"It Would Be Funny"

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It seems almost cruel to jump on Don Rumsfeld for his sudden bout of candor, his admission that the recent level of fighting in Iraq surprised him. Rummy needs to be encouraged to level with us more often. But the truths that retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni speaks need to be heard too.

Of Rummy's comments Zinni told the San Diego-Union Tribune: "Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not? … I think that some heads should roll over Iraq. I think the president got some bad advice."

Zinni goes on to pin-point the pickle the Bush administration now finds itself in. It cannot rebuild civil society in Iraq by itself, the UN is not inclined to help, and the Iraqis themselves are not taking the lead:

"We're betting on the UN, who we blew off and ridiculed during the run-up to the war. Now we're back with hat in hand. It would be funny if not for the lives lost. … In the end, the Iraqis themselves have to want to rebuild their country more than we do. But I don't see that right now. I see us doing everything."

And there is nothing funny about that.

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  1. No, no, no, people: Rumsfeld was right all along, about how we wouldn’t have any problems in Iraq. It’s those pesky Iraqis who refused to cooperate.

    The perfidy of our government frightens me far less than the fact that so many otherwise intelligent Americans are willing to perform all sorts of mental contortions to convince themselves that black is white and war is peace, as far as our government’s pronouncements. Seriously, guys: even if you’re a hard-core Bush fan, what is so damned hard about admitting that he and his pals made a mistake?

    Maybe because you believe Bush when he said that God put him into the White House. I mean, it’s one thing to accuse a man of being mistaken, but not the Good God Almighty.

    Jean Bart-
    I have a question concening the current European worldview. Does the French “man on the street” view our current gov’t as a mere aberration, or do you guys actually think this is the beginning of the end of America as a country of “the good guys?”

  2. I have to say I’m with skeptikos.

    I’ll be honest, I know little about Zinni but I’ve always been a bit creeped out by Rummy.

    All that aside though, no matter what you think of Zinni or Rummy, one truth comes out of Zinni’s statements for me and that’s that “the Iraqis have to want this more than we do.”

    You can’t give people a democracy and expect it to prevail if they aren’t willing to fight for it.

    My understanding is that the minute the fighting broke out in Falujah, our 2,200 member handpicked and personally trained Iraqi police force dropped 400-600 members as they either refused to fight or joined the other side.

    To further, I’ve read that the company who’s 4 security members were killed, is blaming the very Iraqi police force for setting them up to be ambushed in the first place.

    How can anyone say things are going well when you can’t trust the police there to fight for the freedom and democracy we’re there to provide?

    It’s probably not going as badly as the doomsayers would have us think, but this is more than just a hiccup for the Bush administration being blown out of proportion by anti-war critics.

    There’s plenty of pro-war folks out there shaking heads as well.

  3. Shannon Love,

    I wanted to thank you for the direct quotes, it does show the blind spot. I am not some liberal who, kneejerkingly so, thought this was definitely how things would turn out in Iraq. But, I have to conclude any one who didn’t realize this was possible was delusional. And I find the same kind of delusions in every administration that America has had since the sixties. The present situation in Iraq was definitly on the short list of possibilities. Possibly not clearly proabable (although I am sure a number of “anti-war nuts” would say it was probable).

    We still can redeem the situation. And I am hopeful, if only because to live without hope is difficult.

    Yet I am still astounded that anyone can say they are surprised. At times like this I am so very, very grateful to my parents for a classical education. Ghosts of Hegel haunt my dreams though.

  4. Jennifer,

    Well, Frenchmen still visit and vacation in America in droves so, that should be an indication of a general liking. Also, keep in mind that the last “popular” American President in France was Ronald Reagan. Indeed, President Clinton came under as much criticism in France as President Bush did.

  5. Recall the headlines day after day saying, “Zinni remains optimistic,” when he was negotiating between Israel and the Palestinians?
    This tells me Zinni is a patient man–a good “soldier”–so, for him to be speaking out so strongly now gives him greater credibility

    You know, I thought this was an amusingly sarcastic remark. Then I noticed who posted it, and realized you were probably actually serious.

