Iraq and a six year record of failure, became toxic with that letter. [Snip]

I believe that Perfect Peter has dishonored himself and dishonored the Marine Corps by his conduct--his weak, vacillating leadership and his craven pandering to political masters. Pace's nickname, "Perfect Peter", is not a term of endearment. It is an acknowledgment that Peter has been more willing than others to sell his soul for political expediency. He leaves in September. Good riddance.
But Larry is retired military, someone that many Americans do not really understand or trust. He can probably be dismissed as being "Crusty" and "Opinionated." [I don't buy that, but what do I know? I'm retired military myself and feel like I understand where he is coming from, at least a little.]

So, OK. Here is the story from the rather clearly non-military Steve Clemons at HIS blog, The Washington Note.
Pete Pace is out, and it's good for the country.
This is not quite on the same par as Truman firing MacArthur, but a civilian leader firing a general now and then can be healthy -- particularly when that General -- America's top general -- ventures into political matters that have absolutely nothing to do with his responsibilities as he did in writing a character commendation to the judge before Scooter Libby's recent sentencing. [Snip]

Pete Pace was brown-nosing the President (he thought) in his condemnation of homosexuals as immoral. Again, this is another political issue
[Besides "Scooter" Libby's legal problems. Editor - PPS] he should have remained out of -- but given his responsibilities in managing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, there is reason why he might have commented to some degree.

But Pace's comments weren't structural -- weren't designed to affirm "don't ask, don't tell." They were political and denigrated a group of Americans currently serving in the military with honor -- at exactly the same time he has allowed the issuance of over 125,000 "moral waivers" in the case of other Americans entering the military with serious criminal violations on their record.

What really drove Pace's comments is he thought they would put him in a better place with the White House and the President himself.

What the General just didn't get is that despite the grand theater of social conservatism and near constant flirtation with James Dobson by the White House, the fact is neither the President nor the Vice President want to talk about or hear about the "gay issue." Bush rejected former Senator Dan Coats as Secretary of Defense when he was the front-runner for the job because Coats wanted to reverse Don't Ask, and Don't Tell with "Ask, Investigate, and Prosecute" as well as to get women as far out of military roles as possible. Bush dropped Coats fast.

Another bizarre thing I learned about Peter Pace recently -- both from an old girlfriend of his who lives in Chestertown, Maryland as well as former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson -- is the guy manages the truth pretty flexibly.

When Wilkerson blasted the White House and the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" with his famous speech of October 19, 2005, Rumsfeld was eventually asked what he thought of Wilkerson and his views. Rumsfeld decided to stick it to Col. Wilkerson by pretending he didn't even know who the 16-year long close aide to Colin Powell was. But at one press conference, Rumsfeld turned to Peter Pace and asked if he knew Wilkerson -- and Pace denied even knowing him.

What I know is that Wilkerson once reported to Pace -- but it wasn't expeditious at that moment for Pace to recall he was Wilkerson's overseer when Wilkerson was succeeding a Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College who had been diagnosed with a fast-moving cancer and Pace and another set of generals had rigged things so that the ailing War College director would "die on duty" rather than be put on disability as the benefits to his family would be different. Wilkerson, Pace and others helped organize the funeral and honors for the deceased Director, and Wilkerson succeeded him in that role."
So it appears that the immediate reasons for Pace's dismissal were:
  • his inappropriate and clearly political brown-nosing with the White House by sending a letter to Judge Walton in support of letting "Scooter" Libby avoid punishment for the crimes the jury determined that he committed.
  • His similarly politically-motivated pandering the the Christian Right as he tried to throw honorably serving homosexual members of the military under the bus in order to advance his own career - this along with his tin ear for politics.
  • His obvious lack of any connection with the truth when brown-nosing can be practiced, and
  • His close association with the Rumsfeld regime and his apparent ability to bend whichever way he thinks the winds are blowing rather than acting as a professional military person.
Pace is a poster-boy for military careerism, something which our military has suffered from badly in recent years. If I were back on active duty I would not trust Pace to consider my life significant any time he thought about his career. He has clearly demonstrated (repeatedly) his inability to lead military people which makes him incompetent to remain in his job. He should never have gotten the job, and his departure is long overdue.

Sounds a lot like the chicken-hawks in the White House, doesn't it? People who don't want to bother with the risk, discomforts, hard work and sacrifice actually involved in being in the military, but who are perfectly willing to send military people out and get them killed just to advance their own careers. Examples are George W. Bush who could not be bothered to complete his commitment to the military once it was no longer needed to keep him out of Viet Nam, and Dick Cheney who did not serve in the military during war time because "He had other priorities." but certainly doesn't let his own reticence to perform military duty stop him from refusing to call for a draft to support his idiotic war of choice in Iraq.

Pace has gotten what he deserved from the government. Out. Bush and Cheney should also follow his lead. America and America's military will both be much better off for their absence.

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