The St. Louis Post Dispatch Editorial – 2004-05-09 13:34:26
(May 6, 2004) — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign and take his top deputies with him. That includes Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Douglas Feith.
It’s not just Mr. Rumsfeld’s latest fiasco, the botched handling of the investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.
It’s not just that Mr. Rumsfeld seriously underestimated the number of US troops required for the occupation of Iraq and the potential for American casualties.
It’s not just that Mr. Rumsfeld seriously overestimated the threat from weapons of mass destruction.
It’s not just that Mr. Rumsfeld ignored the State Department’s plans for the occupation and relied on private security forces and private companies with no-bid contracts.
It’s not just that US policy in Iraq has devolved in dangerous ad hocery, with one day’s decision reversed the next day.
It’s not just that Mr. Rumsfeld had charged around the world insulting key allies.
It’s the accumulation of all these miscalculations, misconceptions and missteps — and an arrogant inability to admit his mistakes — that require him to step down. If the Defense Department were a corporation, its CEO would be long gone.
Whether or not Iraq is like Vietnam, Mr. Rumsfeld’s failings are reminiscent of Robert McNamara’s. Like the Vietnam-era Pentagon chief, Mr. Rumsfeld took over an omnipotent military and put it in a situation
that made it vulnerable. Like Mr. McNamara, Mr. Rumsfeld thought the United States could use force to impose its will on a part of the world he didn’t understand and still doesn’t. Like Mr. McNamara, Mr. Rumsfeld has deluded himself into thinking that he can manage the unmanageable through the application of a brilliant intellect.
Right now, both Republican and Democratic members of Congress are livid that Mr. Rumsfeld failed to warn them about the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, which he has known about since January. The White House said Wednesday that Mr. Bush also was upset that he hadn’t been told about the pictures of abuse.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognized that the pictures would inflame opinion and persuaded CBS to delay its broadcast for two weeks. Yet once the news broke, both Gen. Myers and
Mr. Rumsfeld claimed they hadn’t finished reading the three-month old report. If true, that is a serious dereliction of duty.
Regarding Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld has been more interested in proving his theories of military transformation than in listening to pragmatic advice of experienced military experts. When the Army’s departing Chief
of Staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, estimated that 200,000 troops would be needed for the occupation, he was ridiculed as “way off the mark” by Mr. Wolfowitz. Now the Pentagon finds itself having to increase the number
of troops, lengthen their stay and provide more heavy armor in response to the deaths of soldiers in light vehicles. Unpardonably, Mr. Wolfowitz didn’t even know, during congressional testimony last month, how many Americans had been killed in Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld also dismissed the advice of a State Department task force that had spent months planning for the occupation. He cast the United States’ lot with Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraq National Congress, a group of exiles who have proved unpopular and unreliable.
Mr. Chalabi also provided the United States with bum intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld even started his own intelligence office under Mr. Feith, who hyped faulty intelligence to justify the war.
If there ever was a plan for the occupation, it wasn’t discernible amid the chaos. Ret. Lt. Gen. Jay Garner was replaced by L. Paul Bremer who is being replaced by John Negroponte. The Iraqi army was disbanded and then reconstituted. The Baathists were excluded and then included. The Marines were ready to take Fallujah and then pulled back. A general in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard was put in charge of Fallujah and then replaced two days later.
This isn’t a plan; this is chaos.
Mr. Rumsfeld has consistently been wrong. He has responded to criticism by bullying and sneering at his critics. His arrogant miscalculations have cost American soldiers their lives and continue to put them at grave risk. The Army has been stretched to the breaking point. Billions of dollars of US treasure continue to sink into the sands of Iraq; Wednesday, President George W. Bush asked Congress for $25 billion more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
American prestige has suffered around the world. Saddam Hussein and his nonexistent WMDs have been replaced with a mob of insurgents that poses a greater threat to Americans than Saddam ever did.
For his mistakes and his inability to recognize them, Mr. Rumsfeld must go.