• In Defense of Donald Rumsfeld

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    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

    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!

    Grumbling Swells on Rumsfeld’s Right Flank
    By Todd S. Purdum
    New York Times

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s terse
    response last week to a National Guardsman’s concerns about a lack
    of battle armor in Iraq has set off a sharp round of fresh criticism
    of him from some fellow Bush supporters, including prominent Republican
    senators, a retired general and a leading intellectual architect
    of the war.

    “I think there are increasing concerns about the secretary’s leadership
    of the war, the repeated failures to predict the strengths of the
    insurgency, the lack of essential safety equipment for our troops,
    the reluctance to expand the number of troops,” Senator Susan Collins
    of Maine said Wednesday.

    Ms. Collins, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a leader
    in the recent successful fight to pass a bill overhauling intelligence-gathering,
    over the objections of some in the Pentagon, added that “all of
    those are factors that are causing people to raise more questions
    to the secretary.”

    The sharp comments by Ms. Collins, together with other recent
    statements Senator John McCain of Arizona, Senator Chuck Hagel of
    Nebraska and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led American forces
    in the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and, after his retirement, twice
    campaigned for President Bush, suggested that the ground might well
    be shifting a bit under Mr. Rumsfeld.

    Mr. Rumsfeld has been the subject of criticism and the butt of
    jokes on late-night television since he answered a complaint by
    Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard about a
    lack of armor on vehicles bound for Iraq by asserting, “You go to
    war with the Army you have.” But several Republican aides on Capitol
    Hill, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was an op-ed
    article in The Washington Post on Wednesday by William Kristol
    that distilled the criticism. Mr. Kristol, the editor of The
    Weekly Standard, had long been one of the war’s most ardent
    supporters among intellectuals, but he cast Mr. Rumsfeld’s comments
    as part of a broader pattern of misjudgments and buck-passing and
    concluded that Mr. Rumsfeld was not up to winning the peace. “Surely
    Don Rumsfeld is not the defense secretary Bush should want to have
    for the remainder of his second term,” he wrote. American soldiers
    “deserve a better defense secretary than the one we have.”

    The White House communications director, Dan Bartlett, told reporters
    that “the president has every bit of confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld.”

    But some Republicans predicted that he would face even greater
    skepticism and scrutiny from Congress in the coming months.

    “My prediction is that the secretary will face tougher questioning
    when he comes before the Senate Armed Services Committee and other
    Congressional committees,” Ms. Collins said. But, she noted, “it’s
    obviously the president’s call on whether Secretary Rumsfeld goes
    or stays, and it looks like the president wants him to stay, at
    least for now.”

    Mr. Kristol, whose magazine has been critical of Mr. Rumsfeld
    for nearly two years, said Mr. Rumsfeld’s comments to Specialist
    Wilson were “really the final straw.”

    “For me, it’s the combination of the arrogance and the buck-passing
    manifested in that statement, with the fundamental error he’s made
    for a year and a half now,” Mr. Kristol said. “That error, from
    my point of view, is that his theory about the military is at odds
    with the president’s geopolitical strategy. He wants this light,
    transformed military, but we’ve got to win a real war, which involves
    using a lot of troops and building a nation, and that’s at the core
    of the president’s strategy for rebuilding the Middle East.”

    He added, “His stubborn attachment to his particular military
    theory had really hurt the nation’s ability to carry out its foreign

    Mr. McCain, a frequent critic of Mr. Rumsfeld, told The Associated
    Press on Monday that he had “no confidence” in the secretary.

    On CNN last Sunday, Mr. Hagel said, “That soldier, and those men
    and women there, deserved a far better answer from their secretary
    of defense than a flippant comment.”

    General Schwarzkopf told MSNBC on Monday that he was angered “by
    the words of the secretary of defense when he laid it all on the
    Army, as if he, the secretary of defense, didn’t have anything to
    do with the Army and the Army was over there doing it themselves,
    screwing up.

    20, 2004

    Wanniski [send him mail]
    runs the financial/political advisory service Wanniski.com.
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