Via True Blue Liberal — the Army Times conducted one of those online, not-scientifically-valid polls asking readers this question:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has come under fire in recent weeks from a variety of retired generals, who say he should resign for his performance in managing the war in Iraq. Do you think the U.S. war effort is grounds for Secretary Rumsfeld to resign?
That’s a carefully worded question; note it doesn’t say that Rummy’s performance was bad or hint that the war effort is not going well. Anyway, the results as of this writing (4,339 total votes) are yes, 63.47 %; no, 32.96 %; and no opinion, 3.57 %.
These results don’t prove anything. I have no doubt a scientifically conducted poll would have different results. Still, it suggests some Army Times readers, not known to be loony leftie peaceniks, are really pissed off at Rummy.
Some mid-level officers interviewed last week by New York Times reporters Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt sounded pissed at both Rummy and the generals who didn’t speak out about him until after they retired.
The discussions often flare with anger, particularly among many midlevel officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and face the prospect of additional tours of duty.
“This is about the moral bankruptcy of general officers who lived through the Vietnam era yet refused to advise our civilian leadership properly,” said one Army major in the Special Forces who has served two combat tours. “I can only hope that my generation does better someday.”
An Army major who is an intelligence specialist said: “The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of generals failed to stand up and say, ‘We cannot do this mission.’ They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we had an adequate force. I think the backlash against the general officers will be seen in the resignation of officers” who might otherwise have stayed in uniform for more years.
In defense of the generals, some of them said they did try to explain reality to the Pentagon, but the exercise proved as fruitful as explaining verb conjugation to a tree stump.
Mo Dowd (via True Blue Liberal) writes of Rummy’s and Condi’s little visit to Baghdad this week:
The former â€œMatinee Idol,â€ as W. liked to call him, is now a figure of absurdity, clinging to his job only because some retired generals turned him into a new front on the war on terror. On his rare, brief visit to Baghdad, he was afraid to go outside Fortress Green Zone, even though he yammers on conservative talk shows about how progress is being made, and how the press never reports good news out of Iraq.
If the news is so good, why wasnâ€™t Rummy gallivanting at the local mall, walking around rather than hiding out in the U.S. base known as Camp Victory? (What are they going to call it, one reporter joked, Camp Defeat?)
Very often when us loony leftie peaceniks criticize the war, the righties spin it as a slam on our troops. It’s as if they absolutely cannot fathom that fault may lie with leadership and planning rather than execution. And, of course, the ultimate responsibility for the debacle in Iraq lies with the bleepheads who made the decision to invade for no good bleeping reason.
But let’s brush that aside for the moment.
According to a Virginia businessman named Joseph Robert, Jr., who has been in Iraq, the troops are still dedicated to the mission; it’s everyone else who has screwed the pooch. Robert writes in today’s Washington Post:
First, U.S. forces in Iraq remain focused on their mission. Talking with soldiers and Marines over dinner in their mess halls, it’s easy to see why reenlistment rates among U.S. troops in Iraq are the highest in the military. These men and women understand their mission and believe they are making a difference. Like my son, Joe III, after he returned from a tough mission in Fallujah, the Marines I met said they would be happy to return to Iraq because they believe what they’re doing is important.
… dangerous failures in Iraq’s economic reconstruction are undermining progress on the security and political fronts. …
… This strategic failure is a direct result of something else I observed: Only one element of the U.S. government — the military — seems to be treating Iraq as “the vital national interest” that President Bush declares it to be. Across Iraq, military personnel are heroically managing local reconstruction and development projects for which they lack the proper training or tools. Meanwhile, back in the Green Zone, hundreds of civilian positions — from the departments of State, Justice, Commerce and Agriculture — go unfilled.
U.S. commanders expressed frustration that dozens of Justice Department billets sit empty despite Iraq’s urgent need for help in developing a functioning judicial system. American troops like my son describe risking their lives to arrest suspected insurgents, testifying in Iraqi courts and then watching in frustration as the offenders are tossed back on the streets. In government, as in business, refusing to devote the resources and personnel to a strategic priority is a recipe for disaster.
This reminds me of something George Packer said on The Daily Show awhile back (link to video on this page). Parker spoke of many individuals in Iraq, both Iraqi and American,
Packer: … really pouring their hearts into this project, and meanwhile back in Washington decisions being made on the fly, or not being made at all, being made against all expert advice as if it almost didn’t matter. …
… there was a whole tide of young Republican operatives coming over to staff the occupation, people who had never lived abroad, certainly had no experience in the Middle East, there were maybe three Arabic speakers in the whole coalition provisional authority in the first few few months …
Stewart: You say the more you know about Iraq the more you’d be punished, it seems.
