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View Diary: Too Damned Little, Too Damned Late (369 comments)

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  •  I'll agree with you tazz (1+ / 0-)
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    I'm a navy vet.  Never saw combat.  And I'd agree that when you call someone a coward, you're really putting the knife in deep.  

    A coward is someone who lacks courage, or someone whose courage fails them at a critical time.  The word courage in old English was a synonym for heart.  

    Powell did two tours of Vietnam.  His first tour was in 1962. Earned a Purple Heart.  For that, I count him no more a coward than John Kerry, for example.  Both served their country honorably and heroically.  

    Thereafter, his career followed a trajectory that is not uncommon for general officers.  He was dutiful, loyal, and did not rock the boat.  He was highly competent in the performance of his duties, and made grade with regularity.  

    The Powell problem, however, is one that many officers face during their career.  To what or whom, precisely, is one loyal?  To the constitution?  To superior officers?  To your men?  To your career?  And what of your own conscience?  More than once did a superior officer express to me a profound disagreement with a general order, but carried it out anyway.  To be a soldier, one must defer your own judgment to others and quell the rumblings of your conscience.   Always assume your superiors know better.  

    Recently, Col. Paul Yingling wrote a widely discussed article in Armed Forces Journal titled "A Failure in Generalship," which partly address the "don't rock the boat" ethic in the upper ranks.    Yingling writes that the failure of general officers to voice dissent on Iraq policy, both pre-and post-invasion, represents and abdication of their responsibilities to their commander-in-chief, the men who serve under them, and to all Americans.  Col. Yingling argues that generals do indeed have an obligation to rock the boat when they forsee catastophe in the making.  

    The military environment makes dissent difficult.  Within the Bush administration, even at cabinent level, dissent is made all the more undesirable, given the vengeful nature of the Vice President and those of his ilk.  Nonetheless, if loyalty to the nation, the men in the armed forces, and the American people is
    paramount, you must dissent.  But of course, you must also be prepared to pay the consequences.  

    Yingling's article implies that generals such as Casey, Pace, and even Petraeus have served their careers well, but not the nation, with their silent assent to Iraq policy.  Others, such as Shinseki, have had their careers ended abruptly by speaking their conscience.  But generals are human, and to be be a good general, you must be a good human.  You must have integrity and courage.  

    Powell's courage failed him at a time critical for our nation.  As so many have pointed out, he could have done much to prevent the rush to war.  Did his loyalty to Bush, or perhaps his career, outweigh his obligation to speak his conscience?  I don't know.  What I do know is that even brave men can lose their way, can have a lapse of courage.

    Powell is not a coward.  But he did not present a courageous profile in the runup to the invasion.  Very few did.  I think there are many past and present members of this administration who are going to rue their association with this gang of thugs who purport to be running our country.  I hope they can atone for what they have done--or failed to do--by becoming more forceful advocates for honest and open government, thoughtful  policymaking, and loyalty above all to the Constitution they have sworm to protect and defend.  

    I'll give Powell a chance to atone before I pass judgement.  As for Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld,  and all their henchmen, I would say the same, except I don't think they have the conscience Powell has.    

    •  With all due respect (4+ / 0-)
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      Sparhawk, lotlizard, naltikriti, carolita

      A coward is someone who lacks courage, or someone whose courage fails them at a critical time.

      IMO, the UN speech was just one "critical time".

      My husband served three tours in VN, saw/did ugly, ugly sh.., and "coward" is one of the nicest things he's got to say about Powell.

      The lack of moral character is astounding.

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