September 24, 2004

Muzzle Rummy

"Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great." "Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet."

Don Rumsfeld, testifying on the Hill yesterday.

Oh, Mr. Rumsfeld--you are such the anti-Girlie Man. You are so macho-swagger and straight, no-bullshit talk. You are, to a fashion, the very evocation of the Nietzschean ubermensch. You impress all of us so over here in London--the town is all atwitter with your latest barnburner of no-nonsense Congressional testimony. How impressive!

You can stand 10 hours a day ("However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?)--making all those weak-kneed Gitmo detainees look like a bunch of wusses--what with their risible complaints about stress-positions and such. You are so very busy-- too busy, in fact, to read the Taguba report in its entirety. A report detailing one of the most horrific stains on the repute of the U.S. military in its long, illustrious history--a shameful episode that occured on your watch and arguably partly because of your arrogant insouciance and barely hidden denigrations of Geneva norms. (Rumsfeld: Yeah. You're -- I think you're talking about the executive summary. That's -- I've seen the executive summary, the – Q: Have you read through it, sir? Rumsfeld: I've been through it. Whether -- have read every page -- no. There's a lot of references and documentation to laws and conventions and procedures and requirements. But I have certainly read the conclusions and the other aspects of it.)

And now, all big-uncle-like, you want to clue all of us little kiddies into the fact that elections may not take place in one-fourth or one-fifth of Iraq come January. Fair enough, we need a reality check. We need straight talk (more from POTUS too, while we're at it). But don't, emiting such uber-hubris and a 'whatever' type vibe-tell us that "nothing's perfect in life." We already know that. After all, you're SecDef. How's that for an imperfection?

Memo to Rummy: Your awe-shucks 'I tell it like it is' schtick is running thin. You're not on the Princeton wrestling squad anymore. These impending elections are of the most immense importance. So, tell us, instead:

Having elections proceed in January is absolutely critical. To delay them would represent a victory for the Baathist dead-enders and terrorists who wish to scuttle the movement towards democracy in that country. We're simply not going to let that happen. We are pursuing a robust and sophisticated strategy, using all the tools in our arsenal, to ensure that as many populations centers are under Iraqi goverment control by the time of the elections as possible. As Prime Minister Allawi has indicated, we are succeeding in this strategy--despite the occasional setbacks. To the extent, if any, that the Iraqi government cannot exert effective sovereignty over all population centers by January--though we hope and trust they in large part will--elections will likely have to be postponed in those areas. We, of course, realize this issue is of utmost strategic import--and I am obviously treating the issue as one of my highest priorities. This is because--to the extent we may need to bypass some areas in January and not hold balloting there--our enemies and critics will be further emboldened to attack the legitimacy of the elections. These elections are a critical step in Iraq's political evolution--a "giant step"--as Prime Minister Allawi has put it. So, rest assured, this is topping our agenda. I will keep Congress apprised of our progress during the coming months.

Or, er, something like that.

Put differently, Rummy could have sounded more like Allawi during his wonderful speech of yesterday:

They are offering amnesty to those who realize the error of their ways. They are making clear that there can be no compromise with terror, that all Iraqis have the opportunity to join the side of order and democracy, and that they should use the political process to address their legitimate concerns and hopes. I am a realist. I know that terrorism cannot be defeated with political tools only. But we can weaken it, ending local support, help us to tackle the enemy head-on, to identify, isolate and eradicate this cancer. Let me provide you with a couple of examples of where this political plan already is working. In Samarra, the Iraqi government has tackled the insurgents who once controlled the city.

