Two weeks ago Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey waded into the 2012 political campaign by criticizing a ad run by a Super PAC composed of former Special Operations veterans opposing the re-election of Barack Obama.
At the time, General Dempsey made this statement as reported in The Hill:
“If someone uses the uniform, whatever uniform, for partisan politics, I am disappointed because I think it does erode that bond of trust we have with the American people,” Dempsey said during his flight back from a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq.
In my view this is one of the most absurd utterances ever by a serving general officer. Veterans are just that, veterans. They are no longer subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice or to command authority. Expecting veterans to set aside their political rights forever because the “aren't helpful”, to use Dempsey's phrasing, simply runs against American history.
At the time I noted that Dempsey had made no effort to criticize hard left groups like VoteVets or IAVA. He didn't mention political hacks like Tammy Duckworth who have built a career around wounds received in combat.
Now we have an additional data point.
A featured speaker the Democrat convention was retired Admiral John Nathman. Unlike the mid-level veterans associated with the ad that got General Dempsey exercised, Nathman retired as commander of US Fleet Forces Command. Why was Nathman and the other veterans on stage? The answer is obvious, he was there to try to convince us that the pantywaist in the White House is one tough hombre who will make that “gutsy call” (don't believe me, go to http://www.gutsycall.com).
I waited in vain for General Dempsey to protest this “use of the uniform for partisan politics”. Unfortunately, it seems that General Dempsey only objects to veterans having a political voice when they are “not helpful”. In other words he objects to veterans that oppose Obama's re-election but not to those who support it.
What we are seeing here is that the nation's senior military leadership has been deeply and seriously co-opted and compromised. And the reason is completely understandable. The military leadership has been told, in essence, “that's a mighty nice military you got there, it would be a shame if anything happened to it.” The military is facing huge cuts under the best of conditions and Dempsey and his compatriots have either been told, or decided on their own, that having veterans oppose Obama's re-election is "not helpful" and maybe even detrimental to those future budget discussions.
As a result, General Dempsey has done what has never before been done by a serving general officer. He has entered a re-election campaign on behalf of a candidate. The fact that he hasn't objected to anyone other than anti-Obama veterans speaking out demonstrates the duplicity of his position and does more damage to the concept of an apolitical military than any advertisement run by veterans.