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Generals' Revolt Threatens Obama Presidency

By Dave Lindorff

If an article by Gareth Porter in run by InterPress is correct that CentCom Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq Commander Gen. Ray Odierno, backed by a group of lower-ranking generals, are planning to mount a public campaign to try and undermine President Obama’s plan for a withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months, Obama needs to act fast and nip this dangerous act of insubordination in the bud.

It was a similar act of insubordination on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that effectively destroyed the Clinton administration almost from day one. Recall that one of President Clinton’s first acts following his inauguration was to make good on a campaign promise to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military. His initial order was to simply end the ban on homosexuality in the military. But the Joint Chiefs publicly rebelled, and Clinton caved, coming up with the ridiculous and unworkable “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, under which gays and lesbians could serve in the military, but had to hide their sexual orientation or face ouster.

When Clinton, as commander in chief of the armed forces, allowed his generals to defy his orders, and, instead of sacking them all for insubordination and stripping off their stars, left them in their offices and surrendered to their objections, he didn’t just cave in to the military. He also alerted the Republican opposition that he was a political pushover.

Obama, on a much more serious issue—the conduct of and termination of a war—is now apparently being more or less openly defied by his top generals, who after all get their glory and power by having troops in battle, and who are also worried that a collapse of the puppet regime in Iraq could leave them looking like losers. They are thus opposing a pullout from Iraq (and a hardly precipitous one at that!) out of self-interest and self-preservation.

If Commander in Chief Obama allows this insubordination and political opposition to exist among his senior generals, his presidency is toast. He will be a prisoner to a militarist policy in Iraq and Afghanistan that will drag down his presidency in the same way that Lyndon Johnson’s presidency was destroyed by the generals running the Vietnam War. Furthermore, just as Republicans in Congress saw Clinton’s weakness in his dealings with the Joint Chiefs and began dogging his every move, they, and Obama’s opponents among the Blue Dog Democrats in Congress, will see weakness and move against him.

There is only one answer to this challenge to presidential authority: President Obama must sack both Petraeus and Odierno, and any other general who tries—openly or behind the scenes--to move politically against his military strategy and orders. The model for this action is President Harry Truman—widely viewed, whatever his faults, as a forceful leader—who fired the popular Gen. Douglas McArthur when McArthur went behind his back to Republicans in Congress to push for a wider war in Korea.

This is not just a matter of salvaging an Obama presidency. It is also a profound constitutional issue. There is no greater threat to democratic freedom than a military that refuses to accept, or that actively works to undermine civilian authority. Generals and admirals certainly have a right to object to the decisions made by their commander in chief, but they cannot act in defiance or those decisions while in uniform. Admiral William Fallon took the right course of action. Opposed to Bush/Cheney administration plans to attack Iran, he chose to resign his post as CentCom Commander and to resign from the military. If Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Odierno oppose Obama’s plan for a pullout from Iraq, they should do the same and then speak out if they wish.

For the past eight years, the biggest threat to American democracy was that a president and vice president attempted to convert the office of president into a military dictatorship, with the position of commander in chief subsuming and replacing the position of president. Now the danger is that the nation’s top generals are trying to eliminate or emasculate the president’s role as commander in chief, making the generals the leaders of the nation’s military. Both dangers are equally threatening to constitutional government.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at

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to Gen. Petraeus. He told Petraeus that he wasn't talking to President Bush. I got this info second-handed from a good source ... my wife. Joe S. was up in arms. Myself, I do not watch tv and expected to see this story on the internet by now.


just like Westmoreland and McArthur before him. A great purging of the top brass is in order. If they are incapable of taking commands from the new leader, then better them thrown to the wolves. We are at wars, and this is smacking of treason. How dare them!
Two can play at this game...

Thank God for real Americans in the US Military. We have Adm. Fallon to thank for giving Petraeus all the respect due him when he referred to Petraeus as that "ASS-KISSING LITTLE CHICKEN SHIT"!

Scarborough's "protection" of Petraeus is a joke. Everybody knows both of these AK's are ravenous politically. Scarborough once "served" in Congress and Petraeus' political ambitions have been well chronicled on this as well as many other internet sites.

Last I understood, the President is the, now stand back Repukes, you included Joe, COMMANDER AND CHIEF! Petraeus takes orders from the COMMANDER AND CHIEF! It's not the other way around. If Petraeus and fellow officers wish to disobey the orders and directions of the COMMANDER AND CHIEF, then the only course left to the COMMANDER AND CHIEF is to relieve these insubordinate officers and replace them with officers who will carry out his orders and directions.

Repukers, Bush/Cheney, certainly had no trouble relieving Fallon, Shinsecki and others of their commands when they offered advice and suggested actions which did not fit into the imperial desires of the leaders of the "Fourth Reich".

Fire all their asses! They all should have been swept out the minute the President took the oath of office. Really, they all shouyld have resigned as soon as it became official that the election had been won by the new President. Imperialists are obviously hard losers.


Eisenhower, a retired General, refrained from returning salutes from military personnel after he became President because he wanted it demonstrated that in America the military is subservient to a civilian.

By re-instituting Ike's policy Obama would be reminding the Generals and the rest of us that the military is sub-servient.

Now that you mention it. It would send a message who the real boss is... US.

It would be more interesting planning a war than planning clean-up? Sooner or later we have to face the music. Iraq is a failure. It did not turn out the way the neo-cons expected. They will have to live with it. The best scenario will be leaving in 16 months.


and that's why the neocon led military is stuck with their pants around their ankles. It's all about the toys. We have an ungodly amount of support, logistics and tactical gear there and if Barack had started withdrawing from Iraq the day he took office, it'd take three years to get all of our stuff out of the country. Water trucks, generators, portable housing units, and the list goes on for miles. I'm sure all the vendors who were selling this stuff to the Pentagon are pissed too (being that everyone bought Karl Rove's permanent GOP delusions). KBR and the other insider/no bid contractors haven't locked all the businesses up, either, and there's the little matter of maintaining the (bigger than the Vatican) Embassy, and how they're not going to be able to use it as a launching pad for expansive war mongering in the region. Barack pretty much pissed in their Wheaties and that's why they're dragging their feet getting out of there. It's a fact the military doesn't want to draw down (per the SOFA terms), that's why they wanted to reclassify combat soldiers.
It all goes back to investigating Bush Crime/War Inc. If his legacy is repudiated, then the war in Iraq will be seen as illegal and all bets should be off as far as the crooked vendors and no bid contractors monies owed by the U.S. In other words, stick the companies that supplied all the toys for Bush's invasion and occupation. Making these companies absorb their losses is just a nice dream, but bringing Bush down is not. I don't waste my time on futile attempts and it's only impossible if you quit. I'm far from quitting or as John Paul Jones said "I have yet begun to fight!".

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