Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Joe Galloway is Retiring

Joe Galloway, Nearing Retirement, Hits Rumsfeld in E-mails

A series of combative and revealing emails between Galloway and chief Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita concerning Donald Rumsfeld’s management of the military and the Iraq war have surfaced which cut to the heart of the country’s current trauma. Retired General Barry McCaffery, a familiar figure nowadays as a cable news commentator, urged Galloway to release the emails, calling them “the most powerful stuff hands down I have ever read about this war. ...this exchange ought to be your going away gift to the capital.”

It all began on April 26, with a typically toughminded Galloway column. It profiled retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who commanded both the Marine War College at Quantico, Va., and the National War College in Washington before retiring in 1997. Galloway recalled that Van Riper had told an interviewer in October 2004 that the military got the lessons all wrong after World War II and that mistake resulted in two disasters -- Korea and Vietnam.

"My great fear is we're off to something very similar to what happened after World War II, that is getting it completely wrong again," Van Riper said of Iraq. But Van Riper saved his strongest criticism for the Pentagon boss. "Mr. Rumsfeld has failed 360 degrees in the job. He is incompetent," Van Riper concluded. "Any military man who made the mistakes he has made, tactically and strategically, would be relieved on the spot."

Two days later, Rumsfeld's top spokesman, DiRita, fired off a reply to his friend Galloway (original spelling and typography retained in all emails that follow): “Let's at least be honest about this: there is a lot of change taking place, and that change forces people to re-examine the way we have always done things,” he wrote. “That is bumpy, and that can make people anxious. ... Van Riper has never even met the secretary to my knowledge. For him to make such sweeping comments as he did in your piece is just irresponsible.

“You're just becoming a johnny one-note and it's only a couple of steps from that to curmudgeon!!”

-- Galloway replied in an email: “i've always understood that the guy in charge takes the fall for everything that goes wrong on his watch. this is why the u.s. navy courtmartials the captain of any ship that is involved in an accident or is sunk for whatever reason….Last I knew Mr. Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense. He has the ultimate responsibility….”

"there are many things we all could wish had happened. i can wish that your boss had surrounded himself with close advisers who had, once at least, held a dying boy in their arms and watched the life run out of his eyes while they lied to him and told him, over and over, ‘You are going to be all right. Hang on! Help is coming. Don't quit now...’ Such men in place of those who had never known service or combat or the true cost of war, and who pays that price, and had never sent their children off to do that hard and unending duty.

“i could wish for so much. i could wish that in january of this year i had not stood in a garbage-strewn pit, in deep mud, and watched soldiers tear apart the wreckage of a kiowa warrior shot down just minutes before and tenderly remove the barely alive body of WO Kyle Jackson and the lifeless body of his fellow pilot. they died flying overhead cover for a little three-vehicle Stryker patrol with which i was riding at the time. i could wish that Jackson's widow Betsy had not found, among the possessions of her late husband, a copy of my book, carefully earmarked at a chapter titled Brave Aviators, which Kyle was reading at the time of his death. That she had not enclosed a photo of her husband, herself and a 3 year old baby girl.

“those things i received in the mail yesterday and they brought back the tears that i wept standing there in that pit, feeling the same shards in my heart that i felt the first time i looked into the face of a fallen american soldier 41 years ago on a barren hill in Quang Ngai Province in another time, another war. someone once asked me if i had learned anything from going to war so many times. my reply: yes, i learned how to cry.”

“you can sit there all day telling me that pigs can fly, with or without lipstick, and i am not going to believe it. seemingly the reverse is also true. one of us is dead wrong and i have a good hunch that it would be you. you go flying blind through that forest and you are going to find those trees for sure.

There's a video of an ambush in the Washington Post, raw video of an attack on a convoy that Post Reporter Nelson Hernandez was traveling with in Iraq. The convoy had just delivered new water trucks to the water agency in Baghdad when they came under attack by insurgents. They were ambushed after they had made their delivery.

Ambushed at the point of successful delivery!

At the very place where, finally, they should have been safe!

They're celebrating again at the White House. The Taliban is back in southern Afghanistan, Bin Laden's still free, the insurgents are stronger in Iraq, but, American journalists hardly ever leave the Green Zone. Fewer and fewer, of these pictures will be taken. Fewer of those will make the evening news. For an administration in love with secrecy that's probably reason enough to celebrate.

con·cept: Joe Galloway is Retiring