I have what some might consider the macabre habit of reading the casualty reports from Iraq every day in the New York Times. This may reflect the fact that I served in the military or that I worked in the White House during Vietnam.
But there’s one name that hasn’t yet appeared in the casualty reports: the name of General Peter Pace, the first Marine—and I say this with pride as a former Marine—to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Why am I looking for Pace’s name on the casualty list? His distinguished military career was recently ended by the crudest kind of politics.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared Pace, a four-star Marine general with 48 military decorations on his chest, to be “incompetent.”
What incredible effrontery. Reid—who never wore the uniform—could have said he didn’t agree with Pace’s decisions or with the politically unpopular war in Iraq. He could have said he disliked the way Pace executed his responsibilities in advising the President.
This kind of public disparagement of a military hero is disgraceful.
But Pace’s career didn’t end merely because of Reid’s shoddy remarks. Pace, a faithful Catholic, also offended the secular god of Tolerance. He had the audacity to say that he believed sex outside of marriage was wrong, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
The New York Times instantly declared him a bigot. The rest of the media pack followed suit; few defended him. We are in real trouble, folks, if America’s number one military officer cannot defend the proposition that the military should exemplify high moral standards.
President Bush decided not to send Pace’s nomination up for the customary second term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Why not? Not because Peter Pace is incompetent; he was, after all, roundly commended by the President and Defense Secretary Gates.
Gates recommended against Pace’s re-nomination, and the President agreed, because his confirmation would have been subjected to Senate hearings—hearings that would have been grossly politicized.
Can you see the general sitting before a battery of senators cross-examining him, in front of the cameras, on whether he discriminated against homosexuals? Imagine the members of the Armed Services Committee—most of whom never served in the military—grilling Pace on whether his Catholic faith influenced his standards of prudery. At least two presidential candidates serve on this committee. The hearings would have been a political circus.
It would also have been open season on second-guessing the war at the very moment our troops are in an offensive posture, chasing al Qaeda. The television reports, which our troops in the field see online, would have shown our so-called leaders berating the military and calling the cause in Iraq futile. They would have been demoralizing, to say the least.
But to our Senate leaders, the welfare of our soldiers is secondary to worshipping the secular god of Tolerance and raw politics; thus they have in effect drummed out of the military one of the most honorable public servants I’ve ever known.
We should mourn the fact that we have lost the services of this decorated and principled man. And we should mourn the loss of honor, duty, and common decency among our nation’s leaders.