    Anyone who is, or was, truly “optimistic” about negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has no grasp of international relations. The best that can be said in Zinni’s favor is that he was probably just saying he was “optimistic” for the usual diplomatic-spin-related reasons.

    At first glance I thought Taylor was trying to make Zinni look like an idiot by quoting his drivel. Rereading it, it seemed Taylor actually thought Zinni had some penetrating point. That can’t be right, can it

    Depressing, isn’t it?

  6. Jean-
    But couldn’t one make the argument that French liking for Reagan was sort of necessary? I am not one of those “We saved your ass in World War Two” types of Americans, but the fact is, Europe in general liked us when the Soviet Union still existed, because it’s easy to like someone who is saving you from invasion. Now, though, it seems that instead of defending the Western world we are in many ways making it more dangerous.

    By the way, is there a certain sub-class of Frenchman who always waves the Tricolor flag, and wears French-flag belt buckles and T-shirts and such? Does the French equivalent of country music have maudlin songs like “I’m Proud to be a Frenchman?”

    In other words, do you guys make a total fetish out of your nationality? I know it was your M. Chauvin’s laughable patriotism who gave the world the word “chauvinism,” but that was a couple centuries back.

  7. Jennifer,

    “…but the fact is, Europe in general liked us when the Soviet Union still existed…”

    Actually, France was peculiar in its like of Reagan; he was despised by majorities in the UK and Germany and Spain in the 1980s.

    “…because it’s easy to like someone who is saving you from invasion.”

    France has its own independent nuclear arsenal; and we kept a 1.5-2 million man military at the ready in the Cold War (given that France even today only has 60 million people, that is amazing). I’m of the opinion that we saved ourselves as much as anyone.

    “By the way, is there a certain sub-class of Frenchman who always waves the Tricolor flag…”

    Certainly; le Pen is one of that variety, or rather, does those sorts of things. Indeed, so am I. Indeed, I would have no issue nor need to think about dying for France and Frenchmen.

  8. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Bush administration went to war in Iraq with a flawed strategy that sought victory “on the cheap” and is now paying the price in the form of a growing insurgency and doubts about its goal of building a democracy, a top U.S. Army analyst says in a recent report.

    Lt. Col. Antulio Echevarria, director of national security affairs at the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other administration officials rejected as “old think” early calls for more troops from senior commanders.

    Instead, the administration hoped to address any military and financial shortfalls in Iraq through anticipated support from NATO and the United Nations.

    “It low-balled the total number of U.S. troops and other personnel that might have to be put in harm’s way to get the job done, and how long they might have to remain,” Echevarria said in the report titled, “Toward an American Way of War.”

    “However, the hoped-for support from the UN and NATO failed to materialize, and the coalition force that invaded Iraq proved insufficient to provide the stabilization necessary for political and economic reconstruction to begin.”

    Now, Echevarria writes, “successful accomplishment of the administration’s goal of building a democratic government in Iraq is, thus, still in question, with religious extremists, terrorists, criminals, Saddam loyalists and other anti-U.S. factions contributing to an apparently growing insurgency.”

    The War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, said Echevarria was not available to speak with reporters this week.

    IRAQI INSURGENCY

    But his report, originally released in March, has drawn increasing attention since the Iraqi insurgency spread from the Sunni to the Shi’ite community and sent the number of U.S. deaths surging to 93 for the month of April.

    The Strategic Studies Institute said the report, posted on the War College Web site http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/index.html, contained the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of the Army, the Defense Department or the federal government.

    A Pentagon spokesman said he could not provide a meaningful response to the report because he had not seen it, while a senior administration official pointed out that President Bush has made it clear he would approve more troops for Iraq if asked to do so.

    On Thursday, Rumsfeld expressed surprise at the growing U.S. death toll in Iraq while announcing that 20,000 troops would have their tour of duty extended.

    The United States has 137,000 troops in Iraq, and had planned to reduce the count to about 110,000 in May before fighting surged.

    On the eve of war, Rumsfeld heaped scorn on then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki who warned Congress that several hundred thousand U.S. troops might be needed to stabilize post-war Iraq.

