Former diplomats call for Bush ouster
Foreign policy damages nation, group says
From Paul Courson
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration's foreign policy in Iraq and elsewhere has been a "disaster," and President Bush should not be re-elected, a group of former diplomats and military leaders say in a newly released statement.
The group, called Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, held a news conference Wednesday to explain why its members feel "the need for a major change in the direction of our foreign policy," and underscore that they believe their concerns are bipartisan.
A statement from the group notes its more than two dozen members include Democrats and Republicans who have "served every president since Harry S. Truman."
They contend Bush's foreign policy has failed at "preserving national security and providing world leadership."
Members expressing their opposition in the statement are former senior diplomatic, national security and military officials.
In opening remarks, spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said international respect for the United States is now "crumbling under an administration blinded by ideology and a callous indifference to the realities of the world around it."
Oakley was an assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research in the Clinton administration.
Charles Freeman, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said the Bush administration has yet to articulate how it plans to depart from Iraq, and said the situation is "complicated by insults to our allies, the indifference to the views of partners in the region, and the general disdain for the United Nations and international organizations that the administration still finds difficult to conceal."
Freeman, a career diplomat, served both Republican and Democratic administrations.
At a Wednesday news conference, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher rejected the notion the United States has acted without consulting its allies.
"It's not true. We went to the United Nations on Iraq. We went to the United Nations on terrorism and 9/11. We've had four unanimous U.N. resolutions since the end of the war," he responded.
Although the group expressed alarm about the sidetracked Middle East "road map to peace" between Palestinians and Israelis, it was the U.S. handling of Iraq that helped crystallize the group's concern.
Retired Gen. Tony McPeak, a former U.S. Air Force chief of staff who had endorsed the Bush 2000 campaign, Wednesday said of Bush's Iraq policy, "Because of the Pollyannish assumptions that were made by the administration in going in there that ... bouquets would be thrown at us and so forth, we were totally unprepared for the post-combat occupation. And so you see here, unfolding in front of us, a terrible disaster."
McPeak headed the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
The group acknowledged it takes a partisan stand in opposing Bush, but, as member William Harrop put it, "When there is one prominent rival to President Bush in this election, obviously we think Senator Kerry should be elected, but we are not here to speak for him. We are here to say there must be a change."
Harrop, a career diplomat who retired in 1994 after 40 years of foreign service, held ambassadorships to Guinea, Kenya and the Seychelles, Zaire, and Israel.