Thoughts on the Retirement of Douglas Feith

When I left the Pentagon in mid-March 2003, I chose not to hold a retirement ceremony. In the Office of the Secretary of Defense, without a cohesive military unit environment, my retirement ceremony would have been planned and organized by me, and my heart wasn’t in it.

I never regretted not having a retirement ceremony, given the neoconservative hijack of my place of employment, the Pentagon and the intelligence process. There would be no end-of-tour medal, because my nomination package was still sitting on Doug Feith’s desk when my first mainstream media criticism of the Pentagon business hit the Knight Ridder newspapers in early August 2003. I’m not sure which was better reading — my list of achievements as a staff officer in OSD, or my coming-out missive. My list of OSD achievements, in typical civil service style, was expansively exaggerated. In retrospect, my coming out missive was understated and careful.

Doug Feith has now joined me in the ranks of the formerly Pentagoned. I wasn’t invited to the farewell ceremony, but we may all benefit from the words of Don Rumsfeld at that blessed event.

The brief Rumsfeld presentation in honor of Feith is worth reading, if only to remind oneself how much the unspoken word can say about the moral abyss that is the modern Pentagon.

Rumsfeld opined, "… the events [in Iraq and Afghanistan] also would not have succeeded without the dedicated effort of so many people in this room. The leadership team that Doug has helped put together in this Department. And certainly it would not have happened as successfully as they have without the leadership of the man we honor today, who led that wonderful policy team."

Yes, I seem to recall that wonderful policy team. From the turn of the century to the present, these machinating Machiavellians contrived, Chalabized, and popularized a notion that America should righteously and oh-so-preemptively invade Iraq.

This policy team is quite well known around Washington, around the world, and by the Justice Department. Unfortunately for the Republic but quite suitable for an arrogant empire in its tumescence, Doug Feith was the best known Under Secretary for Defense Policy we’ve seen in my lifetime, perhaps in the history of the Pentagon.

Quoting Teddy Roosevelt’s "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords," Rumsfeld concluded his remarks with, "I would submit to you that Doug Feith understands that in every bone in his body."

This certainly explains the unbelievable lack of post-invasion planning, and the many murderous occupation missteps. It was only sport, and Feith must have thought time had been called. Too bad for those who have paid dearly in lives ended, families shattered, and homes and businesses lost in the pursuit of Feith’s mission of death, destruction, and a poignantly unwarranted and strangely colonial geostrategy in Iraq. And that’s just on the American side.

We are now free of Feith, at least until he hits the road promoting his memoirs, or not. More likely, he will cash in, his public servant persona instantly evaporating in the heat of greed, or perhaps in the glow of loyalty to his former law partner. L. Marc Zell has been such a busy boy, before and after the invasion of Iraq.

We live in a world where outspoken mothers of dead American soldiers are manhandled by police in Texas and in New York City, where free speech in America is as endangered as a twelve-point buck on the first day of deer season, where law-abiding if waterbound citizens are made to give up their weapons in the face of bully cops and war-weary federal soldiers who understandably can’t distinguish between an occupied foreign country and our own.

We have a nearly 75-year-old secretary of defense who wants to live another fifty so that, in his own words,

"Years from now, unfortunately it may be many years, accurate accounts of what’s taking place these past four years will be written and it will show that Doug Feith has performed his duties with great dedication, with impressive skill and with remarkable vision during this perilous and indeed momentous period in the life of our country. … And I’m absolutely convicted that history will thank you for it as well."

My goodness. These adoring words from a man known not to personally care for Doug Feith are bad enough, but must we wait so long? Yet this is the neoconservative proposal. They say history will thank them for what we have done in Iraq. Maybe they are confusing some future account with the contemporary desires of Iranian mullahs to the east and the Likud to the west.

Perhaps the unspoken conclusion for America is a simple, "Ya’ll go back to sleep, now."

Feith’s departure from the Pentagon is a small blessing.

Unlike Rumsfeld, I’m nowhere near 75 years old. Yet, I find that I need less sleep than before. That’s an even bigger blessing, because free-range war criminals and creeping fascism can keep you up nights.