Rumsfeld Again

By Jeffrey Page

Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld

After several years out of the public eye Donald Rumsfeld – genius of all geniuses of the war in Iraq – returns.

Nowadays, Rumsfeld is being “courted” by some possible Republican presidential candidates. One such matchup is Ted Cruz’s hiring of Victoria Coates to be his foreign policy adviser. Victoria Coates? She was an aide to Rumsfeld when he ran the Pentagon for George W. Bush. Additionally, The Washington Post recently noted that several Republicans are reaching out to policy makers from past GOP administrations. Cruz, for example, has a sit-down scheduled with Rumsfeld himself.

Donald Henry Rumsfeld. As secretary of defense he gave us the misery of a war fought for dubious purposes and based on alleged evidence of Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. Thousands dead and wounded, a treasure’s worth of funds spent, and we never found those weapons.

It took a while, but Rumsfeld finally was shown the door. Between his performance at the Pentagon and some of his bizarre comments over the years, the door should have opened sooner, and you wonder why anyone would “court” him today. But, he left and did what people like him do all the time – he vanished, rose briefly with the publication of his book, and then seemed to disappear again. And now he might return – again.

Think back. Recall Rumsfeld as an alumnus of the Wiseacre School of Political Oratory with a major in condescension. In 2003 there were reports that some troops in Iraq had engaged in looting. Of course Rumsfeld was asked about this and sneeringly responded: “Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”

Got that?

There was always more when it came to Rumsfeld. Sure, his Pentagon might have misled Bush about the war and its progress. That’s one form of disrespect. But Rumsfeld dissed the troops themselves.

Do you remember this? Late in 2004, Rumsfeld paid a Christmas visit to U.S. forces in Kuwait. He praised the troops, and then took questions. Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard asked why he and his fellow soldiers had been equipped with light vehicles that lacked proper shielding. (Remember, this was a time when roadside bombings were killing and maiming troops regularly.)

Wilson also asked why, in order to protect their own lives, the troops were forced to scrounge through Kuwaiti landfills for scrap metal, fashion it into substandard shields, and attach them to their light vehicles.

Rumsfeld asked for a repeat of the question and you knew he had been snared. Wilson complied, adding, “We do not have the proper armored vehicles to carry us north.” The troops applauded.

Rumsfeld’s response will live forever as something you simply don’t say to the people who actually do your fighting. “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have,” Rumsfeld said.

Which was verbal trash.

Because if you plan a war for months before you intend to wage it – as the Bush Administration had – you use the time to supply your army with the proper equipment in big numbers. I noted in a column for The Record in 2004 that the only time you’re forced “to go to war with the army you have” is when the enemy is landing in the Bronx and time is precious.

There was more. Soon after Rumsfeld’s appearance in Kuwait, the Pentagon announced it was “aggressively” addressing Wilson’s complaint.”

But then the Associated Press reported it had interviewed another soldier who had expressed the very same complaint of substandard shielding to Rumsfeld – 15 months earlier – during the secretary’s visit with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital. The soldier who spoke with AP recalled that Rumsfeld said at the time of his visit, around September of 2003, that he was working on the problem of the missing armor shields.

Which proves the old adage that I just made up: “You go to war with the secretary of defense who stands behind for his troops, not the secretary of defense who can’t equip his army properly and who sneers when he hears complaints.”

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One Response to “Rumsfeld Again”

  1. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Nothing describes Rumsfeld better, Jeff. Great piece.

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