Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

22 September 2005

Rumsfeld Must Go

How many disastrous blunders must a man make before he’s let go? Only the President knows for sure.

Let’s review the facts. Rumsfeld’s obsession with WMD helped push the President to invade Iraq and make WMD the pretext for doing so. From all accounts, Rumsfeld counseled war and won the President’s approval for it over Colin Powell’s more cautionary advice. Rumsfeld then gave our generals half the troops needed to do the job. In the process, he made sure that the two generals (Shinseki and Zinni) who had asked for more troops and knew the most about insurgencies were no longer on active duty. Rumsfeld insists he didn’t fire them; he wants us to believe that these two men, in the prime of their lives and at the top of their careers, voluntarily retired just before what they’d trained for all their lives began.

Rumsfeld’s blunders increased exponentially after the invasion. He failed to plan for an insurgency. He joked that the looting of Iraq’s national patrimony was just Iraqis enjoying their newfound freedom. He failed to secure or collect the mountains of ordnance scarring Iraq’s landscape, which are now blowing up our troops and Iraqi security forces. His Pentagon assigned the bulk of our Arabic translators to the fruitless search for WMD, rather than vetting Baathist military officers and ferreting out insurgents. He failed to use the large caches of Saddam’s loot found by our troops to jump-start reconstruction. He failed to supply enough body armor or humvee armor to protect our troops against an increasing (and increasingly obvious) threat from explosive devices made using the ordnance he failed to secure or collect.

These failures are not surprising, for Rumsfeld has underestimated the enemy’s strength and cleverness at every turn. No doubt he approved the President’s ludicrous “Mission Accomplished” spectacle. (Do you really think the President would have stuck his neck out that far politically without Rumsfeld’s blessing, or that Karl Rove would have let the President do so?) And now Rumsfeld says, for the umpteenth time, that insurgents are “on the run,” when there is no evidence to support that assertion and Iraq may be slipping into civil war.

Does anyone really believe we can win this war with this kind of leadership? Does anyone think that our troops deserve better?

Now we find that Rumsfeld’s Pentagon withheld information from the FBI that might have prevented September 11. An intelligence unit in the Pentagon, known by the code name of “Able Danger,” had identified four of the 9/11 hijackers, including the leader Mohammed Atta, as terrorists inside our country. The Pentagon unit had this information long before 9/11. What did it do with the information? It failed to pass it on to the FBI.

The failure was not accidental. Nor was it negligent. According to the Pentagon itself, the failure was the result of a specific, deliberate decision.

The reason claimed by Rumsfeld’s minions is instructive. “The lawyers made us do it,” they say.

How credible is that excuse? This is the same Pentagon that gave us Abu Ghraib, notwithstanding the Geneva Convention and the prohibition against torture. This is the same Pentagon that relied upon, and probably instigated, the infamous “torture memo.” According to that memo, you commit torture only if you nearly kill someone or cause "organ failure." Now they are saying that the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits using our military for domestic law enforcement, prohibited informing the FBI of the presence of foreign nationals on our soil for purposes of terrorism. They want us to believe that same lawyers that defined “torture” so narrowly as to justify Abu Ghraib couldn’t also narrow the meaning of “domestic law enforcement” sufficiently to exclude passing on information about foreign terrorists. If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.

So what was the real reason for failing to inform the FBI? If you know anything about Rumsfeld, there can be only one answer: turf. He’s the guy whose only claim to excellence of any kind is being a “skilled bureaucratic infighter.” He’s the guy who has consistently and successfully resisted every executive and legislative attempt to bring military intelligence under the control of anyone outside the Pentagon, despite the obvious advantages of central control and coordination. (The alternative of bringing the CIA and FBI inside the Pentagon is unthinkable for a whole host of reasons, including that very same Posse Comitatus Act.) Now, despite repeated references to turf battles in the 9/11 Committee’s report and every other public assessment of our intelligence services in recent years, Rumsfeld’s minions wants us to believe that his unit didn’t share information because the lawyers told them not to.

Is there any limit to the President’s loyalty to this arrogant, stupid, dangerous man? Does the President know what the phrase “last straw” means? Does he really care about the damage Rumsfeld has caused our troops, our civilians, and our country? When will he start to listen to the screams of those left wounded and bereft as a result of Rumsfeld’s incompetence? When will he realize that Rumsfeld’s pathetic attempts to “spin” his blunders only subject the Administration to ridicule?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’ll make a pledge. On this blog I’ve questioned the direction and leadership of the Democratic party. But if Rumsfeld is still in office next year, I will vote Democratic for every office from Senator to dog catcher, regardless of any doubt. Maybe if enough folks send Karl Rove that same message, the President might stop worrying about loyalty to a self-aggrandizing idiot and think about appointing someone who can do a competent job as Secretary of Defense. Our troops and our people deserve no less.

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