    Some analysts have suggested that maintaining peace in Iraq, a country with a population of 25 million, would require as many as 500,000 soldiers.

    Echevarria said the administration’s Iraq strategy was flawed because its goal of regime change in Iraq required a labor- and time-intensive effort. But the administration instead wanted “to win the war quickly and on the cheap.”

    “While this emerging way of war looked to employ new concepts, such as shock and awe and effects-based operations, designed to win battles quickly, it had no new concept for accomplishing the time-intensive and labor-intensive tasks of regime change more quickly and with less labor,” his report concluded.

  9. I’m trying again to hijack this thread my way, if Jennifer will pardon me, but who will be the “wise heads” to have a serious talk with Bush?
    Wise heads had the talk with LBJ and Nixon, right?

  10. Skeptikos,

    “Yet I am still astounded that anyone can say they are surprised.”

    Rumsfeld did not say he was surprised. That is rather my point. The news story make Rumsfeld seemed shocked and dazed by current events in Iraq. Yet what Rumsfeld is actually talking about is the inability to predict future events, a subject he speaks of often.

    ” What I said, I thought reasonably clearly, was that if a year ago you had asked me to describe where you would be on April 15th, 2004 in Iraq, how might you have described it?? And I answered by saying I would not have described it precisely the way we are now, and that is exactly how I answered it.” [emphasis added]

    I really think that that the media is carefully misunderstanding what he said in order to make a better story. After all, “Rumsfield says that he did not a year ago predict precisely current events in Iraq.” isn’t much of a headline.

  11. Jean Bart,

    1. You accuse Shannon Love of spinning (and call her and idiot) when she posted the whole transcript. That is not spinning. Read the transcript and see if what Rumsfeld said in context is same as what was being criticized.

    2. Your own long post on Shinseki states his view as needing “several hundred thousand” and states 500,000 soldiers.

    Rumsfeld was surprised because he thought he could send home 20,000 out of 137,000 and he couldn’t. (So he is an idiot)

    Shinseki thought we needed several hundred thousand – when we never had more than 150,000 (but Shinseki is a genius?)

    That said, I really admire you for what you said about France and sticking up for France (from the typical French jokes/insults). I wish at least half the Americans shared you sense in that respect!

  12. thoreau,

    re: Big Time Dick’s debating skills: Cheney kicked Joe Lieberman’s butt last time, and made it look effortless. I don’t know what makes you think he’s a pushover.

  13. thoreau, some disagreement with your assessment that, “He’d be raked over the coals, conservatives would question his patriotism, and he’d have to play second fiddle to John Kerry (could anything be more degrading?)…”

    I think most of the time we hear a person claim their patriotism is being questioned, what really happened is someone questioned their foreign or military policy wisdom and the person, for immediate lack of words or lack of a coherent counter-argument (or becuz they’re commies), throws out the “how dare you question my patriotism” line.

    Who’s patriotism can we question anyway? I would categorically label a couple of my long-time friends as “unpatriotic”. I think they would appreciate me doing so!

  14. Joe-

    I’m not impressed by Dick Cheney’s public speaking and debating skills. The fact that he beat Lieberman says something negative about Lieberman. (See, everybody, I just criticized a Democrat!)

  15. re: Big Time Dick’s debating skills: Cheney kicked Joe Lieberman’s butt last time, and made it look effortless. I don’t know what makes you think he’s a pushover.

    As I recall, there were a lot of jokes, following the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates in 2000, along the lines of “I’m voting for the Cheney/Lieberman ticket in 2000”.

    Those two really came off well in the debates, I thought; the Bush/Gore stuff came across like a debate between Beavis and Butthead.

  16. OK, I over-stated it when I said that his patriotism would be questioned.

    But his committment to fighting terrorism will be questioned if he dissents in any way from the Bush administration. Now, it’s quite logical to question somebody’s judgement if you think their proposals won’t work. It’s another thing to question his committment or concern.

