Rummy's 'long, hard slog'
October 29 2003
The now-famous Donald Rumsfeld memo was stamped neither "sensitive" nor
"secret." Thus there would be no cause to call in the FBI should it
leak. It was sent to Rumsfeld deputies Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith
and Gens. Richard Myers and Peter Pace, who had heard it all before. It
was brief enough to be reprinted in any newspaper, and tart and succinct
enough to be quoted.© 2003 Creators
When it fell into the hands of Tom Squitieri, who splashed it on Page 1
of USA Today, Rumsfeld made light of the leak, though his aides had
insisted he was "livid." Hence it is not a stretch to conclude that
Rumsfeld intended this memo for a wider audience than his four deputies
– i.e., he wanted it out, and he wanted his views known.
Indeed, the memo seems intended to convey to the nation, Congress and
the president the growing apprehension of the leading hawk in the War
Cabinet on America's progress in the war on terror.
What does the memo tell us about the mindset of its author?
Secretary Certitude harbors the same anxieties and doubts about the war
in Iraq as those who opposed the invasion: "It is pretty clear that the
coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it
will be a long, hard slog," wrote Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld's memo shreds in tatters the triumphalist banner "Mission
Accomplished" that flew from the Lincoln on May 1 when President Bush
landed. The boast that "Failure is not an option!" in Iraq and
Afghanistan gives way to cold contemplation that failure is possible.
The memo cuts the ground from under White House claims that the
situation in Iraq is far better than the media "filter" has portrayed
it. And it moves a Pentagon that was behind the curve and losing
credibility for foolish predictions and failed planning for postwar Iraq
back into line with public perceptions. Yes, it is going to be "a long,
Rumsfeld emerges from this brief memo as a tough-minded realist asking
hard questions about whether we are winning and what new "bold" measures
are needed for victory – including reconfiguring the entire U.S.
government to fight the war. And there is the suggestion that elements
of all departments engaged in prosecuting this war – CIA, Justice,
Defense – should be brought under one roof and one command. And there is
little doubt whom Secretary Rumsfeld has in mind as Deputy President for
The downside is that the secretary comes off less as a wise statesman
than as a frustrated corporate CEO, perplexed as to why company products
are not selling as well as his marketeers and advertising team led him
to believe. The memo is McNamarian – as in Robert S. McNamara, paragon
of "The Best and the Brightest," who led us into Vietnam and who took as
his signposts of victory body counts of Viet Cong dead that junior
officers fresh from battle brought in from the rice paddies.
"Today," writes Rumsfeld, "we lack metrics to know if we are winning or
losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring
and dissuading more terrorists than ... the radical clerics are
recruiting, training and deploying against us?"
"Is our current situation such that the 'harder we work, the behinder we
These questions should have been asked before, not after, Rumsfeld
prodded the president to send an army into Mesopotamia.
And the memo lacks reflection, imagination, vision.
Can the secretary not see that it is the U.S. presence itself in Iraq
that recruits "terrorists"? Can he not see that it may not be our
tactics that are faulty, but our policy? Did he not know that invading
an Islamic country could create more Islamic enemies than we kill? Has
the Pentagon never studied Israel's invasion of Lebanon, and her
subsequent expulsion by the Hezbollah guerrillas who were tots and
sub-teens when Sharon's Merkava tanks first came storming in?
Has the secretary not read history? Post-1945, every single Western
imperial power has been expelled from the Arab world. Why did we think
we could go back, set up an imperial outpost in an ancient Arab capital
that was the seat of the caliphate for 500 years, and be welcomed by
flower-tossing Baghdadis and Tikritis as liberators?
In 1945, no people were more admired in the Arab world than we
Americans. Yet, no Western nation is now more reviled. A question for
the secretary: Might it not be that we have behaved in the Middle East
so as to be perceived by the Arabs as the British came to be perceived
by our founding fathers, as blustering and arrogant imperialists?
Would one be surprised to discover in British archives a memo from Lord
North to King George saying, in the vernacular of the time, "Sire, the
harder we work, the behinder we get"?
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