Dec 16, 2006

Rumsfelds Legacy

In 1984 Donald Rumsfeld hugged Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and with a big toothy grin, shook his hand vigorously. 19 years later, on Rumsfeld’s watch, Saddam was pulled from a hole in Tikrit and arrested. The Donald’s legacy will be forever tied to Saddam Hussein in one way or another.

Yesterday was the last day as a public servant for Donald Henry Rumsfeld. He has served as Secretary of Defense twice; once under Gerald Ford and the most recent under George Bush. He was both the oldest and youngest Secretary of Defense. The Donald was also the only person to hold the position for two non-consecutive terms, according to Wikipedia. All in all, Rumsfeld has spent most of his life in service to the United States, including four terms in the House of Representatives…but I digress.

President Bush said this about Donald Rumsfeld today:

“This man knows how to lead, and he did. The country’s better off for it,” The president called Rumsfeld “one of America’s most skilled, energetic and dedicated public servants.”

Excuse me if I don’t buy what the President was selling. Rumsfeld was the main architect of the occupation of Iraq, also known as the Iraq War. I will not be the one to judge Bush’s Secretary of Defense. History and God will do that. The President tried to paint a rosy picture today of Rumsfeld’s role in the Iraq war. Perhaps the 61% of the Americans that no longer believe that the Iraq war is a winnable endeavor would disagree with the Presidents assessment of Rumsfeld. I know I do. Rumsfeld virtually had no plan after the invasion of Iraq, and our troops are paying a heavy price for his lack of foresight today. Rumsfeld was asked what the worst day of his time in office under Bush43 was. His response: the day he saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib.

Up to the bitter end of his reign, Rumsfeld was still chirping about the importance of ‘winning” in Iraq. Speaking to a gathering of employees 10 days before he left office, Rumsfeld defended his record on Iraq and Afghanistan and warned of “dire consequences were we to fail” in the war.

We have failed in Iraq Donald. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s a colossal failure and there is no chance of “winning” a military victory there. How could this man, that many perceived as the brains behind the Afganistan and Iraq wars, even think for one minute that Iraq is still winnable? He was asked what he thought of the ISG report. His response was that there was nothing new in there. Donald Rumsfeld was bullshitting everyone up to the very end, still spouting off publicly that we can win in Iraq, but writing a memo that held a more realistic view.

Most of the articles I have read use the word “arrogant” to describe Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld refused to believe the words coming out of the mouths of the leaders on the ground until it was too late. Rumsfeld was a control freak according to some, and this seems plausible since he continued to believe our troops could defeat the insurgency even when it became obvious they couldn’t. As Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute puts it: “He was the primary architect of the war plan. He was no scapegoat. He deserves the blame he received.”

A WaPo article from 2005 seems to put it all into perspective, for me, about what exactly is the legacy of Donald Rumsfeld:

“Now he is being held to account and facing a formidable indictment: rejecting a top general’s advice on the force levels that would be needed to restore order to Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s regime had been toppled; dismissing State Department advice and plans on postwar reconstruction; failing to realize the seriousness of the early looting and chaos; supporting the disbanding of the Iraqi army without regard to the likely consequences of turning loose thousands of armed and angry unemployed soldiers; and inviting a public relations disaster by circumventing the laws of war to facilitate the indefinite holding and periodic torturing of prisoners. More recently, Rumsfeld has been rebuked for his dismissive treatment of soldiers anxious about inadequate equipment and for adding insult to injury by having a machine sign his condolence letters to bereaved families.”

These are the things that will make up Donald Rumsfeld’s arrogant, stubborn man who refused to see the writing on the wall, listen to the voices of truth from his generals in the field and ultimately sacrificing thousands of American and Iraqi lives for his vision of what and how it should be “over there”.

Yet, he still thinks the press didn’t give him his due, give him a fair shake. He shed a tear or two today at his final public appearance. There are still millions of tears to be shed by mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives of soldiers who will be forced to clean up Donald’s mess and deal with his inadequacies as the top military leader, our Secretary of Offense, as it were. Perhaps God will deal with Rumsfeld on a different level. I do not see that happening here on terra firma. Here, his legacy is nothing to be proud of..not now, and not in the near future.

Robert McNamara came to grips with his legacy, years after the Vietnam War was over. He wrote a book about his involvement with sending over 58,000 American soldiers to their deaths. He was interviewed for the documentary “Fog of War” and spilled his guts, even insinuating he could be a “war criminal”. Some how, I just don’t see Donald Rumsfeld ever coming clean like that. I think he will go to his grave denying he did anything wrong with regard to the Iraq War.

I hope I am wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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Cross-posted at Bring it On!

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