Retired General William Odom delivered the Democrats response to President Bush’s Saturday radio address. Normally, the Democratic response isn’t very interesting, but this one was. Odom started off by saying, “I am not now nor have I ever been a Democrat or a Republican. Thus, I do not speak for the Democratic Party. I speak for myself, as a non-partisan retired military officer who is a former Director of the National Security Agency. I do so because Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, asked me.”

Odom said that he doesn’t favor Congressional involvement in foreign policy, but President Bush has left the strategy for the war in Iraq on autopilot. “Over the past couple of years, the President has let it proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued. Thus, he lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money, and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies. The Congress is the only mechanism we have to fill this vacuum in command judgment.”  

He went on to say, “To put this in a simple army metaphor, the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL that is ‘absent without leave.’ He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games. Some in Congress on both sides of the aisle have responded with their own tits-for-tats. These kinds of games, however, are no longer helpful, much less amusing. They merely reflect the absence of effective leadership in a crisis. And we are in a crisis. Most Americans suspect that something is fundamentally wrong with the President’s management of the conflict in Iraq. And they are right.”

Odom pointed out that invading Iraq didn’t serve U.S. interests, but it did serve those of Iran and al-Qaeda. “We cannot ‘win’ a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Thus continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did. A wise commander in this situation normally revises his objectives and changes his strategy, not just marginally, but radically. Nothing less today will limit the death and destruction that the invasion of Iraq has unleashed.” Odom believes that a phased withdrawal will gain the support of the U.S. allies in Europe, Japan, and India. The withdrawal would also allow for the America to deal with the threats posed by Iran and Syria.

“The bill that Congress approved this week, with bipartisan support, setting schedules for withdrawal, provides the President an opportunity to begin this kind of strategic shift, one that defines regional stability as the measure of victory, not some impossible outcome. I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill the Congress has sent him. I will respect him greatly for such a rare act of courage, and so too, I suspect, will most Americans, Odom concluded.

There isn’t much else for me to say, but that I wish the White House would have listened to military leaders long ago, when a change in course might have made a difference in Iraq. I think the situation there is too far gone for the military to end up in anything better than a stalemate.

Full text of Gen. Odom’s address

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at

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