February 24, 2006

Quotable

2/21 Pentagon press conference:

SEC. RUMSFELD: Let me go back to your question about sectarian violence. I may not have answered the last half of it as fully as I would like. Needless to say, any time there's violence, sectarian or otherwise, it's something that one has to be concerned about and oppose and attempt to do something about.

There has been sectarian violence in that part of the world for decades. And I think the important thing to do is for us to be concerned about it and for General Casey and his folks to work on it, and for the political process to go forward in a way that it would mute it and minimize it.

I think we also have to recognize that there's criminal elements at work here, and it's not trivial. It's fairly significant. And I would add that it ought to be put in context. Think back. There -- I don't know whether the number's for sure 100,000 or 200,000 or 300,000 dead Iraqi people, men, women and children, filling mass graves in that country.

And so it's -- to isolate out violence today and say, "Oh, my goodness, there's violence today; isn't that different" -- which you did not do, of course, but I'm stating it myself -- would be out of context, because in fact there's been incredible violence in that country for year after year after year. And that does not minimize what's taking place today, but at least it puts it in a broader context and -- one would think.

Translation: At least genocidal actions against Kurds and Marsh Arabs aren't underway (nor can I be bothered to know the numbers massacred under Saddam's reign...details!)

Well it's different today Mr. Rumsfeld. Not least because there are 133,000 of our own troops in theater and the stakes are massive--for Iraq, and for US credibility on the world stage, and for the war on terror. So what's your plan for victory, as opposed to poo-pooing sectarian violence like a college sophomore, re: the fact that Iraq is possibly on the cusp of a civil war in the coming months? Let me guess: you'll follow whatever the advice of the Generals on the ground, right? But, we're curious, what's your take? Or does the Emperor have no Clothes? Should you be facing the problem of increasing sectarian violence head-on, rather than minimizing it by disingenuously making comparisons to the genocidal massacres of Saddam's reign? Regardless, has Rumsfeld even considered, in any serious way, what will happen as American troops in theater are forced to protect Sunnis more and more, in places like Baghdad, as will now likely become critical? Has he game-planned how that will anger Shi'a, restrained by a foreign interloper from exacting revanchist attacks, to the extent there could be renewed Shi'a uprisings against U.S. forces perhaps down the road? Or, like failing to even contemplate the possiblity of an insurgency initially, has he not even game-planned a possible resumption of major hostilities between U.S. forces and some Shi'a elements? Do we have a special strategy in place if a sudden Iranian move is made in Basra? Or if Kirkuk explodes? Doubtless, some contingency planning is occurring. But it would be a lot better, I'd wager, if we had someone at the top of the civilian leadership at DoD truly seized by the possibility that Iraq could be slipping into a serious civil war, and quarterbacking the effort to stave off such an outcome with more assiduousness and creativity than currently being brought to bear. If we fail, this will represent a massive strategic disaster for the United States. Rumsfeld has committed blunder after blunder. Isn't it time for new blood? Or is it "Heck of a Job Rummy" for the next 3 years?



Posted by Gregory at February 24, 2006 03:45 AM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

