Presidential Medal of Freedom

Medal of Freedom

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established by President Truman to recognize service in the war. President Kennedy reintroduced the medal as an honor for civilian service in peacetime. George W Bush made a mockery of the medal with his last three awards.

Since inception, the medal has been awarded to over 400 outstanding individuals for their contributions to philanthrophy, science, the arts, medicine, sport, popular culture, and many other fields.

Making his most recent awards, Bush said:

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our nation's highest civil award given to men and women of exceptional merit, integrity and achievement. Today this honor goes to three men who have played pivotal roles in great events, and whose efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty.
President's remarks White House, 14-Dec-04

And who are these three patriots?

George Tenet
George Tenet, former CIA director

Bush said, "His tireless efforts have brought justice to America's enemies and greater security to the American people. And today, we honor a fine public servant and patriot in George John Tenet."

I say: As head of the CIA, George Tenet reassured George Bush that the case against Saddam Hussein for having weapons of mass destruction was "a slam dunk." Knowing that the proof that "Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Africa" was flimsy at best, Tenet allowed that statement to be included in Bush's State of the Union address anyway. Instead of providing facts with relevant caveats and provisos, Tenet became an encouraging cheerleader.

Paul Bremer
L Paul Bremer III, former US Administrator for Iraq

Bush said, "Jerry, Iraq is free today and you helped make it so. And a free Iraq will help make generations of Americans more secure."

I say: As President Bush's man in Baghdad, Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army, leaving a power vacuum in the absence of sufficient US forces. Bremer knew that the US did not have enough troops in the country (whether US or "coalition" it doesn't matter) to keep order and win the peace. But this brave patriot kept quiet about it until after he had handed over sovereignty to the Iraqis and left hastily. In fact, he only mentioned it when he thought he was speaking "off the record" to a private audience. By holding his criticisms at the time, Bremer made a bad situation worse.

Tommy Franks
General Tommy Franks, US Army, retired

Bush said, "Today the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are building a secure and permanent democratic future. One of the highest distinctions of history is to be called a liberator, and Tommy Franks will always carry that title."

I say: Tommy Franks was in charge of creating the war plan for the invasion of Iraq. And although he surely knew better, Franks acceded to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's insistence on paring back the number of troops to a number sufficient to topple the regime but not sufficient to stabilize the country afterwards. Franks must have known what General Erik Shinseki, Army chief of staff at the time knew. By ignoring lessons learned, Franks made possible the chaos and looting that followed the fall of Saddam.

So there you have it: three men who did indeed play "pivotal roles" in a great event, the US invasion of Iraq. They made colossal blunders contributing to the mess the US is in today in Iraq. At moments when each of them could have stepped forward and taken a stand, they buckled and told the President what he wanted to hear. They failed the US when it counted.

When Bush rewarded these three with the US' most prestigious honor he debased the value of the medal he awarded. It became a reward for being a yes-man, not for "exceptional merit, integrity and achievement."

It would be a wonderful thing if some of the past recipients were to send their medals back, just as some Vietnam veterans threw away their medals (or "ribbons" if you will).