Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus pushed back Sunday against the notion that military folks are beyond reproach, saying men and women in uniform are “fiercely protective of the rights of our Americans to express themselves, even if that includes criticizing us.”
“Well, I think we’re all fair game,” Mr. Petraeus said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I certainly experienced lots of that in testimony on Capitol Hill during the surge in Iraq and subsequent endeavors in Afghanistan and Central Command and so forth. We in uniform protect the rights of others to criticize us frankly.”
“If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” she said. “But I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.”
On Thursday, Mr. Kelly, whose Marine son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, issued a passionate rebuke of Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, Florida Democrat, for politicizing President Trump’s phone call with the family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four soldiers killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.
“It stuns me that a member of Congress listened in to that conversation,” Mr. Kelly said. “I thought at least that was sacred.”
Mrs. Wilson said Mr. Trump told the soldier’s widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for, but when it happens it hurts anyway.”
The Florida congresswoman took issue with Mr. Kelly’s allegation that she boasted about securing funding for an FBI field office in Miami.
“I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured,” Mrs. Wilson said. “So that’s a lie. How dare he.”
“He has my sympathy for the loss of his son, but he can’t just go on TV and lie on me,” she said on CNN.
She also said Mr. Kelly’s use of the insult “empty barrel” was racist.
“That’s a racist term, too,” she said. “I’m thinking about that. We looked it up in the dictionary because I had never heard of an empty barrel, and I don’t like to be dragged into something like that.”
Mr. Petraeus called the dispute “unfortunate” for all parties involved.
“Look, I know John Kelly very, very well,” Mr. Petraeus said on Sunday. “He was a tremendous division commander, two-star commander of the Marine forces in Anbar Province during the second half of the surge, served with him subsequently in other positions. I have to think that this weekend he is sitting at home or in the White House trying to figure out how to turn down the volume, how to get this behind us, and how to focus on what is really important to the country overall.”
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