THE PENTAGON CRACKS DOWN
On American troops who spoke out.
I realize that technically, ( and for reasons that make America different than Bolivia and Paraguay) uniformed service personnel are not permitted to make certain types of statements critical of the President of the United States or other government officials. I also realize that institutionally, there has always been " payback " given out by the brass to soldiers who dared to bring unfavorable press attention or an angry member of Congress to what the Pentagon considers mere " military matters ". I also realize that now that the embeded press corps in Iraq has been whittled down from 700 more politically representative reporters to about a dozen-plus, reflexively negative and anti-Bush senior foreign correspondents who set out to write this story with the spin it recieved. That being said, the bureaucratic retaliation against a handful of outspoken soldiers with typical and very legitimate gripes is not merely petty and vindictive. It is not merely dumb. It is a stridently dumb action on a variety of levels.
The political message sent by this action could not be more counterproductive had it been scripted by the Bush administration's antiwar political opponents. Institutionally, the Pentagon brass are sending the message to soldiers and airmen that the bearers of bad news - bad news that policy makers might need to prevent an irretrievable disaster in the making - will be punished severely. Those with the most information about local conditions in Iraq are going to simply shut their mouths and keep their heads down.
Part of the responsibility of leadership at times is to accept even ungracious criticism with stoicism, particularly when the critics have a point.