In Defense of Don Rumsfeld
Jude Wanniski
December 18, 2004


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 “take the fall.” 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 “Medals of Freedom” 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 “apartment” 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, “Mission Accomplished,” 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 “war” 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 “Mission Accomplished” 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 “fingerprints” on the moves to disband the Iraqi army or the decision to level 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 (“You go to war with the tools you have, not those you wish you had.”) 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 policy."

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."