The administration very clearly and obviously prepared for a short war and a quick victory. It shot down comments about the possibility that the slog might be longer than a few months with its preplanned story line about soldiers being greeted with flowers and the end of “major combat operations.” Its political operation perverted a bona-fide Vietnam war hero’s image into that of a vacillating turncoat who parlayed mere scratches into Purple Hearts, and has deftly used the desire of the American people to support its troops at all costs (to keep these soldiers from suffering the abuse their predecessors felt returning from Vietnam) into an ironclad shield from criticism of their poor decision-making record.
But now and then, the curtain falls away. Last week the secretary of defense had the unmitigated gall to answer a fighting man with the same high-handed dismissiveness he uses to turn aside serious questions from the press. When Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a career bureaucrat whose wartime exploits were all in the college ROTC during the Korean war, where all the armor is that’s supposed to protect them, the secretary replied, “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want.”
This, remember, is the administration that spoke of rolling out this war like an advertising agency rolling out a new product line. It had a chance to wait and go to war with the Army that the generals wanted—and went with the one they had, critics within the military be damned.
Rumsfeld also said you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can still be blown up. And then he got on his plane in Kuwait, far from the Iraqi battle lines, and flew home to safety.
On Dec. 9 Bloomberg.com ran a story on Armor Holdings Inc., the main—and only—supplier for the protective plates used on the Humvees deployed in Iraq, pointing out that the company said it could increase their output by as much as 22 percent—it’s just waiting for orders from the Army. Reuters stated that a general in Kuwait said troops are still short 2,000 of a total 8,100 “up-armored” Humvees requested by commanders. This week The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon has put together a new spending plan for the war calling for an additional $100 billion dollars more—30 billion more than had expected back in October during the heat of the presidential race.
Someone in this administration isn’t telling the truth about what might be needed for the military to come out of Iraq in decent shape. But, as always when there is a conservative media operation ready to place blame anywhere but where it belongs, there’s always a chance that a domestic disinformation campaign can save the adminstration’s hide yet again.
A few days after Rumsfeld was revealed to be as callous about soldiers’ lives as he is about reporters’ questions, it was revealed that a reporter from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Edward Lee Pitts, had suggested a list of questions for the soldier to ask Rumsfeld. In the eyes of the conservative media, this is a “setup.” Never mind the fact that the question is only embarrassing if Rumsfeld had no logical answer for it—which he didn’t. The New York Post is now saying the Tennessee paper “did the nation no service by reducing this debate to a gotcha-game played in the Kuwaiti desert—and the liberal media are compounding the damage.” The Republicans own the base reasons for the war, the bad execution of the war, and all the branches of government that approved, prosecuted and are responsible for the war—and yet they still somehow try to blame critics for any of the problems of the war.
There’s a cumulative drip-drip-drip of information that people are slowly absorbing about this conflict; people like retired Army colonel and military correspondent David Hackworth are pointing out that the military is falling far short of necessary recruiting goals—that the word is out on the streets that to volunteer for the “all-volunteer” military is to surrender the “voluntary” part. The Gannett News Service reported last week that a 70-year-old twice-retired Army doctor was just recalled into service to go to Afghanistan.
And, of course, our secretary of defense—who has all but admitted to having committed war crimes by ordering that some prisoners being held in Iraq be kept incommunicado from the International Red Cross—can’t answer simple questions (prompted or otherwise) from soldiers risking their lives every day under fire.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, the straight-talking Republican from Nebraska, called Rumsfeld on the carpet this past weekend: “He’s dismissed his general officers. He’s dismissed all outside influence. He’s dismissed outside counsel and advice. And he’s dismissed a lot of inside counsel and advice from men and women who have been in military uniforms for 25 and 30 years.”
It will be interesting to see how much fur flies when the American people have had enough. It may not be soon, but it’s coming.
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