Was Gen. Pace Fired for Refusal to Back Nuclear War?

June 28th, 2007 - by admin

Lawrence Korb / Center for Defense Information & Paul Craig Roberts – 2007-06-28 23:12:37


Lost Professionalism: The Firing of Pace Tramples Civil-Military Relations
Lawrence Korb / Center for Defense Information

The decision by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates not to renominate Gen. Peter Pace to a second two-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) because of the possibility of a difficult confirmation hearing may have some short-term benefits for the Bush administration by sparing it another re-examination of its failed policies in Iraq. But the long-term damage to civil-military relations and military professionalism will be substantial.

Career military officers are expected to give their civilian superiors their best professional advice on how to implement the policies that these elected or appointed civilians pursue. And once these civilians decide upon a policy, the military professionals must support the policy or resign.

The failure of the Bush policies in Iraq in particular and in the Middle East in general are numerous. But the president’s strategy has failed not because of tactical mistakes made by the military but because of fundamental strategy flaws. To put it bluntly, the invasion of Iraq has failed not because it was a good policy poorly implemented. Rather, it was a flawed policy that was based upon an unrealistic appraisal of the situation.

For the past six years as vice chairman and then chairman of the JCS, Gen. Pace has supported this policy before Congress and the public. If anything, he has been too deferential to his civilian superiors, particularly former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

It is now clear that the former secretary of defense meddled too much in military matters and that he should have given more deference to military professional advice in the tactical and operational realms.

If Secretary Gates had said that he wanted his own person as chairman, rather than the one he inherited from Rumsfeld, that would have been perfectly appropriate. Indeed, that is one of the reasons that the chairman and vice chairman of the JCS, unlike the service chiefs, are appointed for two years instead of four. But Gates said he intended to give Pace the customary two-year reappointment but changed his mind when it became clear that the Marine general would face a contentious reconfirmation hearing.

And why would the hearings become contentious? Not because of anything Pace said or did but because of the misrepresentations of the president and his appointees. Moreover, Pace was confirmed unanimously as chairman in September 2005, after four years as vice chairman, some 36 months after the invasion of Iraq. By then it was already clear that the administration had cherry-picked the intelligence and had underestimated how long and difficult the war would be.

Gates claims that he is throwing Pace overboard for the good of the country. Nonsense. Pace is being sacrificed to spare the administration further embarrassment.

The president and his top advisers no doubt saw what a difficult time Gen. George Casey had before the Senate when he was promoted from commander of the forces in Iraq to Army chief of staff.

Many members of Congress also share blame for this undermining of military professionalism. If the Senate is upset at the Bush administration’s mishandling of the war, it should hold the civilians making those decisions accountable. Who is more responsible for the debacle in Iraq, Condoleezza Rice or Gen. Pace? Yet Dr. Rice was confirmed for what will most likely be a four-year stint as secretary of state after botching the job of national security adviser and making several misleading comments about the threat that Saddam posed. Remember the mushroom cloud?

Pace will be the first chairman since Maxwell Taylor in 1964 not to receive the second two-year appointment. But Gen. Taylor was not fired. After serving 21 months as chairman, Taylor reluctantly agreed to President Johnson’s request that he become U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam when Henry Cabot Lodge left the post to run for president.

None of Bush’s predecessors in the Oval Office have used the excuse of difficult confirmation hearings to spare themselves political embarrassment at the expense of undermining military professionalism. Gen. Earl Wheeler, who replaced Taylor in 1964, was renominated twice by Lyndon Johnson and once by Richard Nixon despite raging debate in Congress about our policies in Vietnam.

President George H.W. Bush renominated Gen. Colin Powell as chairman in 1991 despite the fact that Bob Woodward’s book, “The Commanders,” guaranteed that hearings would be contentious. Woodward indicated that Powell had been less than forthcoming with the Senate about the advice he gave to the president about the necessity of expelling Iraq from Kuwait by force of arms as opposed to sanctions.