Following weeks of discussions between government officials and representatives, coalition forces and local community leaders, regular access to the city has been restored. A new provincial council and governor have been selected, and a new chief of police has been appointed. Hundreds of insurgents have been pushed out of the city by local citizens, eager to get with their lives. Today in Samarra, Iraqi forces are patrolling the city, in close coordination with their coalition counterparts. In Talafa (ph), a city northwest of Baghdad, the Iraqi government has reversed an effort by insurgents to arrest, control (inaudible) the proper authorities. Iraqi forces put down the challenge and allowed local citizens to choose a new mayor and police chief. Thousands of civilians have returned to the city. And since their return, we have launched a large program of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

But no, instead more of the predictable braggadocio and swagger. Don't get me wrong--there is a lot to praise in Rummy's stewardship of the Pentagon over the past three years. But the minuses materially outweigh the pluses. If I were Bush, I wouldn't give him a second bite at the apple. Calling John McCain...

Posted by Gregory at September 24, 2004 10:50 AM


Perhaps Rumsfeld's audience isn't London. Rumsfeld is speaking to ordinary Americans who prefer a straight talker as SecDef. State can read their twelve paragraphs of perfect, flowery gobbledygook. The Secretary clearly communicated his us provencials.

I sense a little cowboy envy partner!

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at September 24, 2004 12:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You’re being quite unfair to Big Dog – I heard part of what he had to say over C-SPAN radio. He and senior military leaders were called before the solons of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday to discuss the realignment of US forces overseas. Here’s a link to the DOD attendees:

And here’s a link to the membership of that Senate Committee:

Senators Levin (D-MI) and Kennedy (D-MA), snide and condescending as usual, were less interested in force realignment than in scoring political points regarding the situation, er, quagmire, in Iraq. Rummy was extemporaneously underscoring what Allawi said earlier in the day – elections were coming to as much of the country as possible in part because the aim of the bad guys is to delay elections.

Among the exchanges in yesterday’s session not reported was one started by Cornyn (R-TX) or Inhofe (R-OK) with a question from a constituent about the reinstatement of the draft. Rummy answered that while’s he’s supposed to stay out of politics, he finds such assertions amazing. His voice rose in tone and volume as he recounted the number of personnel on active duty and in the reserves, the retention rates, the high skill levels, the ongoing reorganization of functions that takes active-duty military personnel out of jobs that civilians should be doing, and the relative ease with which a country of 295 million can find one percent willing to serve in the military. As he ended his mini-tirade Gen Myers stepped in with more numbers to support Rummy’s point about there being no need to resume the draft.

These oversight hearings are useful to the extent that senators avoid grandstanding. But this is the political season…

Posted by: The Kid at September 24, 2004 01:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ooops, the WaPo did report on Big Dog’s draft statement here:

Rumsfeld again publicly knocked down persistent rumors that the Bush administration is considering a reinstatement of the draft to boost the military's numbers. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said a constituent contacted him recently to inquire about such rumors, and there have been countless e-mail and Internet claims that a draft plan is in place for after the November elections.

"I'm not supposed to get in politics, but it is absolutely false that anyone in this administration is considering reinstating the draft," Rumsfeld said, his voice rising. "That is nonsense."

Posted by: The Kid at September 24, 2004 01:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

John Mc Cain as President? Maybe. As Sec Def in a Bush Administration? Hardly.

Posted by: Richard Heddleson at September 24, 2004 02:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Elections: Doesn't this depend to some extent on how the electoral system is structured? If there is a parliamentary system in place at least for the first elections, the absence of members from some districts would not be catastrophic -- and might provide incentive for certain areas to get in order so that they could elect a representative....the possibility that new arrivals would cause a shift in power would create some instability in coalitions, but that seems less grave than possibly having the whole election scotched because of absent or unreliable counts from some areas.

Posted by: Dave Boyd at September 24, 2004 02:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"And now, all big-uncle-like, you want to clue all of us little kiddies into the fact that elections may not take place in one-fourth or one-fifth of Iraq come January. "

In 1864 the US had elections in which one-half the country didn't participate. Seems to have worked out ok. What's with some of you europeans? Rummy gets your knickers all bunched up for some reason.

