SPADES | politicians

DONALD RUMSFELD : jack of spades
(L, $) (what do these signs mean?)

Donald Rumsfeld has trouble speaking clearly and ruthfully to the American people. Until this fact is driven home and it is a fact, not an opinion you will not be able to follow what is happening under his authority as Secretary of Defense. For example, on May 14, 2003, at a hearing of the Senate's appropriations subcommittee on defense, Rumsfeld said: "I don't believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons."


Let's see. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, a lot hinges on what "said" means.

George W. Bush informed us in October, 2002. "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 'nuclear mujahideen'.... his nuclear holy warriors Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof.... the smoking gun.... that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Condoleezza Rice told us "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons, but we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."


Indeed, it sounds as if Bush and Rice rehearsed their answers - to scare us all with the threat of an Iraqi nuclear attack. Did they say Iraq had nuclear weapons? Not quite. They said if we didn't go in, we would find out very possibly through a "mushroom cloud." Weasel words at best, with the clear intent to make us think Iraq very likely had nuclear weapons.

Rumsfeld's willingness to distort communication is not an isolated example. Consider the quotations from our Rumsfeld card regarding his claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The most charitable interpretation possible is that Rumsfeld has no compunction claiming far more knowledge than he really has. Given the importance of the issues at hand, even this is as morally reprehensible as the most bald faced lie. Certainly these quotations would be cited as evidence of lying if Bill Clinton had said them. Let's apply the same standards to the Radical Right.

But there is, alas, more. For example, Slate's Whopper of the Week reported:

"Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, when did you know that the reports about [Iraq seeking] uranium coming out of Africa were bogus?
"A: Oh, within recent days, since the information started becoming available."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, answering a question posed by Sen. Mark Pryor, D.-Ark., at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services committee, July 10, 2003

But Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on March 7, 2003, that

"The [International Atomic Energy Agency] has made progress in its investigation into reports that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger in recent years. The IAEA was able to review correspondence coming from various bodies of the Government of Niger, and to compare the form, format, contents and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation.

"Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents-which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger-are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded."

His statement was reported the next day in the Washington Post.


For another Rumsfeld lie, see

Military incompetence
History is littered with examples of successful military attacks ruined by failure to follow through. Future historians may add Rumsfeld's strategy to this list of losers. Given our overwhelming military superiority over Iraq, Rumsfeld thought we could wage war on the cheap. But destroying opponents is only the first half of the task. The second is the follow through.

Rumsfeld chose to ignore the advice of American generals with experience in military affairs, preferring the fantasies of Paul Wolfowitz and other self-declared experts with no military experience or specialized knowledge of the Middle East. That is why he chose to invade and occupy Iraq with a remarkably small military force. Apparently knowing nothing about occupations, and confident in his own infallibility, Rumsfeld did not plan for unpleasant contingencies. He placed thousands of American and Iraqi lives hostage to his pet theories.

The result? On Sept. 5, 2003, the New York Times wrote:

An official from the United States Central Command, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged today that the American-led military operation in Iraq did not have enough troops to heavily guard all 2,700 Iraqi munitions sites that have been identified.

Every ammunition dump has some level of security, the Central Command official said. But he added that increasing demands on American troops have meant that the military has had to reserve the heaviest security for munitions sites containing weapons like rocket-propelled grenades that could be used most readily against allied forces; that left other sites, with larger weapons like bombs and missiles, with less security or Iraqi guards who may be prone to bribes.

The article continued that

Another problem for the American-led forces is the looting that followed the fall of the government of Saddam Hussein. A senior defense official said today that the rapid collapse of the Iraqi Army during the war had left extensive ammunition dumps unguarded for many days, and that in many cases virtually everything had been looted by fleeing conscripts and officers. . . .

"That's where a lot of the stuff has come from," the defense official said of explosives, rocket-propelled grenade and other ammunition used in attacks against American troops by supporters of the ousted government and others.


His theories were wrong.

Rumsfeld and his allies are now claiming that no one could know the outcome of such a risky venture as a war. This is also a lie. Before the war the following respected organizations predicted the kind of trouble we would find ourselves in, and argued for better planning:

  • U.S. Army War College
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy

Rumsfeld and his allies chose not to listen. Despite an almost complete absence opf military experience, they imagined their pet theories were far wiser than the experience and knowledge of countless generals, intelligence officials, and other experts on the Middle East and war. Here is the conclusion to the U. S. Army's War College report: "Without an overwhelming effort to prepare for occupation, the United States may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making."


