US Army Colonel (retired) Larry Wilkerson’s story has two important elements for Americans concerned about Christian morality – or the lack thereof – in the White House: first, his obvious credibility, and second, his very serious criticisms of the Bush Administration (of which he was a high-ranking member). (The following information and quotes are taken from a recent Washington Post article – an article that will encourage you about the excellent quality of some people in public life.)
I. Wilkerson Has Very High Credibility
A. He served with high courage.
The Swift Boat Liars don’t need to try to argue that he was never wounded. He knows that. But it wasn’t for lack of exposure – as a helicopter pilot for a year in Vietnam. From the Post article:
“We got shot at nearly every day,” he says … a sniper’s bullet pierced the helicopter’s cockpit plexiglass, but he was never wounded or shot down. “My men used to call me the Teflon guy … I flew about 1,100 combat hours, which is a lot of hours.”
(Predictable aside on hawks like Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz. “None of these guys ever heard a bullet go by their ears in combat.”)
It is important to realize how very, very many top Republican officials (including the President and Vice President) never served their country in combat. And it shows.
B. He served with extraordinary competence and earned high praise.
We must admit that this matters! The moral criteria we are looking for in critics – or approvers – of White House policy is NOT whether they say what the White House wants said. A much better standard would be what the true opinion of a man has been among those who have had to work closely with him over the years. This guy passes that test easily.
“He’s the most competent Army officer I’ve ever worked with,” says retired Lt. Gen. James W. Crysel, one of Wilkerson’s bosses at Pacific Command. “He could run a large corporation.”
Retired Rear Adm. Steward A. Ring, whom Wilkerson served for three years, is similarly effusive. “He is the most principled individual I have ever met and ever worked with. He is a remarkable guy with essentially no ego. He stands up for what he thinks is right – not for Larry Wilkerson, but for what is right.”
That is high virtue, and way too rare. In the best of times – which have occurred occasionally throughout history – such virtue has been more common. We really need it!
Wilkerson worked very closely with Colin Powell for 16 years – when Powell was a General in the Army (including in the first Gulf War) and when Powell was Secretary of State under George W. Bush.
This guy really does have credibility – so this next part is very much worth taking seriously.
II. Wilkerson Has Very Blunt Things to Say About This Administration
Here are just a few quotes from the Post article. Many of them are also available from a number of other sources. I’m leaving out other aspects that are touched on in the article to avoid quoting the whole thing!
“My wife would probably shoot me if I headed to the ballot box with a Republican vote again,” he says. “This is not a Republican administration, not in my view. This is a radical administration.”
Wilkerson calls Bush an unsophisticated leader who has been easily swayed by “messianic” neoconservatives and power-hungry, secretive schemers in the administration. In a landmark speech in October, Wilkerson said: “What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.“
“Cabal” means “a conspiratorial group … a secret plot.”
Here’s Powell’s response to that (from a BBC interview):
“I wouldn’t characterize it the way Larry has, calling it a cabal,” Powell said. “Now what Larry is suggesting in his comments is that very often maybe Mr. Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney would take decisions in to the president that the rest of us weren’t aware of. That did happen, on a number of occasions.”
Wilkerson has a lot of knowledge of history, and very much so of the history of US military and government in the last 50 years.
As for the invasion of Iraq? A blunder of historic proportions, he believes.
This is really a very inept administration,” says Wilkerson, who has credentials not only as an insider in the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II presidencies but also as a former professor at two of the nation’s war colleges. “As a teacher who’s studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I’ve seen in 50-plus years. You’ve got to go back and think about that. That includes the Bay of Pigs, that includes — oh my God, Vietnam. That includes Iran-contra, Watergate.”
Such a critique, coming from a man who was long thought to speak for Powell, is seismic in Washington power circles.
He “is prepared to entertain the idea” that the Administration deliberately misled and misused his boss Colin Powell.
Wilkerson went so far as to draft a letter of resignation to Bush. He never sent it and now wonders whether he should have come out guns blazing before the 2004 election. But becoming a vocal political defector in Washington can mean lonely exile, a loss of stature and income.
“I know it’s very hard to put kids, job security and all that sort of stuff aside. I think that’s the answer to why more people don’t speak out.”
And, of course, he’s worried about the Army itself.
By early 2004, it was clear to Wilkerson that the Pentagon’s failure to prepare for the war’s aftermath … had led to mounting deaths and injuries for U.S. ground troops. Nor was there, in Wilkerson’s view, any thought given to future replenishment of the Army and Marine combat troops as the insurgency continued.
“Larry Wilkerson is a man of the Army in the finest sense,” says [a former assistant secretary of state]. “He cares deeply about the U.S. Army . . . and he hates to see this institution badly damaged, and he believes it has been badly damaged.”
… He came to see Powell as the administration’s lone voice of reason — but Powell was being shut out.
“Combine the detainee abuse issue with the ineptitude of post-invasion planning for Iraq, wrap both in this blanket of secretive decision-making . . . and you get the overall reason for my speaking out,” Wilkerson says.
Link to the article.