After reading all the hype about sexy-squinting, silver-stranded Anderson Cooper from CNN who was one of the first reporters to express outrage on-camera during the Katrina disaster, I finally caught an episode of his CNN show Anderson Cooper 360. I wasn't disappointed, as he filled in some of the blanks for me on the recent announcement that a group of retired generals had called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to be ousted based on his failures in managing the war in Iraq, largely due to his stubbornness and unwillingness to take the advice of seasoned military men.
As the White House launches talking points in Rumsfeld's defense and tries to downplay the generals' criticism by saying these are six generals out of 8,000, it's important to note that two of the generals taking a stand were division commanders in Iraq. In other words, unlike Rummy, they know their armament from their elbows.
Here is an excerpt from the episode, taken from the show transcript posted online.
COOPER: Well, I asked three retired generals to talk about Rumsfeld.
Retired General John Batiste commanded the 1st Infantry Brigade in Iraq from 2004 until last year. He thinks Rumsfeld needs to go now. Retired Air Force General Don Shepperd and retired General Kevin Ryan say Rumsfeld doesn't have to resign. And, as you will see, that's not exactly a total vote of confidence.
They joined me, all, earlier.
COOPER: General Batiste, now the White House is sending out talking points, how to effectively rebut your criticisms, some of the other generals. They say, look, Rumsfeld has met more than 100 times with military chiefs and commanders, and, sure, he's tough, but he listens. True?
MAJOR GENERAL JOHN BATISTE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Anderson, as I have said several times now, our Secretary of Defense does not listen. He holds others in contempt. He dismisses advice. He has an opinion. And it doesn't matter, quite frankly, what other people think.
COOPER: And -- and to those who say, OK, so what, so his management style is -- is brusque; so he's got an attitude, as some have said; why does that matter, in your opinion?
BATISTE: You know, Anderson, I have worked for men much tougher than our SecDef, much more aggressive.
The difference is, they don't treat people with contempt. They are not dismissive. They understand teamwork. And they listen to good ideas. If you're not willing to listen to your subordinates, then, you end up with bad strategic decisions. You go to war with the wrong war plan. You end up with Abu Ghraib. You stand down the Iraqi military, which causes enormous problems.
COOPER: General Batiste, tell me, if you can, when you were on the ground in Iraq commanding troops, as you were for -- for quite some time, how did this filter down to -- to where you were, I mean, this -- this sense of the secretary of defense's arrogance, not listening? How -- I mean, how did you see that on the ground?
BATISTE: Anderson, we had great debate within the corps, within the multinational force Iraq, tremendous dialogue between commanders up and down.
And -- and, as you know, in the -- in the military, at some point, the discussion is stopped, and a decision is made. And you either execute the best idea you have ever heard, or you get out. I personally chose to retire on principle, so that you and I could be having this discussion right now.
In this appearance, retired Major General John Batiste pulled no punches and spoke with palpable conviction and unmistakeable sincerity. He is standing toe to toe with the White House to support our troops, risking his reputation. Plus, the way he says "SecDef" is totally hot. I heart you MajGen Batiste and I don't care who knows it.