Iraq war supporters have repeatedly claimed that U.S. troops are harmed when Congress debates alternatives to the Bush administration’s failed policies in Iraq. “Think about the message we have sent them,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said recently. “We have undermined their efforts, lowered their morale, and clearly sent the wrong message.” Vice President Cheney said the war debate was “detrimental to our troops.”
Today, however, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, President Bush’s proposed “war czar,” disregarded these claims.
“I don’t believe it undercuts their morale,” Lute told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing. U.S. soldiers “understand the democratic process,” he said, “and, in fact, that’s what we’ve sworn to protect and defend.”
Lute is by no means alone in disagreeing with the administration’s rhetoric. In testimony before the House Armed services committee both Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace and Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed arguments similar to Lute’s:
Pace: As long as this Congress continues to do what it has done, which is to provide the resources for the mission, the dialogue will be the dialogue, and the troops will feel supported.
Gates: I think they’re [the troops are] sophisticated enough to understand that that’s what the debate’s really about.
Those who claim to be defending the morale of U.S. troops are really just using them to deflect substantive criticism of their own policies. Very courageous.
LEVIN: Do you believe, General, that the debate that we’ve had in the Congress on amendments that call for troop reductions starting at a certain point or — that those debates undermine the troops?
LUTE: Senator, I know of no evidence of that.
I believe the sort of people that are serving in American armed forces today understand the democratic process. And, in fact, that’s what we’ve sworn to protect and defend.
And when they see it play out here in Washington, they understand that. And they’re driving on with the mission they were given.
LEVIN: So is it your answer, then, you do not believe that…
LUTE: I don’t believe it undercuts their morale.
LEVIN: Thank you.