Posted by: jrdroll at September 24, 2004 03:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

God forbid that a Secretary of Defense talk as if he's the head of the War Department. I mean, the horror!?!

Good god almighty.

Rumsfeld is one of the BEST members of that team. His contributions have been enormous, not the least of which was SERIOUSLY shaking up the status quo. No amount of wishing otherwise is going to change the fact that he's going to go down in history as one of our best and most consequential Secretaries of Defense.

You don't muzzle that kind of leader.

Posted by: RattlerGator at September 24, 2004 03:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I note that many people were concerned with the impact Kerry's statements would have on the Iraqi people, but regard Rumsfeld's as only directed to the American people, in a type of verbal vacuum. Is that a double standard?

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 24, 2004 03:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin:

Your point is a good one. I think it's not so much a double standard, though, as a judgement of the importance of the foreign audience.
Obviously, both Kerry (or Lockhart) and Rumsfeld could be heard in both Iraw and Europe. Rumsfeld's remarks might antagonize the Europeans, and might also dishearten the Iraqi terrorists (by sending the message that elections will proceed, by disenfranchising their regions if necessary). Kerry's remarks might please the Europeans, and might also embolden the Iraqi terrorists.
But, of the two foreign audiences, which is more important? In which forum will words actually beget actions? The previous posters may not even have asked themselves this question; but once it is asked, it answers itself.
In sum, yes, there is a double standard; Rumsfeld might deserve some additional praise if he successfully aided the Iraqi government, and no one has offered him any.

Posted by: Tom Hyer at September 24, 2004 04:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Please never mention SECDEF and John McCain in the same sentence again - unless therein also appear the words, "never to be", "not considered a canidate for" or "continue to be far apart". I am having enough trouble sleeping at night, with the rocket attacks and all....

Posted by: Major John at September 24, 2004 04:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


It is also possible that Rumsfeld's remarks could fuel the Sunni insurgency by leading many not currently involved to buy into the rhetoric that they are being disenfranchised and disregarded by the Americans and Shiite majority. That they will be oppressed, and their position of influence and power will be lost. Those are the scare tactics being spread by the Sunni insurgents. Rumsfeld's words gives them apparent credence.

More praise? No. More prudence? Good idea. This is a very delicate tightrope we are walking in Iraq, and the sensitivities of many disparate ethnic groups must be considered at every step. Rumsfeld's blunt off the cuff approach is a tool ill suited for such a surgical endeavor as counter-insurgency and nation building.

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 24, 2004 04:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What about the American Civil War. In Lincoln's eyes the South was still part of the US. Were they allowed to vote?

Why, because they were involved in a rebellion against the US. Would not the same thing apply to provinces in Iraq currently involved in a rebellion there?

Posted by: James Stephenson at September 24, 2004 05:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Must disagree with your European perspective:
Rummy is, was, and shall continue to be a great man with a sharp, perceptive, clear grasp on reality, our world and the machinations needed to bring victory in the WOT (can I add a few more commas??).
Had we more effectively and forcefully followed Mr Rumsfeld's advice, we would be far further advanced in our near term success in Iraq: the old-world EU is out of date, out of touch, and out of time. Thnakfully, they have a US administration that -- on the whole -- will prevail and persevere.

Posted by: don at September 24, 2004 05:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Perhaps Rumsfeld's audience isn't London."

Well, I'm in North Carolina, not London. I spent 26 years as a US Army officer. And I'll just give you my fixed opinion that "Big Dog" is the worst thing that's happened to the US Dept of Defense since at least Robert Strange McNamara.

Rumsfeld has done his best to break the US Army, an institution that understands it must be prepared -- not just for the latest little asymmetrical dustup -- but to defend the nation's very existence against large and sophisticated potential enemies.

It will taken a generation for the US Army (and to a lesser extent, the Marines) to recover from the harm done to it by Donald Rumsfeld.

