Monday, June 14, 2004

The Latest Defections

As reported in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, "A group of 26 former senior diplomats and military officials, several appointed to key positions by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, plans to issue a joint statement this week arguing that President George W. Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November."

Although it is expected that Bush administration officials will try to cast the statement as partisan politics in an election year, "several on the group's list were appointed to their most important posts under Reagan and the elder Bush." In fact, "Many on the list have not been previously identified with any political cause or party. Several 'are the kind who have never spoken out before,' said James Daniel Phillips, former ambassador to Burundi and the Congo."

In terms of the breakdown of the group, who call themselves Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, 20 are "former U.S. ambassadors, appointed by presidents of both parties, to countries including Israel, the former Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia.

Others are senior State Department officials from the Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations and former military leaders, including retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East under President Bush's father. Hoar is a prominent critic of the war in Iraq."

Several members of the group have stated that they anticipate attacks on their character, credibility and political aspirations much the same way other non-partisan critics of the administration have encountered (such as Paul O'Neil, John DiIulio, Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson, General Shinseki, John Dean, General Zinni, etc.).

Still the group remains undaunted. Phyllis E. Oakley, the deputy State Department spokesman during Reagan's second term and an assistant secretary of state under Clinton, issued a preliminary statement claiming that, "Unfortunately the tough stands [Bush] has taken have made us less secure. He has neglected the war on terrorism for the war in Iraq. And while we agree that we are in unprecedented times and we face challenges we didn't even know about before, these challenges require the cooperation of other countries. We cannot do it by ourselves."

"Jack F. Matlock Jr., who was appointed by Reagan as ambassador to the Soviet Union and retained in the post by President Bush's father during the final years of the Cold War, expressed similar views.

'Ever since Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. has built up alliances in order to amplify its own power,' he said. 'But now we have alienated many of our closest allies, we have alienated their populations. We've all been increasingly appalled at how the relationships that we worked so hard to build up have simply been shattered by the current administration in the method it has gone about things.'"

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