A 31-year-old National Guardsman from Tennessee has done what members of Congress and big time Washington news reporters seem to lack the stomach to do.
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson stuck Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld with a sharp-edged question about Defense preparedness, flustering the military chief into a stammering response that left him looking petulant and far smaller than the soldier who cornered him.
Why, Wilson asked during a Town Hall-type visit with Rumsfeld in Kuwait, must troops headed for combat in Iraq scrounge "hillbilly armor" from dumps to protect vehicles, instead of being outfitted with proper protective equipment? Another soldier asked why do Guardsmen get hand-me-down equipment instead of what regular troops receive.
With the in-your-face cockiness he dishes out to congressmen and Washington reporters who grovel at Pentagon press conferences, Rumsfeld regained his composure and dismissed the questions with, "You go to war with the Army you have." It was part of the Rumsfeld arsenal of don't-bother-me clichés that include "Nothing's perfect," "Freedom's untidy," and "Stuff happens."
Despite Rumsfeld's oblique attempt to make the war in Iraq sound as though America was caught off guard like it was before Pearl Harbor, neocons who now control military and intelligence policy plotted an attack on Iraq as far back as the mid-1990s while working busily as rightwing think-tankers.
And when they decided to attack Iraq, the same neocons promised U.S. forces they'd be greeted with cheers, flowers and kisses, and an early trip home. So, Secretary Rumsfeld planned everything on the cheap.
Humiliated that mere GIs nailed Rumsfeld and the Bush administration publicly on flagrant negligence that has cost lives of men and women at the front, the sanctimonious, predictable smokescreen has begun.
Good to hear from the troops, Rumsfeld later cheerily cooed to reporters tagging along two steps behind him.
So, one reporter asked, now that he's heard about combat equipment shortages from GIs who do the fighting, what does he plan? In his best aloofness, Rumsfeld said he doesn't intend to change the supply system.
Families dreading the next casualty reports can be excused for likening Rumsfeld to the imperious Marie Antoinette, who airily dismissed the plight of hungry, breadless Parisians: "Let them eat cake."
Secretary Rumsfeld is a far cry from past greats such as World War II's Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, whose devotion to making certain GIs had the very best before entering battle was an obsession.
But then, the entire Bush administration's record thus far is a far cry from the greats whose long-established works are now being dismantled piece-by-piece, program-by-program.