    And yes, I realize that the perpetual and unfair carping is a necessary component of debate in a free society. (I just said so in another thread.) That doesn’t mean that being on the receiving end of it is fun. And my point in my first post in this thread was that the VP nominee is a miserable position, not that he would “deserve” lighter treatment. Something can be well-deserved but still be miserable.

  17. But his committment to fighting terrorism will be questioned if he dissents in any way from the Bush administration. Now, it’s quite logical to question somebody’s judgement if you think their proposals won’t work. It’s another thing to question his committment or concern.

    You’re complaining about a tactic that hasn’t been used yet and is very unlikely to ever use.

    In the event of a Kerry/Zinni ticket, the Bush campaign will attack both Kerry’s commitment and his judgement. But obviously, because the people running the campaign are skilled and experienced politicos, they aren’t going to attack a retired Marine General’s commitment to fighting. They’ll attack his judgement, and they’ll trot out their own tame retired generals (and a few of Zinni’s past mistakes) to back them up.

  18. The paper referenced by Jean Bart is available here in PDF.

    Despite Reuters contention, the paper is not a “report” but rather an academic paper representing the opinions of one officer. The paper isn’t even about technical military matters but rather American political culture as it relates to warfare. The most inflammatory contention, that the administration “low balled” the total number of US troops needed is un-footnoted or otherwise referenced. (page 12 pg 3). Its just Lt. Col. Echevarria opinion. For those who like carefully selected arguments from authority, it might prove useful but otherwise not.

    The media is pouncing on this paper because they think it tells them what they want to hear. It will be interesting to see what Echevarria says about how the paper was reported.

  19. Skeptikos casts doubt on whether a Marine general could be an “antiwar nut”, and then tells us to look at history.

    Perhaps Skeptikos could take a look at Smedley Butler’s post-retirement history. It’s illuminating, as the successful Marine general became quite the strident antiwar advocate very shortly after retiring. A quick Google should give Skeptikos the information he may actually seek if he isn’t just being snarky. About five pages in Max Boot’s “Savage Wars Of Peace” would work, as well.

    There are some issues here that complicate the “retired general says” thing.

    –Generals get lots of love and attention after retirement if they attach themselves to odd causes. I’m not saying this is the case, but it’s worth considering when you hear what the general said.
    –The current administration made the previous guys go away for a reason–they were oldthink. We’re fighting-and winning-in a way different from the one that Zinni wanted. As a general rule (pun not intended), when new comes in, the retired guys don’t like it. This month’s Naval Institute Proceedings has a vitriolic exchange by retired admirals about Zumwalt–and he was CNO back in the 1970’s! They’re *still* arguing!
    –Flag officers are political animals. Many of the vibrant and recently retired flag officers were promoted during the previous administration. This may be another source of bias to consider.
    –Michael Jordan didn’t do so well at professional baseball, despite being spectacular at another sport. Sometimes you hear people talking out of their league.

    I must be clear here and say that I am not sure any or all of these come into play in the case of Zinni. I would just like to point out that the mindset that “the general said x so it must be the best advice available” can be very wrong, or biased in ways that are predictable.

    Chap.

  20. One more thing, Skeptikos:

    There is plenty of counterexample history for the newspaper and Democratic thing you complain about. I recommend the book “Embracing Defeat” or the Army report on the occupation of Germany after WWII to see the parallels.

  21. One anti-war nut, who always gets it wrong, liking to another, who always gets it wrong. What is the point of this forum?

  22. Anthony Zinni, anti-war nut.

    I mean, how much credibility can he possibly have on Iraq? I bet he didn’t even believe we were threatened by their WMD aresenal.

    Now Don Rumsfeld – THERE’S a man who knows Iraq.

  23. Compared to realistic predictions, the war in Iraq has gone quite well so far. The losing side is desperate, as evidenced by their recent, shockingly lame effort to create an uprising, with their immediate fold. They have almost no power, only the hope of demoralization, which non-experts like Clinton’s man, Zinni (he’s so out of it he claims we’re “betting on the UN”–this is the mark of a non-serious person who opposes the war but can’t even bother to read the papers–maybe he just listens to Air America), seem to be lining up to help them with.

