In an unprecedented decision, Speaker Nancy Pelosi designated a retired three-star general, William E. Odom, to respond to President George Bush's Saturday radio address.
General Odom, former director of the National Security Agency and head of Army intelligence, has consistently and publicly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has called for withdrawal ever since. In his capacity as one of the Nation's foremost experts on Russia, he now teaches at Yale University.
Introducing himself in typically straightforward east Tennessee fashion, Odom began: "I am not now nor have I ever been a Democrat or a Republican. Thus I do not speak for the Democratic Party. I speak for myself, as a non-partisan retired military officer who is a former director of the National Security Agency."
In principle, he normally does not favor Congressional involvement in the execution of U.S. military policy But the West Point graduate stated that the conflict in Iraq is different: "Over the past couple of years, the President has let it proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued. Thus he lets the United States fly farther and farther into trouble, squandering its influence, money, and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies." Congress, he believes, is now "the only mechanism we have to fill this vacuum in command judgment."
Odom, a one-time military aide on the NSC staff, takes direct aim at POTUS (president of the United States): "To put this in a simple army metaphor, the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL, the acronym for 'absent without leave.' He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge.*** Most Americans suspect that something is fundamentally wrong with the President's management of the conflict in Iraq. And they are right."
Reminding that "we are in a crisis," the general argued that "the challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place. The war could never have served American interests," charged this student of Clausewitz.
BUT "it has served Iran's interest by revenging Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in the 1980s and enhancing Iran's influence within Iraq. It has also served al Qaeda's interests, providing a much better training ground than did Afghanistan, allowing it to build its ranks far above the levels and competence that otherwise would have been possible."
Therefore, said Odom, the U.S. "cannot 'win' a war that serves our enemies' interest and not our own. Continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did."
The Vietnam combat officer advised that "a wise commander in this situation normally revises his objectives and changes his strategy, not just marginally but radically. Nothing less today will limit the death and destruction that the invasion of Iraq has unleashed." HOWEVER, "no effective new strategy can be devised for the United States until it begins withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Only that step will break the paralysis that now confronts us."
General Odom, who has written several books on America's security in the world, contended that withdrawal from Iraq, in addition to serving as the pre-condition for winning support from countries in Europe and other major powers--China, India, Japan, and Russia--"will also shock and change attitudes in Iran, Syria, and other countries on Iraq's borders, making them far more likely to take seriously new U.S. approaches...to restoring regional stability and heading off the spreading chaos that our war has caused."
Signing the bill that Congress approved this week, with some bipartisan support, setting schedules for withdrawal, offers "the President an opportunity to begin this kind of strategic shift, one that defines regional stability as the measure of victory, not an impossible victory he seeks in Iraq," he reasoned.
General William Odom made this concluding pledge: "I will respect him greatly for such an act of courage."
What a brilliant decision by Nancy Pelosi to ask the General to give the Democratic Party response to the President! She and Senator Reid are showing the country what true leadership looks like!