I find it ironic that when Rep. Murtha came out for a re-deployment of American troops to a neighboring Arab country, perhaps Kuwait, he was swift-boated by Republican operatives over whether he deserved the combat medals that he earned as a grunt in Vietnam. And, of course, his main theme was that the war in Iraq is not really part of the war on terrorism but rather a civil war between sectarian factions within the society.
So it really didn't surprise me that the quotes you provided from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's latest press conference would try to avoid what has happened there and instead try to deflect this issue by pointing out how horrible the civilian death toll was under Saddam's regime.
I think your latest posting merely reinforces an earlier one (sorry I can't remind the exact date) when you demonstrated how incompetent you felt the leadership of Rumsfeld was at DOD.
Of course, if Iraq further devolves into the horrible spectacle of civil war, and by civil war I mean big unit engagements between the various militias with firefights, what would be the peace-keeping role of the American grunts in such a situation? There was an rather interesting article in the NYT several months ago with one of the American commanders about the slow pace of equiping the Iraqi security forces with modern combat vehicles and the latest weaponry to accomplish this imporrtant task. And the American commander implied in his answer to the reporter that the reason behind this delay was the real possibility that if sectarian violence erupted into a full-scale civil war, the American grunts would be up against their own weapons and armored vehicles. So at least the American commanders on the ground entertained the possiblity of a future civil war. But as you pointed out, did Rumsfeld ever contemplate such an occurence during the occupation? Did he ever have an open round-table discussion with his military advisers about such a scenario? I seriously doubt it, given his arrogant attitude and emotional detachment.
I hope that you are wrong about the possiblity of the Iranians invading the country to protect the Shiites around Basra. But that is a real possiblity, given the Iranian sympathy and religious kinship to the Iraqi Shiites. And that is a nightmare scenario that I really hope and pray will not happen. Then all bets are off, and the anarchy resulting from the bombing of the Golden Dome mosque will mark a point at which the invasion of Iraq spreads into a greater regional conflict. I just don't want to go there. It's just too upsetting to me, given that I was a medical corpsman during the Tet Offensive of 1968 in Vietnam.

Posted by: George at February 24, 2006 03:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And so it's -- to isolate out violence today and say, "Oh, my goodness, there's violence today; isn't that different" -- which you did not do, of course, but I'm stating it myself -- would be out of context, because in fact there's been incredible violence in that country for year after year after year. And that does not minimize what's taking place today, but at least it puts it in a broader context and -- one would think.

I love, love, love this logic! Similarly, Russians shouldn't be overly concerned that Putin is cracking down on the free press, since Stalin would have simply killed them or sent them to Siberia.

Posted by: Brad R. at February 24, 2006 06:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Isn't it time for new blood? Or is it "Heck of a Job Rummy" for the next 3 years?

And Greg, I think you're a good guy and all, but you've gotta know when to let dreams go sometimes...

Posted by: Brad R. at February 24, 2006 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
I'm not going to defend Rumsfeld, but when you say "blunder after blunder" I wonder if you consider Afganistan a "blunder" or not. Perhaps you think things there are ok in spite of him.

George,
You may want to review your sources. The person who questioned Rep. Murtha's medals was his Democratic primary opponent, not a Republican.

Posted by: Chris at February 24, 2006 08:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You may want to review your sources. The person who questioned Rep. Murtha's medals was his Democratic primary opponent, not a Republican.

http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewSpecialReports.asp?Page=%5CSpecialReports%5Carchive%5C200601%5CSPE20060113a.html

I tried to check that. Here's the first link I found.

It lists three separate smears.

Don Bailey, a democrat, published a smear accusing him of lying about ABSCAM and claiming he'd privately admitted he didn't deserve his purple hearts.

Republican Harry Fox published a similar smear. Fox had worked for Saylor, and claimed he handled paperwork in which Saylor tried to get Murtha his purple hearts but couldn't for lack of evidence. Murtha ran against Saylor and lost. When Saylor died Murtha ran against Fox and won.

When the Republicanl Chobey ran against Murtha, he made Murtha's purple hearts a campaign issue.

That's 2:1 Republican.

It looks to me like Murtha makes some scurrilous enemies.

And yet we have a lot of politicians who won't open their medical records. I'm guessing a whole lot of soldiers got gonorrhea at least once during their time in service.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 25, 2006 01:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I'm not going to defend Rumsfeld, but when you say "blunder after blunder" I wonder if you consider Afganistan a "blunder" or not. Perhaps you think things there are ok in spite of him."

I consider afghanistan a slow clusterfuck, but there's a chance we can pull out a good result there. The good thing about it is that we're losing comparatively little money and few men there. Instead of moving in with massive force and mistakenly believing we owned the place, we played the afghans off against each other. The result is we can't do as much and we can't make such big mistakes.

A vast improvement, but there's little evidence to indicate whether someday we'll get positive results there.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 25, 2006 01:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


More About the Author
Email the Author

Recent Entries
Search



The News
The Blogs
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Law & Finance
Think Tanks
Security
Books
The City
Epicurean Corner
Archives
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS

Belgravia Dispatch Maintained by:
www.vikeny.com

Powered by