    But Jeff Taylor does unwittingly make a good point–Rumsfeld makes a minor, not especially meaningful admission, and Taylor’s all ready to blow it up into a statement of failure. There was a time one thought the anti-war people would realize that boat has sailed, and start to actually look at what’s happening honestly, but they never will. Best to ignore them (even as they give hope to the enemy) and solve the problems regardless.

  24. I’m anxiously awaiting Taylor’s next post linking to Raimondo’s admission that the refugee crisis never materialized.

  25. I’m not sure if I get this. At first glance I thought Taylor was trying to make Zinni look like an idiot by quoting his drivel. Rereading it, it seemed Taylor actually thought Zinni had some penetrating point. That can’t be right, can it?

  26. Recall the headlines day after day saying, “Zinni remains optimistic,” when he was negotiating between Israel and the Palestinians?
    This tells me Zinni is a patient man–a good “soldier”–so, for him to be speaking out so strongly now gives him greater credibility.

    Bush’s Crusade will end the same way the first Crusades did.
    When will a wise old Republican head step forward to turn on the light in Bush’s head? Is the problem of the US that it has no wise old Republican head?
    What about Lugar?

  27. “Desperate” has come to mean, in spin doctor-ese, “They landed a punch.” Watch how this word crops up in the campaigns’ responses to each other’s attack ads, and in the administration’s (and their amen choir’s) statements about guerilla attacks that succeed in killing our troops.

    “Clinton’s man, Zinni” I believe General Zinni first joined government service under President Johnson, or perhaps Nixon.

  28. Anyone else notice that, from the beginning, all fighting in Iraq is defined as “fierce”? It’s the only term they ever use. Have journalists run out of descriptive words?

  29. As I recall, your General Shinseki (I am likely mispelling this), stated that what was needed was far more soldiers than the Rumsfeld doctrine allowed.

  30. I have to admit, the very idea that a retired Marine General could be an ?Anti-war nut?, is a bit hard for me to swallow, and I have to assume that anyone saying so has never met a marine, or is just lashing out.

    I have always been against the war in Iraq, but not because I am against war. War is, without question, something that needs to happen in human affairs. But?I have had a number of problems with this one, Rumsfeld himself has had a number of problems with the planning and lack of honesty in going this route.

    The bottom line is that we have learned a lot in the past 30 years, and none of it was applied here. I really do believe that Bush has increased the risk to Americans, and to the ?Homeland? by his lack of planning, his lack of realism, and his adherence to a group think management policy. That kind of thinking brought us the Bay of Pigs and the power of Castro, and we are seeing the same thing here.

    I believe this war could have advanced every one of our countries goals, and I also feel that Iraq was an excellent target for America to begin showing a little muscle in reference to. But, only with planning, thought, and realistic expectations. None of which I have seen present in this administration. My greatest fear, is that Bush has snatched defeat from the Jaws of victory. And I?m not surprised, after all, we live in country in which a Marine General can actually be called an anti-war nut. Next folks will be telling me that Patton was a pacifist. Oh well.

    Last week (figuratively speaking) our government believed Democracy could be achieved by shutting down newspapers. Will the Bush administration be telling me next week that Democracy can only be achieved by the absence of dissent? Will they be singing the praises of Lenin, as Bush did Putin, formerly of the KGB? The difference between the right and left these days is only the textures of their delusional dreaming.

    Read history and learn. If you do, you will find no surprises in the morning blogs, only the same old, slightly sad song.

  31. At the risk of running an entertaining thread by introducing facts, I would like to point out that there is an immense gulf between what Rumsfeld actually said in context and what is being reported.

    In context:

    Q???? Mr. Secretary, the other night at his press conference, President Bush was asked as he looked back before September 11th, could he identify any mistakes that were made and what he might have learned from them, and he couldn’t come up with any.? I’m wondering how you would answer that question.

