Today, President Bush held a White House ceremony for the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The honor is the nation’s highest civil award, awarded to individuals who have contributed to: 1) the security or national interests of the United States, 2) world peace, or 3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
One of the recipients was former Rumsfeld yes-man ret. Gen. Peter Pace, who served as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman between 2005 and 2007. From Bush’s tribute to Pace:
As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pete Pace was a skilled and trusted adviser in a time of war. He helped transform our military into a more efficient and effective force in America’s defense. […]
Gen. Pace ended his military career the same way that he began. With love for his country and devotion to his fellow Marines.
Not once during his statement did Bush mention the Iraq war. Watch it:
Pace, in fact, left his position under controversy and disgrace. Defense Secretary Robert Gates effectively forced Pace into retirement last year because the administration wanted to avoid “contentious” Senate hearings over the Iraq war. He was the shortest-serving Joint Chiefs chairman since Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor in 1964, who stepped down during the early years of the Vietnam War.
While serving as Joint Chiefs chairman, Pace consistently defended the Bush administration’s failed policies, claiming that Rumsfeld “leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country.” In 2007, he defended the military’s ban on gays serving openly in the military, stating, “I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral.”
As a Medal of Freedom recipient, Pace joins some all-star Iraq war players, including George Tenet, Paul Bremer, and Gen. Tommy Franks.
BUSH: One of my great privileges as president is to meet so many outstanding Americans who volunteer to serve in uniform. I have been inspired by valour, selflessness, and complete integrity. We found all these qualities in abundance in Gen. Pete Pace.
As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pete Pace was a skilled and trusted adviser in a time of war. He helped transform our military into a more efficient and effective force in America’s defense. Gen. Pace experienced the blessing America offers at an early age. He was born in Brooklyn to an Italian immigrant father who sometimes worked two or three jobs at a time to make ends meet. He was raised by a mom who instilled in him the sustaining power of faith.
Together his parents raised four children. Each went on to great achievements in their chosen fields. At childhood, gave an early glimpse of what he would call “the incredible benefits that our nation bestows on those who come to our shores.” Pete Pace attended the Naval Academy and as a young Marine, soon found his way to Vietnam. At the age of 22, he took command of a platoon engaged in heavy fighting against the enemy during the Tet Offensive. He quickly won respect and the trust of his unit and formed a bond for all those who served with him. That bond only strengthened throughout his military career.
He was the first Marine to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he performed duties with a keen intellect and sharp wit and a passionate devotion to our country. He won the admiration of all who knew him and that includes a soldier in Afghanistan who came up to Gen. Pace last year during his farewell visit to that country and who said simply, “Thanks for your service. We will take it from here.” On his final day in uniform, Gen. Pace took a quiet journey to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.
He searched the names engraved in the sleek granite and then found a spot where he placed his four stars that adorned his uniform. Along with those stars, he attached notes addressed to the men who died under his first command some four decades ago. The note said, “These are yours, not mine. With love and respect, your platoon leader, Pete Pace.”
Gen. Pace ended his military career the same way that he began. With love for his country and devotion to his fellow Marines. For his selfless service to his country and for always putting the interests of men and women in uniform first, I am proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gen. Pete Pace.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has come out with a statement criticizing the award, stating, “Honoring General Pace with the country’s highest civil award is outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops currently serving on active duty in the armed forces.”
Another recipient was Laurence H. Silberman. I guess that was a reward for the fine whitewashing job he did when he headed the WMD Study Commission. If you recall, the Commission concluded that:
‘the Intelligence Community was “dead wrong” in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and that this constituted a major intelligence failure’