The Bush administration will soon be history. But its treatment of Gen. Pace will affect military professionalism for decades to come and weaken the willingness of the best and brightest officers of the officer corps to take on the post of JCS chairman.

Moreover, it will also make it difficult for Adm. Michael Mullen, who has been nominated for the chairmanship, to be effective, knowing he was the second choice.

Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a senior advisor to the Center for Defense Information, is the author of The Joint Chiefs of Staff: The First Twenty-Five Years.

General Pace Fired to Clear Way for ìNational Emergency,î Iran Nuclear Strike?
Paul Craig Roberts / Global Research

“It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral.”
— General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
,National Press Club, February 17, 2006.

“They will be held accountable for the decisions they make. So they should in†fact not obey the illegal and immoral orders to use weapons of mass destruction.”
General Peter Pace, CNN With Wolf Blitzer, April 6, 2003

The surprise decision by the Bush regime to replace General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been explained as a necessary step to avoid contentious confirmation hearings in the US Senate. Gen. Pace’s reappointment would have to be confirmed, and as the general has served as vice chairman and chairman of the Joint Chiefs for the past six years, the Republicans feared that hearings would give war critics an opportunity to focus, in Defense Secretary Gates words, “on the past, rather than the future.”

This is a plausible explanation. Whether one takes it on face value depends on how much trust one still has in a regime that has consistently lied about everything for six years.

General Pace himself says he was forced out when he refused to “take the issue off the table” by voluntarily retiring. Pace himself was sufficiently disturbed by his removal to strain his relations with the powers that be by not going quietly.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page interpreted Pace’s removal as indication that “the man running the Pentagon is Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. For that matter, is George W. Bush still President?”

General Retreat
The Wall Street Journal editorial writers’ attempt to portray Pace’s departure as evidence of a weak and appeasing administration does not ring true. An administration that escalates the war in Iraq in the face of public opposition and pushes ahead with its plan to attack Iran is not an appeasing administration. Whether it is the war or Attorney General Gonzales or the immigration bill or anything else, President Bush and his Republican stalwarts have told Congress and the American people that they donít care what Congress and the public think. Bush’s signing statements make it clear that he doesn’t even care about the laws that Congress writes.

A president audacious enough to continue an unpopular and pointless war in the face of public opinion and a lost election is a president who is not too frightened to reappoint a general. Why does Bush run from General Pace when he fervently supports embattled Attorney General Gonzales? What troops does Bush support? He supports his toadies.

There are, of course, other explanations for General Pace’s departure. The most disturbing of these explanations can be found in General Pace’s two statements at the beginning of this article.

In the first statement General Pace says that every member of the US military has the absolute responsibility to disobey illegal and immoral orders. In the second statement, General Pace says that an order to use weapons of mass destruction is an illegal and immoral order.

The context of General Pace’s second statement above (actually, the first statement in historical time) is his response to Blitzer’s question whether the invading US troops could be attacked with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But Paceís answer does not restrict illegal and immoral only to Iraqi use of WMD. It is a general statement. It applies to their use period.

On March 10, 2006, Jorge Hirsch made a case that use of nuclear weapons is both illegal and immoral.

Gen. Pace to Troops: Don’t Nuke Iran

Despite the illegality and immorality of first-use of nuclear weapons, the Bush Pentagon rewrote US war doctrine to permit their use regardless of their illegality and immorality. For a regime that not only believes that might is right but also that they have the might, law is what the regime says.

The revised war doctrine permits US first strike use of nuclear
weapons against non-nuclear countries. We need to ask ourselves why the Bush administration would blacken Americaís reputation and rekindle the nuclear arms race unless the administration had plans to apply its new war doctrine.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, a number of neoconservatives, prominent Jewish leaders such as Norman Podhoretz, and members of the Israeli government have called for a US attack on Iran. Most Republican presidential candidates have said that they would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iran.

