2004/12/04

Rumsfeld's tenure as SecDef

Donald Rumsfeld to remain in Bush's second term as Secretary of Defense. So how's he done? Well, these are the kinds of things you can only say when you're aware that you have a friendly interviewer (italics mine):

BILL O'REILLY: What do you think is the biggest mistake the USA has made in Iraq?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I suppose you could, one looking at it today with 20/20 hindsight, would say it's not anticipating, first of all, not finding WMD's, uh, un, until, apparently it was wrong, or else they're buried or else we'll find out something later. But at the moment it looks like they weren't there. Um, and I suppose the second thing would be uh, more current, would be the fact of, was it possible to better estimate the insurgency? Uh,

BILL O'REILLY: Did somebody say to you, look, once we depose Saddam, these guys are going to go and fight a guerrilla campaign, did any general or human being that advises you tell you that?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, I ...

BILL O'REILLY: Because [inaudible] was saying that, [inaudible] he was saying that.

DONALD RUMSFELD: 'Course you, we've heard everything. We heard they were going to burn the bridges, light up the oil wells,

BILL O'REILLY: Right.

DONALD RUMSFELD: There would be a humanitarian crisis, there would be a nasty refugee problem, uh, that they were going to use weapons of mass destruction, so our people strapped on chemical suits every day, we, you can find intelligence that says almost anything. If you're asking, was there any kind of understanding or agreement that there would likely be a long insurgency afterwards, I don't believe that anyone would say if you dropped a thumbline through all that intelligence ...

BILL O'REILLY: Yeah.

DONALD RUMSFELD: That anyone would say that.


Actually, The State Department did a yearlong study from April 2002 until the fall of Baghdad that anticipated precisely such an insurgency. Considering that Iraq had gone through just such an insurgency in the years following World War I and that Algeria had driven out the French in the 1950s after a long struggle, a long insurgency was quite predictable and indeed, predicted by the Future of Iraq Project. Granted, reading over 2000 pages split up into 13 volumes was quite a task. Sigh! If only the State Department had published it's findings in comic-book form to avoid this kind of problem! We of course have absolutely zero evidence that President Bush ever read any of it. If he's ever referred knowledgeably to any part of it, I'm not aware of it.

Rumsfeld tries a number of diversionary tacks here. First, he tried to divert the viewers attention to Afghanistan:

BILL O'REILLY: Okay. Um, so you wouldn't say that it was a mistake that the United States made, not um, putting more soldiers there to fight the insurgency in the beginning?

DONALD RUMSFELD: No, I, I think not. I mean, there's been a lot of people who thought there should be more troops in Afghanistan,

BILL O'REILLY: Right.

Then, he tries to blame the “battlefield commanders” who of course, are not legally permitted to give interviews defending themselves.


DONALD RUMSFELD: Not a question in Iraq. But in, in, in Iraq, uh, we had the number of troops that the battlefield commanders asked for.

BILL O'REILLY: [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Then what could we have done differently?

DONALD RUMSFELD: And, and, and one has to believe that they know something about the subject ...

BILL O'REILLY: [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Yeah but,

DONALD RUMSFELD: More than maybe some armchair people speculating from the side.

BILL O'REILLY: True. But Marine General Zinnie for example, said, you need more people in there. Um, Senator McCain said, you need more people in there. So there were voices. But,

DONALD RUMSFELD: But who are you going to go with?


Readers will remember that the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki estimated that the US would need "several hundred thousand troops.", an estimate that prompted Rumsfeld's deputy Paul Wolfowitz to call Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark." Former Army secretary Thomas White came down on Shinseki's side. “Rumsfeld was furious with White when the Army secretary agreed with Shinseki.” No, Rumsfeld did not just go along with what the “battlefield commanders” were asking for. He took the very strong view that the US didn't need very many troops.

This is an absolutely classic non-answer answer:


BILL O'REILLY: What, could we have done anything differently to fight this insurgency before it got out of hand?

DONALD RUMSFELD: We have been doing things differently ever since we got in there. In other words, what you have is a plan. And then you have a whole, a flexibility to, to deal with a whole set of excursions that might occur. You're dealing not with a static situation, you're dealing with an enemy with a brain. They get up every morning, go to school on what we're doing, and change what they're doing to advantage themselves. We get up every morning, see what they're doing, and change what we're doing to advantage ourselves against what they're doing.


Uh, okay. We're paying attention and adjusting as we go. That's very nice, but it was obvious to me, a citizen in a suburb of Philadelphia as early as July 2003 that US forces were seriously understrength and the Secretary of Defense still hasn't adjusted yet, so I seriously doubt that there's any day-by-day adjustments going on either.


BILL O'REILLY: How do we beat them?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, well, it's a test of wills. I mean, they haven't won a single battle the entire time since the end of, of major combat operations.


I would dispute this assertion. Back on April 29th, blogger Steve Gilliard discusses the First Battle of Fallujah. That and this quoted passage again suggests that this battle was far from an American victory:

US Marines withdraw from Fallujah. “Led by a former Saddam Hussein general, Iraqi troops replaced U.S. Marines on Friday and raised the Iraqi flag at the entrance to Fallujah under a plan to end the monthlong siege of the city. A suicide car bomb on the outskirts that killed two Americans and wounded six failed to disrupt the pullout of Marines from bitterly contested parts of the city.”


And is a guerrilla war really just a “test of wills”?


Opinion: “Take the confident manner in which President Bush keeps asserting that ‘he says what he means and means what he says,’ as if consistency is the highest virtue and the inability to re-consider one's actions is a strength. He has the benighted notion that saying a thing makes it so. We have only to watch the faces of Iraqi women and children when their homes are invaded and torn apart by soldiers in search of terrorists. That is enough to make us know that life is not now better for families despite our president's insistent protestations that the people of Iraq are better off because we have liberated them.”


Sounds to me like there's a lot more to it than that. In fact, watching the movie The Battle of Algiers, I'd say that winning a guerrilla war was very considerably more complicated than just a battle of wills. It may be all very fine and well to proclaim that you're showing toughness and resolve when you never face the casualties coming back home via Dover Air Force Base, but I don't think that even really counts as courage, let alone toughness.

So how does Rumsfeld stack up as Secretary of Defense? We need to fire this guy yesterday!!

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