In an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post, Rep. John Murtha notes the "astonishing and unprecedented parade of retired US generals calling for a new direction in Iraq."
But last week in Britain it was an active general – and the new head of the Army at that – who joined the growing chorus of military officers criticizing the war in Iraq. Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt said that British troops should leave Iraq "sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems." And in a stinging indictment of the Bush and Blair administrations, he went on to say, "I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war-fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning."
Dannatt characterized his comments this way: "Honesty is what it is about. The truth will out. We have got to speak the truth. Leaking and spinning, at the end of the day, are not helpful."
The response from British troops to this unprecedented candor was swift and positive. According to The Independent "… there was widespread backing across the Army… as soldiers of every rank praised General Dannatt for standing up to the government." One senior officer said, "It has been decades since someone senior actually stood up for us, the soldiers and their families." The Sunday Times estimated that 90 percent of the British Army supported the general's comments. And Colonel Tim Collins, "one of the most senior British Army officers in Iraq in 2003," said that Dannatt's statements were a "refreshing and very honest insight into what the army generally feels."
However, after "a flurry of phone calls" with Prime Minister Tony Blair's office, Dannatt seemed to backtrack. "When the job is done we will go, and I hope that will be sometime soon." He emphasized standing "shoulder to shoulder with the Americans." But Dannatt had it right at first – prior to backing down under political pressure. And those initial uncensored comments by Britain's top general will help achieve exactly what he had envisioned: "The truth will out."