The man apparently has an inability to learn from experience. Baghdad four months after the US invasion is very far indeed from being back to normal. But this goes against the game plan Rumsfeld and his Neoconservative buddies sold to the American people: that the war would be cheap, short, and we would soon exit, leaving a viable democracy behind. Since the facts on the ground do not support the prewar spin, Rumsfeld has taken a page from his Commander in Chief, and lied about it.

Consider the following on crime rates in occupied Iraq:

  • "You've got to remember that if Washington, D.C., were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month." Donald Rumsfeld, 6/19/2003


  • "The Baghdad police don't have official crime statistics, but the number of bodies at the city's morgue says it all. Baghdad is in the midst of an unprecedented crime wave. The city morgue handled 470 gunshot deaths in July." - Associated Press, 8/11/2003


By his own statistics, Baghdad's administration is a failure. But he won't admit it.

More incompetence
This apparent inability to think about complex things in context - an absolutely vital ability for anyone responsible for defense - is sadly demonstrated in Afghanistan, as well.

There, again, Rumsfeld opposed putting adequate troops on the ground to truly pacify the country and make rebuilding possible. It is hardly controversial to observe that postwar rebuilding depends on security. It also requires the early encouragement of labor-intensive projects improving transportation and communication. This helps the country and put wages into the pockets of those who need them. Isabel Hilton writes in The Guardian, "But this has not been applied in Afghanistan. Security never came because, when the Taliban fell, the US would not agree to the deployment of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) outside Kabul. Why? Because the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was already planning the invasion of Iraq and did not want men tied down in peacekeeping."


Worse, Rumsfeld actively strengthened the warlords who are now undermining what little stability the average Afghan might have gained from the end of the Taliban. Human Rights Watch reported that "In most parts of the country, security and local governance has been entrusted to regional military commanders - warlords - many of whom have human rights records rivaling the worst commanders under the Taliban. . . . American military forces have maintained relationships with local warlords that undercut efforts by U.S. diplomats and aid agencies to strengthen central authority and the rule of law."

For example, with backing from the US, Ismail Khan seized Western Afghanistan and the city of Heart. He rules through torture, beatings, intimidation, and a ruthless police, with women and girls continuing "to suffer extreme forms of discrimination, including many Taliban era practices that are now being revived." Donal Rumsfeld described Ismail Khan as "an appealing person. . . . He's thoughtful, measured and self-confident."


The Pentagon prefers to pay the warlords to run the country outside Kabul, dressing up the exercise with a loya jirga in which 80% of those "elected" were warlords. Washington sources report that when Karzai appealed to Rumsfeld for support to confront one of the most notorious warlords, Rumsfeld declined to give it. The result has been that reconstruction is crippled, political progress is non-existent and human rights abuses are piling up.


When more and more Americans begin returning from Afghhanistan in body bags, you can thank Donald Rumsfeld.

Penny-wise, pound-foolish
As the monthly overhead for the occupation has risen to a whooping 4 billion dollars per month, Rumsfeld's men proposed saving $35 million dollars per month (less than 1%), out of the imminent danger pay and family separation allowance approved by the Bush administration in April. The imminent danger pay of $225 per month was scheduled to drop to $150 a month, and the family separation allowance to drop from $250 to $100 a month. At the same time Halliburton and other corporations receive no bid cost plus contracts worth billions.


Public reaction was so strong that Rumsfeld and his allies backtracked, saying they didn't really mean it. Well, then, why did they say it? Particularly, why did they say it while American troops were fighting and dying?

Rumsfeld as above criticism
As Rumsfeld's incompetence becomes harder to deny, he has taken the same tactic as used by John Ashcroft: criticism is evidence of disloyalty. His point is clear, though again, he left himself wiggle room, if anyone called him on his charge:

"To the extent that terrorists are given reason to believe he might, or, if he is not going to, that the opponents might prevail in some way, and they take heart in that, and that leads to more money going into these activities, or that leads to more recruits, or that leads to more encouragement, or that leads to more staying power, obviously that does make our task more difficult."

This New York Times story

In other words, the problem is not any shortcoming in Bush's policies, but Bush's domestic critics. This again is a lie, and this one is unambiguous. Almost none of the critics have called for our withdrawal. Rumsfeld's critics have pointed out that he has botched the aftermath, not that we should simply go home. They have called for us to do a good job. This will not give any comfort at all to the Baathists or Al Qaeda, they would prefer the current incompetence.

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