    SEC. RUMSFELD:? I don’t know that we’ve got time here to run through all of the things that one would have wished were different. But, obviously, we did a great deal of planning for things that did not go wrong.? They may not have gone wrong because of the planning and because of the work that was done in anticipation.? Conversely, if someone had said, “Would you, a year ago, have expected you would be where you are at the present time,” obviously one would not have said that — one would not have described where we are.? And is it possible to have described it?? I don’t know.? Maybe someone could have.? But it would have been —

    Q??? I’m not sure what you’re referring to there.? Are you talking about the situation in Iraq?

    SEC. RUMSFELD:? Today in Iraq, yeah.? Weren’t you referring to Iraq?

    Q???? Well, I was just referring to — (inaudible) — but when you said you couldn’t anticipate, you know, the situation exactly the way it is today, I just want to make clear that we’re talking about Iraq.

    SEC. RUMSFELD:? Iraq.? Absolutely.? Yeah.? And what’s taking place there is that you’re taking a country that has had decades of a repressive system and a command economic system and trying to get from there to a representative and a democratic system.? And it’s a tough road, and it’s a bumpy road and, I’ll be honest, it’s an uncertain road.? And there’s not the kind of experience — and we knew this.? We know that they didn’t have the kind of experience in compromising and negotiating and agreeing to a give-and-take process, because they basically were told to do what they were told, or else they were killed or put in jail.

    One can argue in retrospect should the process have gone faster, and it’s a little hard to know.? I personally have always believed that having the responsibility for something forces people to either conduct themselves in a way that they take that responsibility or fail to take it, in which case they get replaced by somebody else.? And we’re in a stage where we’re just in the process of passing over that responsibility.? And we’ll know a lot better how it’s worked out in two months, after that responsibility gets passed over.

    Q???? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying.? Are you conceding that you didn’t anticipate that the level of violence that’s going on in Iraq now, the level of the insurgency, the fact that you’re taking more casualties now than you were a year ago when you were still in major combat, are you conceding that you didn’t anticipate that?

    SEC. RUMSFELD:? I am saying that if you had said to me a year ago, “describe the situation you’ll be in today one year later,” I don’t know many people who would have described it — I would not have — described it the way it happens to be today.

    This is just Rumsfeld being Rumsfeld. He always talks about the uncertainty inherent in decision making. He views surprise as a normal part managing any enterprise.

    No wonder most media never links to actual transcripts. It ruins a good story.

  32. My brother thinks Anthony Zinni should be the Democratic Party’s VP nominee. I don’t doubt Zinni’s credentials (retired Marine General says it all right there as far as this patriotic American is concerned, and yes, I mean that in all seriousness), but I wouldn’t wish the VP nomination on my worst enemy. He’d be raked over the coals, conservatives would question his patriotism, and he’d have to play second fiddle to John Kerry (could anything be more degrading?) and debate Dick Cheney (a task that is easy but insulting).

  33. Shannon Love,

    Hmm, quit trying to spin Rumsfeld’s statements to your pollyannish worldview.

  34. Shannon Love,

    Oh that is correct; you’re the same idiot who stated that Virginia did not have anti-miscegination laws because they didn’t use that term to describe such laws.

  35. Hey folks,

    Don’t know if anyone is still reading this line, but figured I had to respond. I didn’t say a general couldn’t be wrong. Didn’t say a general couldn’t yearn for peace a bit to ardently (it’s thier men and women who die). Simply, if you know Marines, you know that a Marine General cannot be dismissed so easily. That is the simpletons way. And if there is one thing I personally have found, reflected here and in history. Most humans seem to prefer the simpletons way.

    When Reagan was Pres, my liberal freinds called him names. When Clinton was my conservative called him names. I’m sorry, but frankly, and this is only my beleief, when you descend to M. Moore’s level on the left, or Ann C’s on the right. Well, no, I don’t buy it. I was glad to leave the mentality of an 8th grader in the 8th grade.

    Is Zinni wrong? Is Rummy? There is a lot of data here, and Americans should disagree and debate it. But they should try it out on an adult level. The one thing missing from American political debate. Adults.

    Have a great Saturday.

  36. Zinni, Zinni, he’s our man
    If he can’t do it… Shinseki can?
    McAuliffe pushes uniformed goons as if it’s the latest issue of Teen People; pathetic how you all lap it up

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