Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Yes, Rumsfeld must go, but...

Juan Cole does not quite go the full distance.
Poll Shows American Public Wising Up

A new CNN poll shows that the views expressed here at Informed Comment on most issues related to Iraq and Donald Rumsfeld have become mainstream in the American public. A majority of Americans thinks Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld should resign. I called for his resignation after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke last spring. Although some senators are saying he should remain in office because a change of leadership at the Pentagon now would be disruptive, I would argue that Rumsfeld has so consistently made the worst possible decision in Iraq that getting him out of the Department of Defense may well be a prerequisite for beginning to fix the problems. Rumsfeld appointed Douglas Feith his undersecretary for policy, and allowed Feith to set up the Office of Special Plans, which cherry-picked intelligence and forged a false case for war in Iraq. Rumsfeld over-ruled his officer corps by sending a tiny force of only 100,000 troops to Iraq, ensuring that they could not keep order in the aftermath. Rumsfeld was the one who tried to hand Iraq over to corrupt financier Ahmad Chalabi. Rumsfeld allowed the looting that began the deterioration of security after the war. Rumsfeld dissolved the Iraqi army, putting US troops on the front lines of the guerrilla war. Rumsfeld didn't order as much armor for US troop vehicles as he could have, exposing thousands to serious injury from roadside bombs. Rumsfeld didn't even bother to personally sign the letters of condolence to the families of deceased troops killed in Iraq, in some large part as a result of his own flawed policies. The majority of the American people is right that Rumsfeld must go (and his deputies with him).
Rumsfeld is a symptom (and a damned nasty one, too), but he is not the disease, and canceling his Pentagon parking privileges will not cure what ails our military and Iraq policies. Getting rid of him will shift attention, at least temporarily, from where it really belongs, which is that George W. Bush is a complete and total fuckup in every single aspect of his presidency. Shit-canning Rumsfeld won't change that. In fact, by distracting people from Bush's disastrous incompetence, it will delay the reckoning even further. Bush will have time to find his next scapegoat. Besides, anyone he chooses will be no better than Rumsfeld (my stock answer to anyone who says that, yes, Bush made mistakes, but we can't reverse course - why do you trust the man who drove the car off the highway to get it back onto the highway when he won't even admit that it is off the highway in the first place?)

In a rational universe, Rumsfeld would be gone already, or at least on his way out with his defeated boss. But, alas, this is not a rational universe, and I'd almost be willing to keep Rumsfeld in place so as to make it ever more obvious just how much of a catastrophe George W. Bush is.

Almost. Obviously, no one can seriously recommend keeping Rumsfeld if for no other reason than that our troops and the Iraqi people can't wait for enough Americans to wise up and figure out how Rumsfeld has ruined the entire war effort. But getting rid of him, however crucial that is and however much he absolutely deserves to be fired in disgrace, will not fix things enough to make it worth our time to concentrate on getting him fired. Bush is the problem. The more we focus on Rumsfeld, the less we pay attention to the man giving Rumsfeld orders, slack, and undeserved praise. This is Bush's war, Bush's mess. If anyone should go, if anyone should be the subject of a growing clamor demanding resignation, it's George W. Bush.
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