Retired Gen. David Petraeus on Sunday shot down the White House position that it’s “highly inappropriate” to questions a four-star general. Not only are generals “fair game,” but the military is “fiercely protective” of Americans’ right to criticize them, he insisted.
“I think we’re all fair game,” Petraeus said on ABC’s “This Week.” He added: “We, in uniform, protect the rights of others to criticize us … we are fiercely protective of the rights of our Americans to express themselves, even if that includes criticizing us.”
Petraeus’ slam was a response to a warning by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week that it’s “highly inappropriate to debate” a four-star Marine general. The press secretary’s comments came after reporters questioned her about the veracity of a statement made by White House chief of staff and retired four-star general John Kelly.
Kelly had insisted that Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) had boasted about obtaining funds for a new FBI building named for two slain agents — and failed to honor their memory. But video of Wilson’s speech at the time revealed that Kelly was wrong on both counts.
Kelly’s false statement was a part of an attempt to attack Wilson, who criticized President Donald Trump’s condolence call to the widow of a fallen soldier as insensitive. According to the congresswoman, Trump said that Army Sgt. La David Johnson “must’ve known what he was getting into.” Trump blasted the account as a “total fabrication,” but Wilson’s version of the call was backed up by Johnson’s mother.
Petraeus noted that he himself has been the target of criticism. “I certainly experienced lots of that in testimony on Capitol Hill during the surge in Iraq and subsequent endeavors in Afghanistan’s central command and so forth,” he said.
Petraeus also called the public spat about the president’s call “unfortunate.”
“We need to unite behind our gold star families to embrace them with compassion and with support — not to drag them into partisan politics,” he said. “Sadly, this is a bit symptomatic of what I think is afflicting our country right now. Arguably the most important threat the United States faces is not Russia, Iran and North Korea, or even Chinese competition or ISIS. It’s parochialism here at home.”
Petraeus said he suspects Kelly is now “trying to figure out how to turn down the volume [and] move forward.”