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"The last time I checked, we don’t operate like that here in America"

“The last time I checked, we don’t operate like that here in America.”

That is what General Hugh Sheldon, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during parts of the Clinton and dipshit Bush administrations. In his recent memoir, he wrote about a particularly disturbing request made by a member of the Clinton cabinet:

Early on in my days as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we had small, weekly White House breakfasts in National Security Advisor Sandy Berger’s office that included me, Sandy, Bill Cohen (Secretary of Defense), Madeleine Albright (Secretary of State), George Tenet (head of the CIA), Leon Firth (VP chief of staff for security), Bill Richardson (ambassador to the U.N.), and a few other senior administration officials. These were informal sessions where we would gather around Berger’s table and talk about concerns over coffee and breakfast served by the White House dining facility. It was a comfortable setting that encouraged brainstorming of potential options on a variety of issues of the day.

During that time we had U-2 aircraft on reconnaissance sorties over Iraq. These planes were designed to fly at extremely high speeds and altitudes (over seventy thousand feet) both for pilot safety and to avoid detection.

At one of my very first breakfasts, while Berger and Cohen were engaged in a sidebar discussion down at one end of the table and Tenet and Richardson were preoccupied in another, one of the Cabinet members present leaned over to me and said, “Hugh, I know I shouldn’t even be asking you this, but what we really need in order to go in and take out Saddam is a precipitous event — something that would make us look good in the eyes of the world. Could you have one of our U-2s fly low enough — and slow enough — so as to guarantee that Saddam could shoot it down?”

The hair on the back of my neck bristled, my teeth clenched, and my fists tightened. I was so mad I was about to explode. I looked across the table, thinking about the pilot in the U-2 and responded, “Of course we can …” which prompted a big smile on the official’s face.

“You can?” was the excited reply.

“Why, of course we can,” I countered. “Just as soon as we get your ass qualified to fly it, I will have it flown just as low and slow as you want to go.”

The official reeled back and immediately the smile disappeared. “I knew I should not have asked that….”

“No, you should not have,” I strongly agreed, still shocked at the disrespect and sheer audacity of the question. “Remember, there is one of our great Americans flying that U-2, and you are asking me to intentionally send him or her to their death for an opportunity to kick Saddam. The last time I checked, we don’t operate like that here in America.” (source)

What a refreshing thing to hear from a military leader. “The last time I checked, we don’t operate like that here in America.” Unfortunately, once his boss changed, that sentence became something that you would only say in jest. I mean honestly, is there anything that we could actually say is outside the realm of “how we operate” in America? We torture, we lie, we cheat, and we sell our own liberty down the river.

And General Shelton has more choice words for his former boss, GWB. His book is expexcted to levy the charge that the only reason we invaded Iraq was because of a “series of lies.” (source)

President Bush and his team got us enmeshed in Iraq based on extraordinarily poor intelligence and a series of lies purporting that we had to protect Americans from Saddam’s evil empire because it posed such a threat to our national security,” Shelton writes in his memoir. (source)

Y’know… maybe we’ve always been a little shady. But, at least we were always sorry about it afterward. And, at least we held up a beacon and pointed toward what was right.

When I was a kid, my dad took me to see Midway at the movie theater. I remember at the end of the movie, there’s this line:

“It doesn’t make any sense, Admiral. Yamamoto had everything going for him, power, experience, confidence… Were we better than the Japanese, or just luckier?”

I was seven, so I looked at my dad and asked “were we luckier or better?” He looked down at me and said “bettah.”

I honestly believed that. I mean, my dad said it… but when I got to school, my dad’s story checked out. As it did in all the books we had. Everything pointed to that. Based on that, I really bought into the theory of America being more than just a pile of dirt that we all share. It meant something.

I sure as shit wish that some of our politicians’ dads took them to see Midway when they were kids.

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