Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In Rumsfeld, another McNamara

Commentary by Pat Murphy


By PAT MURPHY

Pat Murphy

"His domineering intellect and predilection for systems analysis," commentator Max Frankel wrote of the secretary of Defense, "made him a pathetic victim of erroneous and deceptive military audits ... "

Donald Rumsfeld?

No, Frankel wrote in 1995 of an earlier Defense chief, Vietnam War-era Robert (Whiz Kid) McNamara, known (like Rumsfeld) for waging war with a cost accounting mentality and telling generals he knew best.

It took McNamara 30 years to admit in his 1995 book, "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam," that "we were wrong, terribly wrong" about strategy in Vietnam that cost 47,393 U.S. combat deaths.

Rumsfeld, supremely stubborn and haughty, is unlikely to admit failings that critics, including ex-combat generals now demanding his resignation, contend have pitched Iraq into bedlam and bloody insurrection, spiked U.S. military deaths and cast doubts about Iraq's future.

President Bush's faint praise hasn't quelled criticisms of Rumsfeld's arrogant belittling of military brass and operational blunders. Bush, a dubious judge of competence, also lauded FEMA's Michael Brown for "doing a heck of a job" in the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

Rumsfeld's track record is devastating.

A nest of rightwing civilian conservatives in the Pentagon, we now know, planned the war several years before the 2003 attack. Rumsfeld spun the fantasy that Iraqis would cheer invading troops with U.S. flags.

This fairy tale explains ammunition shortages and lack of adequate body armor and shortage of armored Humvees: with cheers assured by Rumsfeld, why worry about rocket-propelled grenades?

When looters pillaged Baghdad without noticeable interference or concern from U.S. forces, Rumsfeld shrugged, "Stuff happens."

As a storm of questions about force levels battered Rumsfeld, he sniffed, "You go to war with the Army you've got." (Rumsefeld forced highly respected Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Eric K. Shinseki into retirement for telling Congress far more troops would be needed to secure peace than Rumsfeld estimated.)

Rumsfeld rejected field requests to deploy the First Cavalry Division as the insurgency worsened.

He denied use of torture. But documents reveal he received regular briefings about using dogs and other degrading abuses of Guantanamo detainees.

He disbanded the Iraqi Army, only to try rebuilding it from scratch with questionable results. Hundreds of millions of dollars have vanished in fraud. Contractors have overcharged the U.S. Treasury. All this under Rumsfeld, who remains shamelessly unrepentant.

Now, the Orwellian White House spin has begun: portraying Rumsfeld as a heroic, misunderstood military genius besieged by ungrateful, disgruntled generals who want to be molly coddled.

This is as deceitful as White House lies that justified war.




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