Posted by: George at September 24, 2004 05:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Allawi said, and Gregory quoted:

"Today in Samarra, Iraqi forces are patrolling the city, in close coordination with their coalition counterparts."

Maybe Kerry was right to criticize this as a glossing over of reality:

"Also yesterday, the 1st Infantry Division fought insurgents in Samarra, north of the capital, in the so-called Sunni triangle. Soldiers continued sealing off a bridge across the Tigris River into the city and called in helicopter strikes.

The fighting signaled the failure of a truce reached a couple weeks ago. In return for reconstruction aid, city leaders were supposed to guarantee safe passage for U.S. soldiers in the city, a "no-go" zone for much of the summer."

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 24, 2004 09:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1: John "I hate teh First Amendment" McCain is a lousy choice for ANY job.

2: Rummy's comments:
A: Spoke well to America
B: Serve as a very useful threat to the Sunnis.

"The elections are going to happen. Everyone but the Sunnis are going to get to vote. The Sunnis will get to vote if the terrorists aren't too powerful. So any Sunnis who don't want to be disenfranchised need to stop turning a blind eye towards the terrorists abd their supporters."

The Sunnis aren't going to love us. That's fine, i don't particularly love them, either. So it's time for them to fear us.

They're not getting their Saddam era power back. They can get over that, and become functioning citizens of the new Iraq, or they can get their teeth kicked in. Their choice.

It's time for them to grow up and make the correct choice.

Posted by: Greg D at September 24, 2004 09:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "Re-instate the Draft" crew are Senator Hollings and Congressmen Rangel, Abercrombie, Christensen, Conyers, Hastings, Jackson-Lee, McDermott, Stark, Norton, Brown, Clay Cummings, Jesse Jackson, Lewis, Moran, Velaquez. All liberal Democrats. All extreme partisan candidates engaging in class warfare. Mostly black.

The legislation was introduced in January 2003 in an effort to undermine the effort to disarm Saddam. The bill has been parked in sub-committee ever since, where it will wither and die.

Democrats are engaging in fear-mongering on this issue. Neither DOD nor Bush have considered re-instating the draft.

Once again, Democrats projecting their own agenda on their enemies....the GOP and the American people. Sad and pathetic really.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at September 24, 2004 09:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Exactly who are these "large and sophisticated enemies"? Are you anticipating an Asian ground war with the PLA? Or an armored thrust into Europe by Russian hordes?

The Army force structure and basing was developed for threats that no longer exist. We don't need armored divisions in Europe. We need mobile combat brigades that can be moved quickly to trouble spots.

How many times did Army brass tell former POTUS that it will take three months to move three divisions to some god-forsaken hotspot? How useful is a muscle-bound man who can't move?

Rumsfeld enraged the Army old-school by disturbing their vacation tours in Bavaria and their opportunities for promotion in vast divisional organizations.

Rumsfeld had it right.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at September 24, 2004 10:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

“The Sunnis aren't going to love us. ... They can get over that, and become functioning citizens of the new Iraq, or they can get their teeth kicked in. Their choice.”

Fine words, but only words.

I remember a media interview with a Marine Corps corporal, in the Spring, outside Fallujah. His unit had just been pulled back from an anticipated assault on the city. The corporal was asked if he was concerned that the insurgents would now have an opportunity to rest and regroup. The corporal answered, “I don’t care. They’re all going to die.”

The corporal had the right approach, but his betters did not. And so the insurgents are still there, teeth intact.

Posted by: George at September 24, 2004 10:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Today Donald Rumsfeld, our overrated Secretary of Defense, who represents the very worst of the Bush Administration, compared the security situation in Iraq to that of every major city in the U.S. This was a ridiculous statement, and incredibly insensitive to the suffering of the Iraqi people, led by Prime Minister Allawi, who are in the fight of their lives. Prime Minister Allawi and the Iraqi people deserve America's support. They don't deserve insults from Secretary Rumsfeld.

