has a good piece today on the recent surge in Rumsfeld-hate by a number of retired generals.
"Ever since one general spoke to Time last week and The Washington Post fronted the story of others who were coming out from under the cone of silence, the controversy has been huge. Liberals rejoiced, conservatives counterattacked, and thumbsuckers pondered What It All Means.
The story has gained considerable altitude because it's a new front in the war over the war, and because of the novelty of career military men calling for the head of Don Rumsfeld. President Bush's full-throated defense of Rummy late Friday gave the debate an extra boost going into Easter weekend."
My personal opinion is that Rumsfeld has needed to go for a long time. A competent President would demand that the man who is running his war effort into the ground pay the price for his incompetence. Bill Clinton, for example, wisely canned Les Aspin after the "Black Hawk Down" debacle. But despite the myriad mistakes of the Defense Department vis-a-vis Iraq (drawing down troops in Afghanistan, putting soldiers in unarmored Humvees instead of tanks, failing to anticipate the insurgency, forcing soldiers to purchase their own body armor, dissolving the Iraqi army, etc., etc.) GWB is still standing by his man. Even Rummy thinks he should be toast by now - it's been over a year since he tried to resign twice, only to be rebuffed. And now that the heat is on, it's a virtual certainty he won't be ousted. After all, the stubborn President refuses to let the public's opinion effect his policies.
Why should anyone be able to question Bush? Remember, he's a "war president"!
But back to Kurtz' report.
"Then you have all these sub-arguments: Should retired generals be speaking out at all? Why didn't they say anything sooner? Are they just a bunch of Clinton-appointed hacks who didn't like Rummy's attempts to reform the Pentagon, or are they speaking for many active-duty types who can't challenge the commander-in-chief without facing court-martial? Do they validate what outside critics have been saying about the bungling of the war and the occupation? Or are they shooting at the wrong guy, in that Rumsfeld has basically been carrying out Bush's policies?"
My two cents: Yes, they were chicken like most everyone else, probably yes AND yes, a big yes, and no. I'm not clearing President Bush for the disastrous Iraq policy, but it's not as if Rumsfeld is just a meek and powerless functionary. He had a vision for the 21st century military. Apparently he should get his eyes checked.
The WSJ editorial page
says the critics are off base:
"But that is for the historians to sort out. What matters now is doing what it takes to prevail in Iraq, setting up a new government and defeating the terrorists. How firing Mr. Rumsfeld will help in any of this, none of the critics say. They certainly aren't offering any better military strategy for victory.
More than likely, Mr. Rumsfeld's departure would create new problems, starting with a crisis of confidence in Iraq about American staying power. What do Mr. Rumsfeld's critics imagine Iraqis think as they watch former commanders assigning blame? And how would a Rumsfeld resignation contribute to the credible threat of force necessary to meet America's next major security challenge, which is Iran's attempt to build a nuclear bomb? Sacking the Defense Secretary mid-conflict would only reinforce the Iranian mullahs' belief that they have nothing to worry about because Americans have no stomach for a prolonged engagement in their part of the world."
I could not be less swayed by the argument that demanding accountability among our leaders is a mistake because it shows weakness to the enemy. I have so many problems with this editorial it's hard to know where to start.
(1) Maybe there IS no way to prevail in Iraq. The Shiites have no interest in forming a coalition government, the Sunnis have no intention of laying down their arms. Isn't it possible our invasion just created a massive snafu that *cannot* be fixed, no matter how many lives or dollars we lay down to do so? (2) Referring to the insurgency as "the terrorists" is utterly misleading. I'm not saying I think they're "Heroic Freedom Fighters" or anything, but it's all part of the Grand Neoconservative Effort to conflate the "War on Terror" with the Iraq war. Anyone with half a brain knows one of these things is not like the other. Besides, insurgencies are messy affairs, and it's not a reach to call many of the Colonial tactics in the American Revolutionary War "terrorist strikes". (3) Who cares what Iraqis think about Rumsfeld? Do we have to base all our domestic political decisions on what Iraqis think? Can't vote the GOP out of power in Congress, the Iraqis might think the American public doesn't support the war, and we can't have that! The Iraqis mustn't lose hope! Geez, we better figure out a way to keep Bush in power for another term, wouldn't want the Iraqis to feel blue! (4) Guess what, WSJ editorial page goons: Americans DON'T have a stomach for a prolonged engagement in the Middle East. In fact, unless we are directly provoked, we have NEVER had the stomach for a prolonged engagement of any kind. Read your history books.
As usual, the Washington Post
is much more my speed.
"PRESIDENT BUSH'S stubborn support for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has compounded U.S. troubles in Iraq, prevented a remedy for the criminal mistreatment of foreign detainees and worsened relations with a host of allies. Now it is deepening the domestic political hole in which the president is mired. Half a dozen senior retired generals have publicly criticized Mr. Rumsfeld, touching off another damaging and distracting controversy at a critical moment in the war. Thanks in part to his previous misjudgments, Mr. Bush has no easy way out.
Mr. Bush would have been wise to accept Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation when he offered it nearly two years ago. At that time it was clear that the defense secretary was directly responsible for the policy of abuse toward detainees that resulted in the shocking Abu Ghraib photographs, as well as far worse offenses against detainees. By then, too, Mr. Rumsfeld's contributions to growing trouble in Iraq were evident: his self-defeating insistence on minimizing the number of troops; his resistance to recognizing and responding to emerging threats, such as the postwar looting and the Sunni insurgency; his rejection of nation-building, which fatally slowed the creation of a new political order. Had Mr. Bush replaced Mr. Rumsfeld in 2004, the administration might have avoided the defense secretary's subsequent and similar mistakes, such as his slowness to acknowledge the emerging threat of Shiite militias and death squads last year."
Amen to that.
Finally, David Byrne
- yes, THAT David Byrne - raises an interesting comparison:
"The Armed forces' revolt against the Bush administration proceeds. A whole raft of generals, most of them recently retired, but having served in Iraq, now call for Rummy to step down. Other generals, not named and still serving in Iraq, join the chorus. The military doesn’t dispute the war — that may come later — but its execution, which anyone with eyes can see was not planned, thought out or performed with any competence whatsoever. The Army’s first duty is self-preservation — save the boys — and when they see arrogant incompetents putting the boys in harm’s way unnecessarily, they eventually rebel.
It was Army defections that dethroned Marcos in the Philippines...I realize that my [anti-military] instincts are unfair. In some places and at some times the military does indeed represent the people and not just the greedy adventuring of those in power. Sometimes the military persist as politicians come and go, are made up of skilled professionals out to do a clear-cut job, and will stand up to the lying politicians and ally themselves with the population. There comes a point where their own professionalism is at stake.
This happened with the People Power movement in the Philippines in the mid 80s, and it threatens to happen now in Iraq. The U.S. military may just bring the Bush-Cheney adventure to a speedier close. The soldiers are being stretched beyond reasonable limits, the troop commanders are being asked to put their men in danger — and for what? They’re approaching their limits. Has there ever been a revolt emerging from within the U.S. military?"
And this from the man who sang "Don't Worry About The Government"!