With everybody focusing on John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it takes a special effort to remember the Bush-Cheney duo. This service is being provided by Admiral William Fallon, with his forced resignation as head of the U.S. Central Command overseeing Middle East operations.
On the agenda are inseparable issues: Iran; the relationship between the political and military echelons; the elections; the candidates as commanders-in-chief; recommendations of retired military people, and the unexpected - terror strikes or war - before November. If not for this mixture, Bush would have no difficulty holding back after an article in Esquire presented Fallon as single-handedly stopping a Bush-Cheney assault on Iran. Quotes from Fallon, as opposed to the impressions of the writer, which were based on his time spent with Fallon for several weeks, from Cairo to Kabul, said nothing new. As opposed to president Jimmy Carter's secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, who opposed the operation to rescue the hostages in the U.S. Embassy in Iran in April 1980 to the point of resigning in protest, Fallon did not threaten to quit nor did he refuse an order. He even said that if war broke out with Iran, the Iranians would be crushed like ants. It is all a matter of timing. If Fallon's statements had been published six months ago, or six months from now, they would raise no more than a yawn. But this week they were the straw that broke the camel's back.
The closer their political time comes to running out, the more opposition to Bush and Cheney's hostile policies toward Iran they encounter within their own security establishment. A particularly harsh blow was delivered four months ago by retired admiral Mike McConnell, whom Bush appointed director of National Intelligence, with the release of the benign report on Iran's nuclear program.
Fallon, who enjoyed the role of the voice of wisdom and dialogue in contrast to Bush and Cheney's saber-rattling, was one admiral too many. Maybe he forgot how Cheney, secretary of defense in Bush senior's cabinet, harshly berated Air Force Commander Larry Welch, who had lobbied Congress for increased budgets in rebellion against the Pentagon's priorities. Cheney subsequently fired Welch's successor, Michael Dugan; Dugan's Esquire was the Washington Post, and the issue was not Iran, but Iraq. The penalty was the same.
Just last week, Fallon testified before Congress about Iran and its damaging activities in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza. The words were belligerent Bush style, but it was Fallon's placatory music, because the dispute is not about the diagnosis, but rather the treatment.
Fallon also fell out with his subordinate, General David Petraeus, the commander of the forces in Iraq, and Petraeus, who turned failure into success, however relative, is the darling of Bush and McCain.
Whoever falls out with them is seen as indirectly assisting the Democrats. The Democrats are happy to lean on him, but in line for practical politics as a senior retired officer is General Wesley Clark, who wanted to run but failed and became a Clinton supporter.
Mary Fallon, the admiral's wife, wrote recently to friends in Israel that Bill is very, very busy, but who knows, they may see each other at their ranch in Montana. They may indeed have more time on their hands.
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