Rumsfeld Assails Critics of War Policy
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 30, 2006; A06
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned yesterday that “moral and intellectual confusion” over the Iraq war and the broader anti-terrorism effort could sap American willpower and divide the country, and he urged renewed resolve to confront extremists waging “a new type of fascism.”
Drawing parallels to efforts by some nations to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II, Rumsfeld said it would be “folly” for the United States to ignore the rising dangers posed by a new enemy that he called “serious, lethal and relentless.”
In a pointed attack on the news media and critics of President Bush’s war and national security policies, Rumsfeld declared: “Any kind of moral and intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can severely weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.”
Rumsfeld spoke at the American Legion’s national convention in Salt Lake City as part of a coordinated defense of Bush leading up to the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Reviving images of the president’s response to the strike on the World Trade Center in New York, Rumsfeld said, “He remains the same man who stood atop the rubble of Lower Manhattan, with a bullhorn, vowing to fight back.”
With polls showing that a majority of Americans believe it was a mistake for the United States to invade Iraq and with many Democrats calling for a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops, Rumsfeld called the Iraq war the “epicenter” of the struggle against terrorism. Last week, Bush said that setting a timetable for a troop withdrawal would embolden the enemy and cause chaos in Iraq and throughout the region.
Congressional Democrats angrily responded to Rumsfeld’s remarks. “There is no confusion among military experts, bipartisan members of Congress and the overwhelming majority of the American people about the need to change course in Iraq,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). “The only person confused about how to best protect this country is Don Rumsfeld, which is why he must go.”
Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he took exception to what he considered the implication that critics of the administration’s military policies are unpatriotic. He noted that there are “scores of patriotic Americans of both parties who are highly critical” of Rumsfeld’s handling of the Defense Department.
Rumsfeld obliquely acknowledged mistakes and setbacks in Iraq, quoting the French statesman Georges Clemenceau as calling all wars “a series of catastrophes that results in victory.” Moreover, in a reference to recent charges of war crimes against U.S. troops in Iraq, Rumsfeld said that “in every army, there are occasionally bad actors—the ones who dominate the headlines today—who don’t live up to the standards of their oath and of our country.”
Rumsfeld stressed that it is misguided for Americans to fall into self-blame and to “return to the destructive view that America—not the enemy—is the real source of the world’s trouble.” He blamed the U.S. media for spreading “myths and distortions . . . about our troops and about our country.”
He said a database search of U.S. newspapers produced 10 times as many mentions of a soldier punished for misconduct at Abu Ghraib prison than of Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, a Medal of Honor recipient.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, addressing the same audience later, sounded similar themes. “The dream of some, that we could avoid this conflict, that we did not have to take sides in this battle in the Middle East, that dream was demolished on September the 11th,” Rice said.
Rice said in a radio interview that “we cannot fall prey to pessimism about how this will all come out,” adding that “the really devastating problem for the world would be if America loses its will.”
William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security
Rumsfeld’s Enemy: It’s Us
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered a fire-and-brimstone speech at the American Legion’s annual convention yesterday (http://www.defenselink.mil/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=1033)—after acknowledging young soldiers serving in Iraq and giving the boy scouts a shout-out, the secretary wove an elaborate picture of an enemy made up of terrorists, morally misguided Westerners, disagreeable military strategists, and a cynical news media.
Rumsfeld stated there could be no appeasing the enemy and any “any moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.”
The “who” Rumsfeld is talking about is himself.
Rumsfeld is the “who” that is right, and everyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but a danger to freedom.
Within minutes of the conclusion of Rumsfeld’s speech yesterday, I received an e-mail from Thayer C. Scott, the secretary’s speechwriter, serving up talking points.
The Defense Department then took the unusual step, usually reserved for its broadsides against Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker, of issuing a statement saying that the Associated Press coverage of Rumsfeld’s Salt Lake City remarks mischaracterized them.
Either Rumsfeld has delivered one of the most important speeches of the modern era, or he’s gone crazy.
I think the latter, not just because I think the secretary is wrong on his intellectual characterization of terrorism, and not just because he is wrong about the media and its intentions, and not because he is so pugnacious, or because he has been wrong so many times before.
Rumsfeld is so wrong about America. His use of World War I history and the specter of fascism and appeasement, and his argument about moral weakness or even treason in any who oppose him, is not only polarizing but ineffective in provoking debate and discussion about the proper course this country must take to “fight” terrorism.
This is not the first time that Rumsfeld has shown himself to be so out of touch, so contemptuous of America. Rumsfeld as secretary of defense has displayed a contempt from long before 9/11 for anyone who disagrees with him, particularly in his initial wars against those in the uniformed military.
Moreover, Rumsfeld’s declaration of war yesterday follows from his basic view that the Defense Department has to do it all: He has created an intelligence bureaucracy because he is distrustful and contemptuous of the CIA and all others. He has built up a secret army and covert capabilities in special operations forces because he wants to control and to rely only upon his own warriors. He has created a homeland security apparatus that looks over the shoulder of the Department of Homeland Security and is the ultimate arbiter of security. He has created his own FBI in the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), and fought to ensure that the NSA stays under Pentagon control. He has created his own law and his own human rights policy. He has subverted Congress through unexamined supplemental budgets and super-secret programs.
Even as a military strategist, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld pushed a losing strategy in Afghanistan. This is not just because he went to war with an initially small force. After all, the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda began just weeks after 9/11 and that was what could be mobilized in that short period. The tragic error was that Rumsfeld continued to think that the terrorist threat existed in the form of a small army to be routed by his fabulous “transformed” warriors.
It is Rumsfeld who declared “mission accomplished” long before President Bush stepped on to the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Rumsfeld has been wrong in fighting and too quick to declare victory thereafter.
Rumsfeld declared victory in Afghanistan, in addition, because he was twitching to move on to the next enemy, and the next and the next. But even when the weaknesses and problems became apparent about how the Afghanistan war had been fought, Rumsfeld still pushed an identical military strategy in Iraq, brushing aside any criticism as naïve and appeasing and out of touch with the new gathering storm of weapons of mass destruction.
And even as Iraq has become one of the biggest hornets’ nests in history, the secretary has convinced himself over and over that progress is being made and victory is just around the corner. America, Rumsfeld says, is not to blame, conflating a just war with a preemptive American strike. America is not to blame and therefore Rumsfeld is not to blame: no missteps, no errors of judgment. The secretary just wants his soldiers to believe now that he anticipated all along that the enemy was totalitarian and fascist and that Iraq was part of the big plan.
If I were the conspiratorial type, I’d say Rumsfeld was a particular menace to America because in his view of a monolithic and totalitarian terrorist enemy, and in his analysis of the weakness of American society, he can only come to the messianic conclusion that he indeed needs to takeover the country in order to save it. And this might even be worth speculating about were it the case that Rumsfeld reflected the views of those in the military leadership, or were it the case that Rumsfeld could actually engineer such a coup.
But alas, the secretary would get the intelligence wrong, employ too few troops and send tank columns on thunder runs through Manhattan and Hollywood, prematurely declaring victory and then being befuddled about the American desire to recover and preserve its way of life, which is not the Rumsfeld way.
“Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America—not the enemy—is the real source of the worlds troubles?,” Rumsfeld asked yesterday.
This has got an easy answer: World troubles? Rumsfeld is the source of troubles much closer to home.
By William M. Arkin | August 30, 2006; 8:01 AM ET