Defense Secretary Robert Gates is deluding himself -- we hope! -- if he seriously thinks that appointing someone other than Gen. Peter Pace to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is going to avoid turning confirmation hearings into a "divisive ordeal" about Iraq. But at least Gates' pick to replace Pace probably won't have to answer questions about some of the more embarrassing episodes in Pace's recent past. To wit:
Showing his biases, I: Back in March, the Chicago Tribune asked Pace about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. His response: "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way. As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior."
Showing his biases, II: When Scooter Libby was prosecuted and convicted for obstructing justice, perjury and making false statements -- conduct one might, indeed, call "immoral" -- Pace took it upon himself to write a letter to Judge Reggie B. Walton in support of the defendant. "I was alwas impressed with Mr. Libby's professionalism and focus and attention to the matters at hand," Pace wrote. "He impressed me as a team player when addressing issues with his selfless approach to his wide-ranging responsibilities . . . . He always looked for not just what was in the best interests of the country, but also for the right way to proceed -- both legally and morally."
Trusting Rumsfeld: Coming to the defense of the defense secretary who picked him to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Pace said last October that Donald Rumsfeld "leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country."
Misunderestimating problems in Iraq: In a TV interview last March -- which is to say, after the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra, which in the Bush administration's telling of it is the moment when everything went completely to hell -- Pace said that Iraq was looking pretty wonderful. "I wouldn't put a great big smiley face on it," he said, "but I would say [things in Iraq are] going very, very well from everything you look at . . . . No matter where you look -- at their military, their police, their society -- things are much better this year than they were last."
Miscounting the dead: In a television appearance on Memorial Day 2007, Pace minimized the human cost of the war in Iraq by suggesting, in a non sequitur sort of way, that the U.S. death toll there was just now "approaching" the death toll from 9/11. He was wrong on both counts: The U.S. death toll in Iraq was higher then than the death toll from 9/11. Thanks in no small part to the policies Pace helped execute, it's even higher today.