OLBERMANN: General Batiste says he resigned because he couldn‘t stand what former secretary of defense Rumsfeld was doing to the military, and he is still paying the price. The general, who describes himself as a diehard Republican, has been asked to leave his position as a consultant to CBS News because of that ad. That means he is free to join us tonight for an exclusive interview.
And we‘re honored to have you with us, General. Thank you for your time.
BATISTE: Thanks, Keith. Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: From Eric Shinseki, the four-star general who was criticized by, of all people, Paul Wolfowitz when he said at the start that the war would require several hundred thousand troops, do these ads that you and General Eaton and General Clark have done for VoteVets.org, there seemingly has never been this much public friction between the military and the civilian leaders. What moved you to make these ads and moved you to make them now? (full transcript below the fold)
UPDATE: Greg Sargent finds that CBS's Michael O'Hanlon advocated for "the surge."
BATISTE: Keith, it really is quite extraordinary. I was moved to make this ad working with VoteVets because I care about our country, and I care about our soldiers and Marines and their families.
I‘m a patriot, as are the rest of us in VoteVets. VoteVets is not an antiwar organization. We‘re focused on what‘s best for this country. We‘re focused on being successful and winning the effort against global terrorism. And we‘re damn sure focused on doing what‘s right for our great military, which, by the way, is doing incredible work in Iraq and Afghanistan. God bless them all.
OLBERMANN: In a piece for MSNBC.com called “America‘s Angriest General,” Mike Hirsch from “Newsweek” says that you wish more generals would speak out. But last year you had said at the end of the day, you either salute and execute, or you make a decision to retire or resign, that‘s the way it is. Is this what you‘re trying to change? What are you hearing from the colleagues of yours who are still in uniform?
BATISTE: Keith, I‘m in a very unique position. I have a platform upon which I can speak. I‘m no longer wearing the uniform of our country. I have no ties to the defense industry. I can speak honestly. I have a duty to do so.
And I know there‘s other generals, both active duty and retired, that are doing all they can within their means. In my case, I‘ll continue to speak out.
OLBERMANN: You have said that it could take eight to 10 months to withdraw from Iraq in an orderly way once the president even agrees to that. This evening, the House rejected the plan to withdraw beginning in nine months. The military under such great stress. Is there a point at which any deadline, any time structure for this will be too late?
BATISTE: Keith, this is less about deadlines and timelines than it is about coming to grips with the fact that we went to war with a fatally flawed strategy, flawed then in March of 2003, flawed today over four years later. This is all about a president who‘s relying almost solely on the military component of strategy to accomplish the mission in Iraq.
Sadly, we‘re missing the diplomatic, the political, and the economic components that are fundamental and required to be successful. We have an interagency process that has been dysfunctional during this administration. There‘s no unity of effort between the agencies.
It—the bottom line is, we have a failed strategy now, and our president has not mobilized this great nation to accomplish the critical work to defeat global terrorism. And until we get these two things right, we‘re wasting our time.
OLBERMANN: General, are you encouraged, are you disinterested in, are you interested in what happened Tuesday at the White House between these 11 moderate Republicans and the president, and this discussion of the political implications of this? Do you see this as some sort of watershed moment?
BATISTE: Keith, I think so. Four of the 11 congressman were members that the VoteVet ad is targeting. I think that speaks volumes.
OLBERMANN: And lastly, sir, the benchmarks, the references continually made by those who went into the White House, that the words about this war have to now come from General Petraeus, that he is the one with the credibility, and the president is not the one with that, give us an honest assessment of his ability to give us an honest assessment of progress there.
BATISTE: General David Petraeus is the best we‘ve got. If anybody can pull this off militarily, he can. We have the best military this nation has ever fielded. But the president‘s strategy relies almost wholly on the military, and ignores the important components of diplomatic, political, and economic hard work.
If we don‘t get this right, we‘re going to break our Army and Marine Corps. And at this point in our history, that‘s the last thing we can do.
OLBERMANN: Well said, sir. General John Batiste. Great thanks for your time tonight, and, of course, great thanks for your service.
BATISTE: Thanks, Keith.