In Defense of Donald Rumsfeld

Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients From: Jude Wanniski Re: He Did What He Was Told to Do

I'm suddenly feeling sorry for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Yes, I still think he has been a dreadful Pentagon chief and should have gone into retirement many moons ago. But I now see his neo-con pals, who from way back years ago realized they had in him an easy mark to do their bidding, have decided that Rummy has to u201Ctake the fall.u201D Things are so bad in Iraq that they need someone to blame. They can't blame Paul Bremer or George Tenet, two of the senior losers in the mix, because the President decided to give them u201CMedals of Freedomu201D this week, the highest honor the U.S. government can give to an American civilian. Talk about devaluing the coin of the realm!

Now the neo-con puppeteers who have had Rummy on their strings for many, many years know absolutely, positively that he has not been more than a pretty face at the Pentagon for these last four years. But they have to pretend that if it were not for Rummy, all would be just fine in Iraq and they would not now have to paint rosy scenarios about how it will all come out okay, if only the President would get rid of their longtime pal. The clearest sign that Rummy has been chosen as the fall guy for their collective blunders was the Washington Post's op-ed this week by Bill Kristol, editor of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard. Rupert, who also owns the Fox War Channel, has just plunked down $44 million, cash, for the Manhattan u201Capartmentu201D once occupied by Laurence Rockefeller. War has been a great business for Rupert and his team.

You may think I am being sarcastic in my defense of Rumsfeld, but I am deadly serious. As Pentagon chief, it was his primary responsibility to take the decision of the President to go to war against Iraq and win as quickly as possible, with the least expense in blood and treasure. And by gosh, Rummy did it. Iraq fell like a rotten apple in a matter of weeks, u201CMission Accomplished,u201D with an amazingly small number of casualties.

Then why is it that Bill Kristol, who was one of the three or four architects of the war, now argues Rumsfeld is the goat? It wasn't Rumsfeld who decided that the war would be a cakewalk, with the people of Iraq welcoming the troops with bouquets and kisses. That was Vice President Cheney, the top of the neo-con power pyramid in the White House compound, who has had Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz whispering u201Cwaru201D in his ear all the way back to Governor Bush's early plans for the 2000 presidential campaign. So Kristol can't very well demand the Veep's head.

Next in the chain of command responsible for all that followed after the President announced u201CMission Accomplishedu201D was Condoleezza Rice, the President's National Security Advisor. After all, her job was to take the various strands of intelligence coming to the White House and distill them for the President so he could make intelligent decisions. The CIA said it would be a “slam dunk” to find weapons of mass destruction once Iraq was occupied. Condi didn’t distill a blessed thing. But Bill Kristol can't very well demand the head of Condi Rice for her incompetence at the National Security Council. The President thinks she's swell. She will soon be Secretary of State!!

As far as I know Rumsfeld never made any of the key decisions that have brought chaos to Iraq. He did what he was told to do, which is why it is now so hard to find his u201Cfingerprintsu201D on the moves to disband the Iraqi army or the decision to level Falluja to win the minds and hearts of the people of Falluja and their friends and relatives in other parts of the Sunni Triangle. It wasn't his decision to install Iyad Allawi as prime minister in the interim government, with Allawi's popularity so low for ordering the attacks on Falluja that he may not win a seat in the National Assembly in next month's voting.

So the neo-cons have decided Rumsfeld has to take the fall. He's perfect for the job, because he can so easily be replaced by someone else willing to take orders from Perle and Wolfie. And his remark to the soldier who asked him in Kuwait last week why his Humvee still doesn't have body armor (u201CYou go to war with the tools you have, not those you wish you had.u201D) sent him way down in the public opinion polls. CNN's Lou Dobbs asked his viewers to vote on whether they support Rummy or not, and you could see the amazement on his face when he reported the tally at the end of his show: 2% support, 94% no support, 4% undecided!!

Well, I'm one of the 2%, I guess. I think Rummy deserves the Medal of Freedom!