Mr. Kerry, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Lockhart, how about a little sensitivity for the Iraqis?

Posted by: Arjun at September 24, 2004 10:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


1: We're still hunting, and killing, the bad guys in Fallujah. The President and his generals don't want to have to kill 20,000+ people in order to pacify Fallujah. I disagree, but then, I'm not a nice guy.

However, what Greg is complaining about is Rummy telling the people of Fallujah that, while we won't slaughter all of them, we WILL be perfectly happy to sit back and watch the Kurds and Shiites vote, while the Sunnis don't get to because they're still allowing the terrorists to fight.

IOW, this IS a kick to the teeth.

2: I've read that one of the ways Algeria won its guerilla war was to LET their opponents have "safe areas". After they got USED to having the "safe areas", and concentrated there, THEN the government went in.

So let them play in Fallujah. Let them think they are mostly safe. Let them think they are "beating" the US. (Oh, and let them piss off the residents of Fallujah by cutting them off from the benefits we're bringing to the rest of the country.)

We CAN go in whenever we want. So why insist we go in on their schedule, instead of our own?

Posted by: Greg D at September 25, 2004 01:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fair Go!
Every day Rummy has to answer these questions from dumb arsed reporters who should know the answer for themselves anyway.
So you suggest the long winded meticulous approach every time.
Give the guy a break.

Posted by: MOik at September 25, 2004 08:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. McCain would be ideal as Secretary of Defense (or as U.S. President) but if he's not interested, then how about Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator Warner for Secretary of Defense? He is a veteran of both WWII and the Korean War, a former Undersecretary of the Navy, and a Republican U.S. Senator with proven integrity, including a willingness to put country over party.

Posted by: Arjun at September 25, 2004 06:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Calling John McCain... "

It's funny about these "maverick" politicians, especially if they're Republican. We imagine that they are admirably straight-talking, plain-spoken folks -- unlike the crafty "pols" that annoy us so.

But in the case of John McCain, American Republicans got a good look during the 2000 primary. As it turned out there really wasn't very much there there. In fact, it wasn't clear poor John was playing with a full deck, politically speaking.

But mavericks have a way of picking their spots carefully, and anyway 2000 was a billion years ago. So now he's BAAACK!

Posted by: George at September 25, 2004 08:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I've read that one of the ways Algeria won its guerilla war was to LET their opponents have "safe areas". After they got USED to having the "safe areas", and concentrated there, THEN the government went in."

What? Algeria has won its guerilla war?

Posted by: J Thomas at September 26, 2004 02:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yeah, J. Thomas, they have won their guerrilla war. As much as need be.

What, do you require some summit of surrender? They are unquestionably in control of their country and are dealing with their fundamentalists.

People can continue to refuse the fair consideration of context at all costs but that won't change the facts on the ground. Algeria is the model for what we can expect in Iraq . . . maybe a bit better, maybe a bit worse. Contrasted with Saddam, I consider that eventuality a success nevertheless.

Posted by: RattlerGator at September 26, 2004 05:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Beldar has a slightly different take that might interest readers of this blog.

Posted by: Birkel at September 27, 2004 07:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Myself, I think McCain should be impeached for his offenses against the First Amendment.

I certainly don't want to see anyone in high office who can't understand the phrase "Congress shall make no law...".

I know, the Supreme Court upheld. Then again, history has shown that their decision is not always the divine mandate and unvarying truth that some would have it be. Justices should learn to read, too.

Posted by: Parker at September 27, 2004 08:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You're confusing Rumsfeld's style with the substance of his answer. His style and substance are both generally admired on this side of the pond. Here, his style is seen to provide helpful distillations of the questions he is being asked. Heaven knows he's had more than his fair share of questions (and setups) thrown at him.

Posted by: -Ed. at September 29, 2004 12:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rattlegator, let's give it a cople more years and then decide whether one faction in algeria has won.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 30, 2004 07:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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