Some news days are almost too surreal to believe. Today was one of them.
Chronicling both Pres. Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's flights of fury to Camp Pendleton, CA and Camp Buehring, Kuwait respectively allowed them to acknowledge the time-honored Pearl Harbor Day occasion with real troops, not just veterans. And of course, it was to buck up the morale of the troops, the ones already there and bone weary and those who are dreading going even with all of the honorable duty talk in the world hanging over their heads.
Not surprisingly, Pres. Bush's visit was, well, presidential. Pendleton has lost around 270 Marines in Iraq. Camp Pendleton understands what sacrifice is. During the emotional visit with family members and troops, he gave the broad appeal to all Americans to help out however they can with military families. So many Americans have been doing this from the first troops' deployment; he hardly had to ask, but it was a good, strategic request of the whole country in case anyone out there has had their heads buried in P. Hilton videos. He was in fine form, truly presidential. It was only a shame that he didn't send somebody else to Kuwait instead of old Rummy.
It's possible that there are many factors at play with Rumsfeld. Age, too many years with pharmaceutical companies, and the obvious -- he's got a 'lock-in' now as a lame-duck Defense Secretary so perhaps he thinks he's untouchable. After all, did you vote for him? Think about it. How do you impeach a Defense Secretary?
Well, Secretary Rumsfeld did not prepare enough for the tone of his encounter with troops in Kuwait. You know, the kind of drill that we all learned in Business 101 -- "Worst case scenario: what do you do if the cash register jams and customers are lined up at the door?" Duh. You have to be prepared for thoughtful, seasoned, and accommodating responses to your 'customers. . .'
Like it or not, Rumsfeld, that congressional-go-lightly Princeton fellow who kowtowed to Nixon all through his Watergate days (somehow never getting burned himself), is more than a little OUT OF TOUCH with reality, the kind of reality that troops know in the field. This is the same Rumsfeld who never got the tiniest bit dirty in bloody combat himself, lucky devil. His brief aviator days in the mid-1950's allowed him to miss WWII, Korea & Vietnam. Talk about luck.
Two major points stuck in the craw of troops in the audience. Too bad more women weren't there; he might have been hissed off the stage (kidding).
1. A serious and well-presented question was asked about by a true 'Volunteer' [that's what Tennessee troops are called historically] as to why they still have inadequate supplies of armor for their vehicles. Just imagine what Pres. Bush might have said way over at Camp Pendleton. I suspect he would have said something like, "It's my understanding that we're nearly up to full capacity with supplying armor for military vehicles, but I take your question seriously and we will look into it."
Not old Rummy. He just cracked that verbal whip right back at Army Spc. Wilson and said,
"You go to war with the Army you have."
Hmmm: LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT ONE OF RUMSFELD'S OWN QUOTES, ONE OF HIS OWN RULES OF THUMB,
"Arguments of convenience lack integrity and inevitably trip you up."
Let's face it, that whole audience in Kuwait had Rummy's number and was just too darn polite to carry him to his Limo in pieces.
2. The 2nd Hot Button issue that's on many troops' minds and is more than a bit sensitive as lawsuits flurry about like a Nor'easter is the "stop loss" problem which means the effective use [or abuse] of soldiers preventing them from retiring or quitting when their time is up. It's pretty hard to not know about this from newspapers and TV programs where disabled veterans are being dragged out of their homes, 4' 8" 60-year old grandmothers are being hauled back to training, and mothers of infants who thought they had fulfilled their commitment are now in uniform. Oh yeah, it's a sensitive issue.
To say that we don't have a Draft is, in light of all of this, just a plain Lie. We may not have a lottery like we did in the 60's & 70's (yet) but we have a draft, de facto. It's just that the people taking it on the chin are those already in the military and those who have ever been in who could in any way be hauled back by some technicality.
So when Rumsfeld was asked about how much more of this "stop loss" power they were going to use on troops who would otherwise be eligible to retire or quit, quick to answer, the Defense Secretary just said that this was a good, sound principle and
"It's nothing new, it's been well understood by soldiers."
But that presumes that all of these people could simply be misguided, crazy, or wrong. But maybe something ELSE was "well understood" by these soldiers, something RUMSFELD SAID:
"I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today will last five days, five weeks or five months, but it won't last any longer than that."
What do we make of this Secretary, the counselor to Nixon, Reagan's envoy to Saddam Hussein (remember when he was our friend?), a man on the board of a global technology group for nuclear power stations off North Korea (remember, the Bad Guys?), and curiously the CEO of Searle who might be called "old Bitter & Sweet" who got FDA approval for an artificial sweetener by the name of aspartame. Rumsfeld's very proud of his achievements for turning business profitability around -- usually, like at Searle, it's at the expense of the jobs of rank and file workers.
Do you think Rumsfeld got the war confused with a giant Widget Factory and by losing troops and not shipping all of the supplies needed he can demonstrate greater profitability? Wow, that's tough talk isn't it, kind of like calling someone guilty of war crimes.
But, to Quote RUMSFELD:
"Prune -- prune businesses, products, activities, people. Do it annually."
But what's clear is this: Rummy's a man who loves the Business of war but only tolerates troops. Can we afford to have a Secretary of Defense who is so indifferent, antagonistic, if not hostile to the men and women who implement his plans? Is he really the Best and Brightest that our Country can find for this important job?
I'd go back to Kuwait and ask some of the men and women who spoke up at the Secretary's apperance -- ask them who they would be inspired to follow. I have faith in my fellow Americans, something that Donald Henry Rumsfeld does not share. He was not forthcoming like that Tennessee 'Volunteer' at Camp Buehring.
No, Rumsfeld did not resign at the end of the first term like so many other cabinet members. But just because he didn't offer his resignation does not mean that our President doesn't know how to request it. Let's give President Bush our support NOW to help Secretary Rumsfeld retire. We don't want to 'stop loss' him now, do we?
And if it helps ease into it, LET'S REMIND RUMSFELD OF SOME OF HIS OWN WORDS:
"Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the President and do wonders for your performance."