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Failing Big with Don Rumsfeld

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Donald Rumsfeld will feature prominently in the chronicle of military history. His name can be affixed to every major strategic catastrophe since the inception of the Iraq war 3 years ago. Rumsfeld now ranks among the greatest bunglers of all time. His litany of failures reads like a journeyman's manual for military defeat, rather than a blueprint for peaceful occupation.

Under Rumsfeld's leadership the "cakewalk" war has morphed into an "unwinnable" quagmire; sucking men and resources into its vortex at an unimaginable rate. The occupation of Iraq "should have been simple" says political analyst Noam Chomsky, but under Rumsfeld's stewardship, it has become more difficult than the Nazi occupation of France.

Only in Bush-world would such manifest incompetence be lauded as achievement.

"You're doin' a heck-of-a job, Rummy."

The decision to invade Iraq with a paltry force of 150,000 men was all Rumsfeld's. His narrow views of a smaller, more agile military blinded him to the requirements of a massive occupation. When challenged on the topic by military professionals, like General Shinseki, Rumsfeld brusquely dispatched the decorated veteran to an early retirement.

Rumsfeld's shortsightedness had a dramatic affect on the rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground. As the looting of museums and government buildings persisted for weeks, destroying any hope to quickly establish order, Rumsfeld breezily brushed off criticism of the lawlessness saying, "Stuff happens".

Those first weeks exposed the callous disregard for the safety and security of the Iraqi people and become the rallying cry for the nascent resistance that would later sweep through the Sunni heartland.

The lack of troop-strength made it impossible for the military to safeguard the mammoth armories and ammunition-dumps left behind by Saddam. Members of the fledgling resistance were free to remove truckloads of weaponry and bomb-making material that would later be used to kill American soldiers. The number of American casualties would be considerably lower had Rumsfeld paid attention to his generals and increased the size of the occupation army.

We know from Paul Bremer's recent comments that Rumsfeld never anticipated the massive resistance to the American presence. He ignored the State Dept's plans for occupation assuming that American troops would be greeted as liberators. Even when clear signs appeared of a full-throated rebellion, Rumsfeld dismissed the violence as the work of "Saddam loyalists and dead-enders".

There was no strategy for keeping civil society running. In fact, Iraq became a laboratory for applying a neoliberal-model that was completely foreign to the native people. The results were catastrophic. Unemployment soared, subsidies were stripped away, prices skyrocketed, unions were banned, and Iraqi society went into a state of shock.

More disastrous, was Rumsfeld's plan for de-Ba'athification. Normally, imperial powers leave as much of the existing government as possible to allow for the smooth transition from one ruling party to the next. Rather than finding common ground with members of the former regime, Rumsfeld chose to destroy every trace of Ba'ath rule forcing a restructuring of the entire political establishment from the ground up. This was an unbelievably stupid move that upset the continuity between governments.

It was equally foolish to disband the Iraqi military; sending home 450,000 fully-armed soldiers without pay or job prospects. It should have been easy to anticipate that many of these disgruntled recruits would wind up fighting against the occupation.

And, why didn't Rumsfeld bring in military police to deal with the protests, civil disputes, routine patrols and peacekeeping duties? Instead, those tasks were assigned to trigger-happy army regulars who over-reacted in tense situations oftentimes killing innocent civilians and alienating the public. Soldiers are clearly not trained to handle these duties.

It was Rumsfeld who ordered the leveling of Falluja; a gratuitous act of homicidal vengeance which galvanized the resistance and generated a firestorm of reprisals across the Sunni triangle. For Iraqis, Falluja represents the turning point in the American occupation. Even cautious Iraqis must have seen that their predicament no longer provided any viable political options.

The details of Rumsfeld's charnel house at Abu Ghraib provided even more fuel for the resistance. The Defense Secretary chose to jettison America's threadbare moral authority simply to extort information from farmers and city people. Imagine the boost in recruitment for the resistance after photos of the perverted treatment of detainees appeared in the media?

Rumsfeld lashed out at the media for displaying the pictures of abused Iraqis to the public and discounted claims that the torture was authorized at the highest levels of the defense establishment. It's clear now that the paper trail for the abuse leads straight to Rumsfeld's office at the Pentagon.

Rumsfeld dismissed the charges as the work, "of a few bad apples".

Abu Ghraib eliminated any prospect for mutual trust between the warring parties. Now, there's no hope that the conflict will be resolved through political negotiation.

The current wave of sectarian violence is also Rumsfeld's doing. It is a re-creation of the terror-campaign that swept through El Salvador during the 1980s. The Interior Ministry has adopted the "Salvador Option" a reference to the death squads that plagued that country throughout the Reagan era.

The up-tick in violence suggests that the military no longer sees peace and security as achievable so, instead, is pursuing a policy of widespread anarchy disguised as sectarian violence. The end-game is the balkanization of the country into small, manageable statlets that are easier to exploit for their resources.

The present situation in Iraq can only be described as nightmarish; and endless cycle of bombings, brutality and butchery all concealed behind a screen of media-generated disinformation.

Rumsfeld accepts no responsibility for Iraq's downward-spiral or the incalculable suffering he has engendered. Instead, he points the finger at the least likely candidate for blame; the media.

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but our country has not," Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations. "The violent extremists have established 'media relations committees'""and have proven to be highly successful at manipulating opinion-elites. They plan to design their headline-grabbing attacks using every means of communications to intimidate and break the collective will of free people."

The bungled occupation of Iraq has nothing to do "violent extremists" who've "successfully manipulated opinion-elites." In fact, it has nothing to do with media at all. For the most part, the fault lies with one man, Donald Rumsfeld, a buck-passing narcissist who sees the world through the jaundiced lens of his own blinkered vanity.

Major General Paul Eaton summarized Rumsfeld's performance better than anyone else:

"Rumsfeld has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq."

Rumsfeld's recklessness and self-delusion have heaped disgrace on himself and his country. It will take more than his customary glib repartee or slick excuse-making to distance himself from his ultimate legacy as America's biggest flop.
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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.

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