Allegedly, the US Department of State is pursuing diplomacy with Iran, not war, but Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns gives the lie to that claim. On June 12 Burns claimed that Iran was not only arming insurgents in Iraq but also the Taliban in Afghanistan. Burnsí claims are, to put it mildly, controversial in the US intelligence community, and they are denied not only by Iran but also by our puppet government in Afghanistan. On June 14, Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak told the Associated Press that Burnsí claim has no credibility.

But, of course, none of the administrationís propagandistic claims that set the stage for the invasion of Iraq had any credibility either, and the lack of credibility did not prevent the claims from deceiving the Congress and the American people. As the US media now functions as the administration’s Ministry of Propaganda, the Bush regime believes that it can stampede Americans with lies into another war.

The Bush regime has concluded that a conventional attack on Iran would do no more than stir up a hornetís nest and release retaliatory actions that the US could not manage. The Bush regime is convinced that only nuclear weapons can bring the mullahs to heel.

The Bush regimeís plan to attack Iran with nuclear weapons puts General Pace’s departure in a different light. How can President Bush succeed with an order to attack with nuclear weapons when Americaís highest ranking military officer says that such an order is ìillegal and immoralî and that everyone in the military has an ìabsolute responsibilityî to disobey it?

An alternative explanation for Paceís departure is that Pace had to go so that malleable toadies can be installed in his place.

Paceís departure removes a known obstacle to a nuclear attack on Iran, thus advancing that possible course of action. A plan to attack Iran with nuclear weapons might also explain the otherwise inexplicable “National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive” NSPD-51 AND HSPD-20 that Bush issued on May 9. Bushís directive allows him to declare a “national emergency” on his authority alone without ratification by Congress. Once Bush declares a national emergency, he can take over all functions of government at every level, as well as private organizations and businesses, and remain in total control until he declares the emergency to be over.

Who among us would trust Bush, or any president, with this power?

What is the necessity of such a sweeping directive subject to no check or ratification?

What catastrophic emergency short of a massive attack on the US with nuclear ICBMs can possibly justify such a directive?

There is no obvious answer to the question. The federal governmentís inability to respond to Hurricane Katrina is hard evidence that centralizing power in one office is not the way to deal with catastrophes.

A speculative answer is that, with appropriate propaganda, the directive could be triggered by a US nuclear attack on Iran. The use of nuclear weapons arouses the ultimate fear. A US nuclear attack would send Russian and Chinese ICBMs into high alert. False flag operations could be staged in the US. The propagandistic US media would hype such developments to the hilt, portraying danger everywhere. Fear of the regimeís new detention centers would silence most voices of protest as the regime declares its ìnational emergency.î

This might sound like a far-out fiction novel, but it is a scenario that would explain the Bush regimeís disinterest in the shrinking Republican vote that foretells a massive Republican wipeout in the 2008 election. In a declared national emergency, there would be no election.

As implausible as this might sound to people who trust the government, be aware that despite his rhetoric, Bush has no respect for democracy. His neoconservative advisors have all been taught that it is their duty to circumvent democracy, as democracy does not produce the right decisions. Neoconservatives believe in rule by elites, and they regard themselves as the elite. The Bush regime decided that Americans would not agree to an invasion of Iraq unless they were deceived and tricked into it, and so we were.

Indeed, democracy is out of favor throughout the Western world. In the UK and Europe, peoples are being forced, despite their expressed opposition, into an EU identity that they reject. British PM Tony Blair and his European counterparts have decided on their own that the people do not know best and that the people will be ignored.

As former French PM Valery Giscard d’Estaing told the French newspaper, Le Monde, ìPublic opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly.î Giscard díEstaing is referring to the resurrection of the rejected EU constitution camouflaged as a treaty.

Giscard díEstaing acknowledges that 450 million Europeans are being hoodwinked. Why should Americans be surprised that they have been and are being hoodwinked?

Americans might have more awareness of their peril if they realized that their leaders no longer believe in democratic outcomes.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the
Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is the author of
Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington, Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economyand is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton ofThe Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.<