The pugnacious and imperious Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is so accustomed to cowering generals and admirals like raw recruits that he genuinely believes he can bully Washington media and the public into ignoring the humiliating, bloody disaster called Iraq.
"Relax!" Rumsfeld ordered news reporters in the same high-handed tone he uses to blow off generals and congress. "Back off! It's complicated. It's difficult," he said of his bungling war management.
Now, that should be a comforting suggestion for Americans—"Relax!"
Apparently, none of the developments in the past week or so are capable of getting the relaxed Rumsfeld uptight:
●October ends with more than 100 American GIs killed in Iraq during the month, the fourth bloodiest month of the war. Hundreds of others were wounded, many maimed for life.
●An estimated 500,000 weapons, most of them bought with U.S. tax dollars, are missing in Iraq, thousands probably in the hands of insurgents that are killing American soldiers, according to a report requested by Republican Sen. John Warner, whose support of Rumsfeld tactics is waning fast.
●Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki orders U.S. troops away from Sadr City and parts of Baghdad controlled by Shiite militia. The Pentagon complies, thus opening the way for more sectarian violence with Sunnis.
●Investigators discover potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in overcharges to U.S. taxpayers by the KBR subsidiary of Vice President Cheney's old firm, Halliburton, which has been awarded $20 billion (!) in no-bid contracts. The true amount is a mystery—the company refuses to disclose details of its charges to government auditors. Cheney is silent. Is he also smiling?
●More than 50 percent of the U.S. public wants out of Iraq. Two-thirds of Iraqis in polls want Americans out. More Republicans want Rumsfeld to resign or be fired. A majority of the public disapproves of President Bush's handling of the war.
●Today is the 1,277th day since Bush made his swaggering Top Gun jet arrival on the USS Lincoln to proclaim "mission accomplished"—longer ago than the length of World War II.
The war that Rumsfeld now describes as "complicated" and "difficult" is not what Bush, Rumsfeld and their rightwing warhawk advisers promised in 2003. It would be a snap, they predicted: Iraqis would shower Americans with flowers, democracy would bloom like lilies in the spring, authoritarian Arab governments in the region would be forced into democracy, and any Iraqi resistance was, in Rumsfeld's words, its "last throes."
Maybe Rumsfeld considers the Iraqi catastrophe just more, as he's prone to say with a smirk, "stuff happens."