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JOHN WALLACE: Robert Gates did disservice to President Obama with his book

GUEST COMMENTARY: war in Iraq was one that did not have to be fought

John Wallace

John Wallace

With the release of retired Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s book “Duty,” the pundits have focused on the critical assessment of the confusing Obama-Gates relationship. At times, there appears to be almost no disagreement that they agreed 99 percent percent of the time and Secretary Gates admired his commander in chief.

Secretary Gates thought the president may have accelerated the end of the Iraq War for political reasons. President Obama said he would get us out if he was elected. I’m pretty sure that the secretary of defense is supposed to advise his commander, then the commander makes a command decision and they all work together to accomplish that goal. The president wanted out and the military commanders wanted to stay and finish the war. The secretary is supposed to support his commander before his subordinates. The secretary felt that the White House staff was undermining his military. It was his job to make sure they were all on the same page.

Secretary Gates has already denied the misrepresentations about his book. Who are we going to believe about the misrepresentations — the guy who wrote the book or the guys that read the book? He said the president sent in a surge of troops, but later thought it was not working. Secretary Gates said the president did not have a passion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and seemed more focused on domestic problems. What, like the worst depression this country had seen since the ’30s, rising unemployment and a spiraling deficit left to him by his predecessor? Excuse him for not concentrating on the wars. But it is not unreasonable that the war was the Alpha and the Omega for the secretary of defense.

Let us remember we did not have to fight this war. We went in under false assumptions and when we discovered that we were wrong, we stayed anyway. History will show that 4,486 Americans died as a result of faulty intelligence, allegedly. A total of over 110,000 people died as a result of that invasion, including over 26,000 of the enemy. And at least 84,000 non-combatants. Not including lives lost, the cost to the American taxpayer was estimated to be between $1.9 trillion to $3 trillion. The real question is why it took so long to get out once we knew they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Remember, Secretary Colin Powell said, “It’s the pottery barn rule: You break it, you have to buy it.”

We did stay and try to fix it, but all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Iraq back together again. Despite six years of training, the Iraqi armies were unable to stand up one unit of competent soldiers. How long were we planning to stay and protect the country that we broke? President Obama said he would get us out and he did.

I have no problem with going to war in Afghanistan, although I think we made our point a long time ago. I am in favor of drone bombing anything that looks like a terrorist until the people of Afghanistan stop giving aid and comfort to our enemies. I feel for the innocent men, women and children who get killed in collateral damage, but if you let them hide in your house, church, school or hospital, well, the friend of my enemy is my enemy. Terrorists understand terror. It is the only effective way to fight terrorists.

I feel that way about Pakistan, where I think, our friends, the Pakistani government, had to have known where Osama bin Laden was hiding. That whole town should disappear from the face of the earth. But that is not how the leader of the free world operates. Nor should he. A good leader sets the example.

I applaud President Obama for ending the Iraq War. Let us not forget we were on the verge of leaving troops for support and the Iraqis wanted more money and refused to accept any of the conditions we needed to justify staying. Like they were doing us a favor by letting us stay. So, we picked up our football and went home. Now they are killing each other instead of us. Insha’Allah. As Allah wills it, it shall be done.

I think Secretary Gates did a disservice to his office and his president by publishing this book while the president was still in office. He has served under enough presidents that he must know he cannot begin to understand what it is like to make those decisions. Only other presidents understand.

John Wallace lives in Leesburg and works at the post office.