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George Bush and Lindsey Graham Push the Power of the President and Generals Over People and Troops
"How hard is it for you to conduct the war without popular support? Do you ever have trouble balancing between doing what you think is the right thing and following the will of the majority of the public, which is the essence of democracy?" asked Edwin Chen of Bloomberg.com at President Bush's press conference on July 11th.
Bush's answer clearly indicated that presidential power upholding the military as a critical constituency is actually above the American people. Bush sought to justify his Iraq War policy that has been conclusively repudiated by everyday citizens--in the November 2006 midterm elections, and, with increasing numbers, in public opinion polls.On Meet the Press on July 15th, Senator Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina said, ''We're not going to let politicians deploy troops based on the polling of the moment. I'm going to listen to this general, and I'm not going to let any politician take the place of the general."
The ever loquacious Graham appeared on Meet the Press with Senator Jim Webb (D), Virginia . Webb 's amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill was co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska and received 56 votes with 41 opposed. The Webb amendment said any armed services member deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan would have the same amount of time at home that they serve overseas before being redeployed. It also required that no troops, including those in reserve and National Guard units, could be redeployed to Iraq or Afghanistan within three years of their previous deployment. Graham led a filibuster to defeat this military family friendly amendment.
On the show Senator Webb voiced concern for the strain and hardships on the military members and families. He said the traditional operational policy has been that if you've been gone for a year, you get two years back. Webb contended, "We're now in a situation where the soldiers and the Marines are having less than a one to one ratio, and somebody needs to speak up for them, rather than simply defending what this president's been doing. You can look at poll after poll, and the political views of the United States military are no different than the country at large." Less than half of the military says we should still be in Iraq .
Graham , a military lawyer reservist who has visited Iraq seven times told Webb , "I think you're making a mistake for the ages." Webb replied, "You know, you go and see the dog and pony shows (in Iraq ). Why don't you go look at the polls, Lindsey , instead of the seven or eight people that are put in front of you?"
Graham placed his hand on Webb 's arm and said, "We both admire the men and the women in uniform."
"Don't put political words in their mouths," Webb interrupted. In his July 11th media conference, Bush attempted to dismiss widespread opposition to the wanton destruction of human life that defines the war in Iraq . There are millions of Americans who dislike the war, not because it has been mismanaged and may not "succeed", but because they were lied to about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, having ties to al-Queda and they deplore the unnecessary slaughter of US military personnel and innocent civilians.
Bush defended his Iraq policy by appealing to the military as opposed to the general population. "If our troops thought that I was taking a poll to decide how to conduct this war, they would be very concerned about the mission."
He continued, "sometimes you just have to make the decisions based on what you think is right. My most important job is to help secure this country, and therefore the decisions in Iraq are all aimed at helping do that job."
Every authoritarian measure is taken to ensure national security---the line used since 9/11 to diminish constitutionally protected democratic rights, to win the "war on terror." When Bush talks about the security interests of the US , he is really speaking of the geo-strategic interests of neo-cons and those who consider controlling the oil-rich Middle East to be central to those interests.
When Bush speaks of the military, he is not referring to ordinary soldiers or their families, who are generally no more supportive of the war in Iraq than the average American.
One of the grievances against King George III in the Declaration of Independence was: "He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power."
Bush insisted it was impossible to "let the Gallup poll or whatever polls there are decide the fate of the country" and "I just ask the American people to understand that the commander-in-chief must rely upon the wisdom and judgment of the military thinkers and planners."
Like Lindsey Graham , Bush declares that politicians cannot determine military policy-only generals can. Bush is a politician, and the top generals in charge of the military were chosen to carry out his policy. Bush has replaced or dismissed military officials when they disagreed with administration policy.
This thwarts the principle of civilian control of the military. According to Bush, the president is their "commander-in-chief," in the sense that he must do what the military wants. If the president determines the military brass does not want to obey the results of an election, then there is nothing that can be done. George Bush and Lindsey Graham put the power of the president and generals over people and troops.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, South Carolina www.turnipseed.net