The Tulsa World reports today that Col. Robert P. “Powl” Smith, the chief of operations for the Standing Joint Force Headquarters, U.S. Northern Command, spoke in Tulsa, Oklahoma, yesterday about the Iraq war, advocating that the American public follow the President and stay in Iraq. “We’re there. We’re in the fight, and it’s one we can’t afford to lose. We can’t let the patient die,” Smith said.
While Smith — an active duty soldier — is certainly entitled to his opinions on the war, his choice of venue raises some concerns. Yesterday, he spoke at multiple events sponsored by the Tulsa County Republican Party:
Col. Robert P. “Powl” Smith, a Tulsa native, Iraq veteran and brother of former state Rep. Hopper Smith, will speak twice Tuesday about Iraq and the war on terrorism.
Smith will address the Tulsa County Republican Women at 11:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Select.
Smith will address the Tulsa Republican Assembly at 6 p.m. at Johnnie’s Charcoal Grill.
In September 2004, just before a major election and while serving in Baghdad, Smith wrote in the Weekly Standard that “we cannot now afford” to leave Iraq. Four weeks before the election, he penned another Weekly Standard column, arguing “the violence in Iraq has a purpose: to influence America’s presidential election“:
In the same way that al Qaeda changed the outcome of the Spanish elections last March with a single catastrophic bombing in Madrid, the enemies of a free Iraq are increasing the tempo of attacks in order to feed the media, and therefore the American people, a steady diet of blood and carnage in order to convince us that “it just isn’t worth it.”
Smith’s writing resembles that of Gen. Petraeus, who also penned an op-ed before the 2004 election that pushed a pro-war message. The case of Col. Smith begs the question: How many military officials are discreetly acting as partisan PR flacks for the Iraq war?