Packer: Yes. It’s a law of the occupation that the more you know the less influence you have, and as you go higher and higher in the Administration, knowledge decreases until at the very top …
… they were unbelievably reckless, and I think it’s going to take time for historians to explain how they could have rolled the dice in such a risky way and not taken it more seriously. Over and over again that’s the thing that I come back to. They didn’t take it very seriously.
As I wrote here, the Bushies seem congenitally incapable of taking anything seriously. Unless it’s a political threat, of course.
Philip Gold writes in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer that “Too few are carrying the burden of war.” He discusses a book written by Dr. Ron Glasser titled Wounded: Vietnam to Iraq. Dr. Glasser had been an Army doctor stationed in Japan during the Vietnam war.
When the Iraq war started to sour, Glasser, now a prominent Minneapolis pediatric nephrologist, noticed that new kinds of wounded were coming back. Thanks to improved body armor and lack of enemy artillery and mortars, there were fewer traditional gunshot and fragmentation wounds. But because of the wide use of improvised explosive devices such as suicide bombs, there were far more serious wounds to limbs and closed head injuries. Gone was the “Million Dollar Wound” that got you honorably home but still reasonably intact. Now the military was doing amputations at a rate unknown since the Civil War and dealing with head injuries that could only be described as “polytrauma.” …
… “Wounded” tells it to the American people like it is and warns that these new wounded are going to require expensive lifetime care from a Department of Veterans Affairs that will be struggling with Vietnam vets for the next three decades.
Toward the end, “Wounded” shifts from medicine to note who’s not coming home shattered in body and spirit: America’s more privileged sons and daughters.
Glasser also wrote about the sounded of Iraq in a July 2005 Harper’s Magazine article. Glasser writes that the Bushies aren’t taking the Iraq wounded seriously, either.
“Based on what we should be doing, the VA is simply underfunded,” former Georgia senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee from the war in Vietnam and head of the Veterans Administration under President Carter, told me. “The budgetary constraints put into place by this administration’s tax cuts have proved a disaster for the whole system. The VA can’t handle what they have to do now; how are they going to handle the flood of physical and emotional casualties, many of whom will be the responsibility of the VA for the rest of their lives?”
Ultimately, if the Bush Administration continues its refusal to accept the realities of this conflict, the most enduring images of the Iraq war will be the sight of legless and addled beggars on our street corners holding cardboard signs that read: IRAQ VET. HUNGRY AND HOMELESS. PLEASE HELP.
See also “Coming Home from War on the Cheap” by Judith Coburn.
In other news, Drew Brown reports for Knight Ridder that the cost of the war is skyrocketing. Ewen MacAskill reports for the Guardian that the “US admits Iraq could become haven for terror.”
And the righties complain the press isn’t reporting the good news in Iraq. Such a shame.
But about Rummy? You know we’re living in strange times when something written by William S. Lind, Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation, shows up in the hyper-leftie online mag Counterpunch.
Rumsfeldâ€™s defenders argue that some of his critics are dinosaurs who resent â€œTransformationâ€ because it disrupts business as usual, they have a point. As anyone who has dealt with the higher ranks of the U.S. military knows, they put the La Brea tar pits in the shade as a dinosaur graveyard. …
But here too the story is not so simple. While Rumsfeldian â€œTransformationâ€ represents change, it represents change in the wrong direction. Instead of attempting to move from the Second Generation to the Third (much less the Fourth), Transformation retains the Second Generationâ€™s conception of war as putting firepower on targets while trying to replace people with technology. Its summa is the Death Star, where men and women in spiffy uniforms sit in air-conditioned comfort zapping enemies like bugs. It is a vision of future war that appeals to technocrats and lines industry pockets, but has no connection to reality. The combination of this vision of war with an equally unrealistic vision of strategic objectives has given us the defeat in Iraq. Again, Rumsfeld lies at the heart of both.
Lind believes that Rummy’s is the only head that should roll. But seems to me that if the President were serious about the war in Iraq, Rummy’s head would have rolled a long time ago.
Liz Sidoti reports for the Associated Press that many Senate Republicans would like Rummy to be gone, but are resigned to the fact the the President wants him to stay.
And why does the President want Rummy to stay? Because the President can’t admit he made a mistake, that’s why. It’s all about Dear Leader and his glorious ego.
As of this morning, 2398 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq.
Update: Flaming idiot rightie Mark Noonan of Blogs for Bush linked to the Joseph Robert, Jr., article I link to and quote above, and wrote, “Warning: No Liberal Should Read This! It is positive news about Iraq, and we wouldn’t want to spoil the nice, little anti-Bush fantasy land the liberals live in…”
How stupid are these people?