A retired Army general who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq saw his job as a consultant with CBS News end last week after he appeared in a TV commercial criticizing President Bush’s handling of the war.

Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste took part in the ad on behalf of, a political action committee dedicated to getting war veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq elected.

CBS first expressed concern about the ads — in which Batiste questions Bush’s assertion that he has listened to military leadership — on May 10, Batiste said Wednesday in an e-mail. The development was first reported on MSNBC that day.

“Mr. President, you did not listen,” the retired general says in the 30-second ad, which is part of a $500,000 campaign targeting Republican congressional districts. “You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps. Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women.”

Batiste commanded the “Big Red One” during its deployment in 2004 and 2005, when the division was still based in Europe. He retired shortly after returning. Last year, he joined other retired military leaders in calling for then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation over the handling of Iraq.

“The CBS reaction was fine with me — we parted amicably,” Batiste wrote Wednesday. “In fact, when CBS first expressed a concern on 10 May, I offered to terminate the relationship. This is a clear case of the harder right rather than the easier wrong.”

Linda Mason, the station’s vice president for standards and special projects, was quoted on the CBS Public Eye blog last week saying that Batiste’s appearance in the ad violates the station’s news standards.

According to the blog, Mason said “by putting himself in front and center in an anti-Bush ad, the viewer might have the feeling everything he says is anti-Bush. And that doesn’t seem like an analytical approach to the issues we want to discuss.”

But according to other reports this week, critics of Batiste’s dismissal claim that other CBS consultants have had political ties in one direction and have not lost their position over it.

“This is not about me or for that matter, CBS,” Batiste wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday. “I would rather the debate center on the failed strategy in Iraq, the administration’s failure to mobilize our country, and our incredible Army and Marine Corps which are at the breaking point with little to show for it.”

Batiste said Wednesday that he signed on as a part-time CBS consultant two months ago to add his expertise to the debate on the war.

“I’m not wasting any energy on this,” he said of his ended relationship with CBS. “I want the debate to focus on strategy in Iraq.”

Batiste said he did not “give it a second thought” when he agreed to do the VoteVets ad. Other ads include retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton and retired NATO commander and former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said in a New York Times article this week that “we respectfully disagree” with Batiste’s presidential criticism.

“The decisions the president has made have been based on information he receives from commanders and generals on the ground,” Lawrimore told the Times.

Batiste said he chose to go public with his critique of the war after 30 years of following Army policies regarding such criticism while in the service, but there was concern within the leadership ranks before he left.

“Inside the military, you can bet myself and other division commanders were very vocal about what was going on,” he said.

He encouraged servicemembers who are unhappy about the war’s course to focus on their mission, as speaking out can be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“There are those of us who will continue to support you by working to fix national strategy and get the country properly mobilized behind them,” Batiste said. “If you want to speak out, you get out. I got out of the Army so I could speak out.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up