Monday, April 10, 2006

Rumsfeld Needs to Go


There’s a growing chorus of retired military officers of flag rank (i.e. in this case generals, moreover by and large, though not exclusively, Marine generals) calling for the removal of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. This morning’s Times ran the following article, Third Retired General Wants Rumsfeld Out. The general in question in this article is retired LGen Gregory Newbold, who has joined the company of retired Generals Anthony Zinni, Bernard Trainor, both Marines, and Major General Paul Eaton (Army).

Newbold says things that anyone who has given thought to what’s been going on in Iraq since this country invaded it and has done any reading about it (I strongly recommend George Packer’s The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq, and Anthony Shadid’s Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War) has to have concluded for quite some time: Rumsfeld has fouled this whole thing up from start to now, and if anyone’s to be held accountable for this debacle it’s him.

I won’t get into the merits or lack thereof for our being in Iraq to start with. Let’s assume we should have been there, that it was the right thing to do (this, for anyone not sure, is decidedly not what I believe). What was Rumsfeld responsible for that earns his being taken to task for our results in Iraq so far? Let me count the ways:

1. He didn’t listen to his senior military advisors, to wit General Eric Shenseki, the then Army Chief of Staff, who believed, based on his extensive experience, that the number of troops that would be necessary to first win the war and then secure the peace was on the order of 300 to 400,000, which was not the sort of numbers Rumsfeld wanted to hear. Shenseki was effectively forced to retire and, in a manner of speaking, pissed on by Rumsfeld on the way out.

2. Rumsfeld gave little to no consideration to what would be done after the war was won, a result no one seriously questioned. Not being in the “nation building” business at the time he apparently didn’t feel it was worth his bother to consider what would happen after the Iraqi government and its institutions were destroyed, and the results have spoken for themselves ever since. Initially Rumsfeld wrote this the initial chaos after the war was over to “Democracy is messy”, or words to that effect – little did he know we’d be stepping in that mess for a long time afterwards.

3. Really an addendum to #3, Rumsfeld did everything he could to prevent knowledgeable experts who could at least prognosticate what we’d get ourselves into after the way was over from participating in any part of the planning process. He and his folks were more interested in listening to the likes of people like Ahmed Chalabi, an exiled Iraqi looking for a way back in to a position of power, who predicted we’d be greeted with flowers and kisses and all would be wonderful, especially if we put Chalabi in power; of course what the Iraqi people might have to say about Chalabi and company, and much of anything else, wasn’t given much consideration.

In addition it was Rumsfeld’s main assistant at the time, Paul Wolfowitz, who told Congress that not only would we be greeted as liberators, but soon thereafter the Iraqis would be paying for our adventure in pre-emption with their oil. Now nearly $500 billion dollars later
we still have a large bill to pay ahead of us.

4. By not adequately planning for our role in Iraq we sent over soldiers and Marines who were inadequately prepared for what they found themselves eventually having to deal with: insurgents, sectarian violence, death squads, and IEDs. The equipping of our personnel on the ground was inadequate, and we’re still trying to make up for this today, but Rummy had the nerve to stand up in front of a group of service men and tell them, “We go to war with the Army that we have, not the one that we want.” Well damn – if Rummy knew what he was doing to begin with maybe what we had to go to war with would have been more clearly elucidated such that what we went to war with was really wanted.

Of course the training of our personnel was just as inadequate – not for the war, that they did wonderfully, but for the peace. Abu Ghraib likely wouldn’t have happened had we sent an adequate number of personnel over to begin with, specifically personnel properly trained to handle what was thrust on them. It’s interesting to note that only a reservist brigadier general
and a number of enlisted personnel have been hung out to dry over Abu Ghraib and you really, really have to wonder why the buck stops there. We also likely wouldn’t have pissed off a huge number of people had we taken the time for cultural training and inculcating some basic respect for a culture and way of life that, by and large, is totally unfamiliar to the average American.

The problem with the cartoon above is that it shouldn't be showing just democrats trying to take "Rummy" out; any reasonable thinking Republican has to by this time appreciate that Rumsfeld is an unmitigated disaster who needs to be booted out. My main problem with having Rumsfeld leave now is that given this administration's past proclivities the man will be awarded a presidential medal of freedom as soon as he's out the door, or right before he's out the door. Actually I guess I shouldn't be too upset with this given how the Bush administration has abused the thing. Ostensibly the highest award that the American government can give to a civilian, sort of, but not quite, tantamount to the military's Medal of Honor, it's described as follows:

The nation's highest civilian honor award given to citizens who have enriched our nation through their achievements and service. It was established in 1963 and replaced the Medal of Freedom.

In 2004 it was given to Paul Bremer, late the lead honcho for the Iraqi CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) who fired all the Baathists and the entire Iraqi military, and what better job can an ex-Baahtist/Army type have than insurgent, right?; George Tenet, late of the CIA and the man who proclaimed the justification for going into Iraq, i.e. weapons of mass
destruction, a "slam dunk"; and last but not least, retired Army general Tommy Franks, who conquered Iraq and let the place go to hell in a hand basket immediately thereafter because he never had a plan to do otherwise. Hell, with that kind of company Rumsfeld is certainly a shoo-in for the thing.


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