Top US Generals Outraged, Blast the Washington Post
by Jim Kouri, CPP
In an unprecedented move, the nation's top military officers blasted the editors of the Washington Post and editorial cartoonist Tom Toles for an editorial cartoon published in the newspaper on Monday and on its website.
The letter to the Post editors charges that the six military leaders "believe you and Mr. Toles have done a disservice to your readers and your paper's reputation by using such a callous depiction of those who have volunteered to defend this nation, and as a result, have suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds. ... As the Joint Chiefs, it is rare that we all put our hand to one letter, but we cannot let this reprehensible cartoon go unanswered."
The Toles cartoon shows a soldier, a quadriplegic, in a hospital, being visited by a Dr. Rumsfeld who is scribbling on a form. Rumsfeld says, "I am listing your condition as battle hardened." At the bottom a smaller figure of the doctor adds, "I'm prescribing that you be stretched thin. We don't define that as torture."
According to Editor & Publisher, a spokeswoman from the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said a letter from all six joint chiefs to anyone, let alone a newspaper, is rare, but the cartoon so offended them, they wanted to let their feelings be known.
"It was expressing their disappointment with the paper and outrage at using that image to make a political point," said Lt. Col. Diane Battaglia. "That is a rare occurrence, but the level of inappropriateness prompted a response of unanimous support."
Battaglia said Post editors told her office that the letter would be published in Thursday's paper. Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt declined to comment on the letter. "My policy is I can't talk about letters until we publish them," he told E&P. "If and when a letter runs, I'd be happy to talk about it."
The letter is signed by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Edmund P. Giambastini, Jr., the vice-chairman, and the four other military branch leaders and it's addressed to the Post's managing editor, Philip Bennett.
The generals said they were "extremely disappointed" in the Toles cartoon. "Using the likeness of a service member who has lost his arms and legs in war as the central theme of a cartoon is beyond tasteless," they wrote.
They observed that the paper is "obviously free to address any topic," even use exaggeration. But they added: "While you or some of your readers may not agree with the war or its conduct, we believe you owe the men and women and their families who so selflessly serve our country the decency to not make light of their tremendous physical sacrifices."
"This is where the news media has sunk to -- in their hatred for Bush and for the military, they publish a horrid cartoon and don't believe they crossed the line," said a former Marine intelligence officer and NYPD detective.
"Anyone who thinks they're getting the truth reading the Washington Post is sadly mistaken -- I expect to see cartoons like [the Toles cartoon] on terrorists' pamphlets!"
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.