Sunday, September 14, 2003
::: Rumsfeld Under Fire :::
Criticism Mounts With Costs, Casualties
I have noticed Rummy has been looking a bit drawn lately. He is funny at
times (even though I know he is a person who is not concerned with the
American people's interest) and I am now thinking of his appearance on
one of the cable channels while in Iraq and taking questions. He had his
earphones in and dangli9ng down and a reporter asked him a question.
He said, "What, where is the translation?" The fellow next to him said,
"there is no translation, it is in English." Rummy was suitably sheepish.
Rumsfeld has rankled many in the military with his aggressive style and far-reaching agenda for "transforming" the military, even as he has won acclaim for his leadership of the Pentagon through the trauma of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the building and ensuing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the war on terrorism. Now, less than five months after he helped formulate and execute a bold plan in which a U.S. invasion force drove to Baghdad and toppled the Iraqi government in 21 days, Rumsfeld is facing his greatest challenge yet.
Having demanded full authority for overseeing the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, elbowing the State Department aside, Rumsfeld is being blamed by many in Congress and the military establishment for the problems facing the United States, which include mounting U.S. casualties and costs exceeding $1 billion a week.
Rumsfeld appears to be losing ground most dramatically on Capitol Hill, where even some conservative Republicans are expressing concern about his handling of Iraq. "Winning the peace is a lot different than winning the war," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who counts himself as a strong Rumsfeld supporter but notes that not all his colleagues feel the same. "His bluntness comes across as arrogance, and he's made some enemies on Capitol Hill, probably because of style differences," said Graham, an Air Force veteran who serves on the Armed Services Committee.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), the panel's chairman, struck a decidedly cool note when asked how Rumsfeld is doing. "Understandably we have some differences," he said Friday in a written response. "However, I consistently work with Secretary Rumsfeld to support the president and the men and women of the armed forces, and have a high regard for his integrity and forcefulness."
Robert McNamara for four years of Vietnam going down the toilet was absolutely convinced with a religious zeal that what he was doing was the right thing," said Thomas E. White, a retired Army general who was fired as Army secretary this year by Rumsfeld. "It wasn't until 30 years later that it dawned on him that he was dead wrong. And I think you have the same thing with Don Rumsfeld."
Yet, the difficulties in Iraq have diminished Rumsfeld's standing within the administration, according to people familiar with its inner workings, with a reduction in Rumsfeld's operating latitude. Unhappiness with Rumsfeld's freewheeling style -- he has been known to interject himself in issues usually considered beyond the purview of a secretary of defense -- had been building within parts of the administration, officials said.
But it was the Pentagon's handling of postwar Iraq that really hurt Rumsfeld's position, according to some administration officials.
Unhappiness with Rumsfeld flared on Capitol Hill months before the invasion of Iraq, when Warner stood up at a meeting of Republican senators with White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and complained that Rumsfeld was neither cooperating nor consulting with the Senate. Warner told Card that he had never seen anything like it in 25 years in the Senate.
"I think his legislative affairs shop is awful," said one Republican senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It serves him so poorly. Don Rumsfeld can't be personally blamed for all of that. But the combination of personality, which some people find condescending and prickly and a little offensive -- Rumsfeld himself doesn't have any time for criticismand the fact that the groundwork hasn't been laid by a good legislative affairs staff, has created some problems."
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a former head of the U.S. Central Command who also served the Bush administration as Middle East envoy, sharply criticized the Pentagon's handling of postwar Iraqin a speech before the U.S. Naval Institute and the Marine Corps Association 10 days ago. He received an enthusiastic response from hundreds of military officers present.
In the Army, there are worries that the Iraq occupation could do long-term damage to the service. Of the 10 active-duty Army divisions, nine will have all or parts deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan this year or next.
He is absolutely convinced that he is right, that his view is correct, so all the rest of this stuff that is floating around is kind of noise, a lot of which he just dismisses out of hand, or he rationalizes somehow as consistent with this plan of his," White said.
Robert S. Gelbard, a former U.S. diplomat with experience in several peacekeeping operations, said he is puzzled by Rumsfeld's insistence that no additional troops are needed to improve security in Iraq. "What's hard to figure out is the continued adamant statements that there's no need for additional troops," he said. "That is utterly perplexing, given the security situation there."