What's All This Then?

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

If the International Olympic Committee ever decides to add "Exercise in Arrogance" as a competitive sport, the United States would have to be one of the front runners to win gold - either in the individual or team competitions. The Muslim world would have some favored entries to be sure. Osama Bin Laden and the al Qaeda team of course - and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who would be a natural selection based on his thumb to nose attitude towards the United States and his grand Israel destruction plan.

But the favorite would have to be our own Donald Rumsfeld - who’s name alone is fast becoming a Thesaurus alternative for pomposity and disdain. In defending himself against relatively mild criticism from a half dozen retired generals along with the likes of John McCain, he is now floating the idea that the criticism stems not from his mishandling of the Iraq adventure but from resentment at changes that he has introduced during his five years on the job. And some people are buying into at least some of that nonsense. Witness the lead editorial in today’s Chicago Tribune.

But is that really why the generals are calling for his resignation? Think about it. This is the man whose response to looting in Iraq after we had toppled Saddam Hussein was that "freedom is messy." This is the man whose answer to a soldier in Iraq who asked why he had to scrounge for scrap metal to protect his vehicle was "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." This is the man who told us that he knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. "We know where they are" he said. "They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." This is the man who revealed the clarity of his thinking with his comment that " Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know." Now why wouldn’t you want someone like that leading you into battle?

This is the man who showed his respect for the opinions of others by saying "Secretary Powell and I agree on every single issue that has ever been before this administration except for those instances where Colin's still learning." And when Army Chief of Staff , General Eric Shinseki testified that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to control conditions in post war Iraq, this was the man who said "The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark." Shortly after which, General Shinseki was gone - and we all know what conditions prevail in Iraq today.

In defending himself with his usual arrogant flair, Rumsfeld wanted us all to know that "The fact that two or three or four retired people have different views, I respect their views. But obviously out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round."

Well nobody is suggesting that "every time two or three people disagreed we changed the Secretary of Defense." I don’t think that there’s ever been a situation where retired generals have called for a Secretary to resign in a time of war. And you’ll note that Mr. Rumsfeld forgot to mention that among those "two or three people" were the generals actually involved in conducting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a little like Scooter Libby saying that out of hundreds of prosecuting attorneys, only Patrick Fitzgerald who brought an indictment before a grand jury. As the average pre-teen of today would say Dah??

What the secretary didn’t forget was where to go to put out his defense. To Rush Limbaugh - whose right wing radio program just happens to be on the armed forces network that can be heard by our troops in Iraq. It’s an appropriate combination. Limbaugh the distorter - (and I’m being kind with that description) - coupled with the frequently incomprehensible Rumsfeld.

According to one web site listing a bio of our esteemed Secretary of Defense "The cantankerous Rumsfeld has charmed the Washington press corp with his microphone skills." I agree that he at times can exhibit charm, but all too often words cascade from this charmer’s mouth that I believe more accurately reflect the inner being of the man. Arrogant. Disdainful. Dismissive of opinions that differ from his and obsessed with the conviction of his own rectitude that blinds him to the potential dangers of some of his decisions.

At the very least, if the man is a patriot, he should resign if only to remove himself as an issue in the problems we are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the so called war on terror - if it ever gets re-launched against those who attacked us. It would send the right message to everyone. To our enemies. To our military personnel. That we have leaders who are willing to accept responsibility, to admit that no one individual is indispensable and who will step aside and allow new ideas to enter the arena for the good of the nation.

But having watched the guy for lo these many years - I'm not holding my breath.