General Fuller's Career-Ending Message for Americans
One of America's top generals in Afghanistan was fired last Friday for making "inappropriate public remarks."
Major General Peter Fuller's career-destroying offense was to publicly criticize Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for saying during an October 22nd interview with Pakistani news media that if the U.S. and Pakistan got into a war, he and Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in fighting against the United States. The general's critical comments were made during an interview Thursday with the left-leaning news website Politico.
"Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle? You've got to be kidding me. ... I'm sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion, and now you're telling me, 'I don't really care?' " Fuller said.
General Fuller also referred to Karzai's being "erratic," expressed hope that Afghanistan's next leader will be more "articulate," said he thought Afghan government leaders are "isolated from reality" in their expectations of what America should expend in that country, and said those Afghan leaders "don't appreciate" the sacrifice that the United States is making in "blood and treasure" for the people of their country.
The general could have -- but didn't -- mention that Karzai is forever demanding apologies from us; that he has referred to the U.S. and other foreign soldiers protecting him and his country as "occupiers;" that he has publicly threatened to join the Taliban; that he now and then demands our "immediate" withdrawal; that his is a highly corrupt operation; that he is scheming to dismantle his country's constitution to perpetuate himself in power; that when an October 29th Taliban suicide bombing attack against a NATO bus in Kabul resulted in the deaths of some thirteen persons, most of them Americans, Karzai again insulted us by expressed condolences only for the four who were Afghans; and that it took our leaning on him to extract belated inclusion of the Americans and others.
The elite media is treating as a fairly big story General Fuller's being fired for saying what he said in public. Fair enough. But what the elite media have been missing and continue to miss -- and likely will keep right on missing -- is the bigger story of the bigger picture here.
Everything General Fuller said that got him fired is true and needs to be understood by the public and by the media. Bear in mind that General Fuller, a man who has served our country as a U.S. Army officer for more than 30 years, was the deputy commander charged with turning Afghan's military into an effective fighting force. Knowing this, there is something lacking in anyone's sense of patriotism who does not understand and share the general's annoyance and frustration about Karzai's revealing that he would have no qualms about ordering Afghan soldiers trained by Americans to fight and kill Americans.
And yet...it is not the place of General Fuller to presume without authorization to make and conduct U.S. foreign policy. Clearly he crossed the line. Thus, it is beside the point and matters not one bit that what he said in public is true and very likely echoes what the superior officer who fired him and just about every other American military official in Afghanistan says in private.
We can expect that most of the debate about the firing of General Fuller will center on the point just made and answered. Big mistake.
The firing of General Fuller raises a much larger unanswered question, the question that should have been raised and discussed in the media all along from the very moment that Hamid Karzai publicly made his inappropriate, insulting remarks at which General Fuller and every other clear thinking American rightly takes great offense: what should U.S. leaders say and do when a foreign leader who owes his country's freedom, and perhaps even his own life, to American goodness acts towards America as one would act towards an enemy?
This bigger question remains unanswered in the public mind -- because the media does not discuss it, does not bother to put the question to those who should be made to answer it.
What did the president of the United States say or do about Karzai's volunteering a promise to fight against us? No one seems to have any idea. A good guess is that Barack Obama either went golfing or went fundraising, but that's only a guess. Did Obama issue a statement expressing his displeasure and calling upon Karzai to apologize and retract? No. Did the media ask him why not? No.
What did the Obama administration's secretary of state say or do? Hillary Clinton says she promptly called the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and asked him to "go in and figure out what it means," "it" being these words uttered by Karzai on Pakistani media: "If fighting starts between Pakistan and the U.S., we are beside Pakistan."
Now, most people would take Karzai's statement as unequivocally declaring which side he would take in a war between America and Pakistan -- and that it would be against us. Pakistan's double-dealing government understood it -- and loved it.
But when the president of the United States is so weak, apparently his secretary of state felt that the best course was to try to protect him from embarrassing himself yet another time. So Secretary Clinton covered for Karzai, claiming that his remarks were "taken out of context and misunderstood." She gets it that what nowadays passes for journalism is not likely to run interference against a Democratic administration's attempt to hoodwink the American people.
What never got properly reported -- because the media never pressed the matter -- is that the Obama State Department contends that Karzai was merely making the observation that Afghanistan and Pakistan are nextdoor neighbors, and thus, anyone fleeing Pakistan during a war with the U.S. would not have to travel far to find welcome refuge. This is not a joke. This is Obama administration foreign policy in action. Try to imagine how the media would have played this had Condoleezza Rice resorted to such a cockamamie claim to spare George W. Bush from having to act in the face of such an affront to American honor.
Did Karzai ever issue a clarification explaining just why it is a "misunderstanding" to think he said what he said, that he would side with Pakistan against us in a war? No. Did the U.S. government demand it of him? No. Why don't the U.S. media ask? Can't they figure how to track down the ambassador of Afghanistan in Washington? Do you think the Pakistanis believe that Karzai didn't mean it when he said he'd side with them against us? Shouldn't the elite media ask?
When NATO and American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, explained that he was firing General Peter Fuller because of "inappropriate public comments," he may not have caught the irony. General Fuller's "inappropriate public comments" were a reaction to Karzai's wildly "inappropriate public comments" that insulted our country and are an affront to any and every American who has aided the people of Afghanistan.
General Allen also used the word "unfortunate" in his statement announcing the firing of General Fuller. It is indeed unfortunate for us all that it was General Fuller rather than President Obama who took Hamid Karzai to task for insulting America.
A president worthy of respect would have been man enough to take Karzai to task himself and not permit this sad spectacle of a long-serving soldier ruining his career for defending American honor when the president should have but didn't.
Barack Obama should have picked up the phone and told Hamid Karzai something like this: "I am alerting you that your life is suddenly in much greater danger and I urge you to take prompt action to lessen this increased danger. I expect you to appear on television and radio at the earliest possible opportunity and announce to the world that not only would you never side against America in a war but, rather, you would stand with us. Until you have done this, I have ordered the complete withholding of all personal safety protection provided by US military that you, your family and your colleagues have relied upon to keep you alive. The other affected parties are being informed of this in private. As soon as I learn that you have taken this step necessary to correct your insult to my country I will restore protection -- but not one moment sooner. If you do not act swiftly, I shall begin working on drafting eulogy remarks. Have a nice day."
I wonder -- don't you? -- which, if any, of the Republican candidates for president would handle things in such a firm and highly persuasive manner.
Don't you wish that someone in the media -- hey, it could certainly be one of the conservative outlets -- would approach Barack Obama or at least his press secretary plus each of the Republican presidential contenders, point to the firing of General Fuller, and then raise the big question this whole issue needs discussed and answered? Namely:
What should U.S. leaders say and do when a foreign leader who owes his country's freedom and perhaps even his own life to American goodness acts towards America as one would act towards an enemy?
It would be foolish of the media and the rest of us to now only focus on whether General Fuller should have taken it upon himself to be the one to publicly confront Harmed Karzai over his reprehensible insult to America (already asked and answered).
It's time to demand that the current president of the United States and anyone who might be president come 20 January 2013 be asked -- and forced to answer -- how they would deal with such an affront to American honor.
Fred J. Eckert is a former conservative Republican congressman from New York and twice served as a U.S. ambassador (to the U.N. and to Fiji) under President Reagan, who called him "a good friend and valuable advisor." He's retired and lives with his wife in Raleigh, NC.