Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What the Generals are saying about Rumsfeld

When asked why he is being critized by military people Donald Rumsfeld talks about feathers he ruffled while instituting reforms.

"But," as Maureen Dowd said in this morning's New York Times(a subscription is required to view the article),
"the retired generals really want him to resign because he made gigantic, horrible, arrogant mistakes that will be taught in history classes forever."

Here is what Bernard Trainor, a retired Marine general had to say:
"He didn't worry about the culture in Iraq. He just wanted to show them the front end of an M-1 tank. He could have been in Antarctica fighting penguins. He didn't care, as long as he could send the message that you don't mess with Hopalong Cassidy. He wanted to do to Saddam in the Middle East what he did to Shinseki in the Pentagon, make him an example, say, 'I'm in charge, don't mess with me.' "

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you look back to about the second week of April 2003, there were a few days after the fall of Baghdad that things looked good. It wasn't until the looting broke out that things really went south. I'm convinced that if Rumsfled would have listened to Shinseki and had 400,000 on the ground, had not ostracized the Iraqi military officers, had given the Baath party lackies a chance to "renounce" the party, and had a plan to rebuild from day 1, we wouldn't have folks on their thrid and fourth turns in Iraq today. Instead, we relied on unproven concepts like "effects-based" operations, and had the American ethno-centric belief that Baghdad would gleefully capitulate to American occupation just as Paris did in 1945. The difference is that France had a French Revolution in the late 18th century and had maintained a Republic for a century and a half. The Iraqis had lived under the same dictatorial system for almost 13 centuries, yet we tried to label our success in WWII as American and apply that same success story to Iraq.

I think the relationship between the generals and the civilian leadership is out of balance and General Myers comments show that. Generals should have a responsibility to openly express their thoughts, even if they disagree with Rumsfeld. The civilian leadership is accountable, but silence is culpability. Would we have suffered as many casualties had the generals spoken up publically before the war? Where do the loyalties lie? Officers swear their loyalty to protect the Constitution, not the political process of the Executive Branch.

NoMorePinocchios said...

The normal combat operations have been over since Baghdad fell. The troops have been facing suicide bombings as the main source of battle, so the idea of large amount of US troops out in the open only offers up more targets. It is almost impossible to prevent someone, whom is willing to offer up their life in exchange for killing others, from succeeding. More US troops on the ground and wandering the streets means more targets for the bombers. So all Shineski is saying is he was willing to sacrifice even more American lives than have already been lost since this war started.

Dave Barrett said...

nomorepinocchios,
Do you actually believe what you are saying or are you just trying to muddy the water? Do you actually believe and expect us to believe that enough extra troops to actually secure the country would have resulted in more US deaths? Very few of the US troops have been killed by suicide bombers. You must be thinking of Israel. The US troops are being killed by roadside bombs and snipers. Having enough troops to secure an area would make such attacks much harder to mount and much less likely.
Do you actually think Donald Rumsfeld is more concerned with US troop casualties than the generals who are critizing him?

Anonymous said...

Rather than suggesting that the reason that Iraqis didn't welcome the American occupation is because they're several centuries behind the French in terms of democracy, perhaps we should look at another historical difference between the French and the Iraqis--the history of colonialism.

They don't really teach the history of European and American colonialism in school here in the US. I don't know if they teach it in Europe, but I kind of doubt it. But I know for certain that they teach it everywhere else in the world--all over Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In all of these places, schools teach about the history of the conquest of their peoples by Europeans, the plunder of their land and other natural resources and the exploitation of their ancestors' labor, humiliating racism during long years of a European domination, and the struggles of their people to win their freedom. This phrasing might sound "extreme," but this is the way that history is taught in the non-white world. In fact, an often personal understanding of this history is common knowledge among many people in these places, because the Europeans didn't give up their empires until the 1940s, 50s or 60s.

I think the thing that neither the neo-cons like Rumsfeld, the "realists" like Shinseki, and liberals like John Kerry have never understood was that after European colonialism was finally almost completely overthrown all over the world in the 1960s, it would be impossible for non-white people to accept a "white" occupation army controling their country. It would appear like a reprise of this history of colonialism.

No matter how many US troops were on the ground--100,000 or 400,000 or more--there is no way that the people there, nor anywhere else in the non-white world, would accept a Euro-American occupation army for any length of time. If things appeared to be going good for a few days in March 2003, how long do you think that people would have accepted this kind of direct foreign military rule? How long before Iraqi people would have started to resent white foreigners controling their country, and started to resent those Iraqis who "collaborated" with the Euro-American army? A week? A few weeks? A couple of months?

But then the question becomes, Would the US have spent so much blood and treasure on this war if it had to get out of Iraq in a few weeks, without gaining any lasting material reward?

Although we might like to see ourselves as having saved the Iraqi people from dictatorship, in fact we have been behaving like a colonial force. First, of course, there is no way we would have invaded at all if Iraq didn't have an immense amount of oil which we hoped to "gain influence" over by establishing a "friendly" government. Further, since our arrival, for all our complaints about Sadaam's corruption, we have plundered and wasted nearly the entire Iraqi treasury--$20 billion--without building the infrastructure back up to even the level it was at in 2003, leaving them with a bombed out, ruined country and virtually no money of their own. Further yet, as it was under colonialism, "coalition forces" are not subject to Iraqi law, and the many many Iraqi civilian deaths caused by American "mistakes" (some shooting, but mostly bombing) are in the best cases paid off with some cash and never any punishment for the perpetrators (who are usually guilty of neglegent homicide, at least). And for all of the American criticism of Saddam's palaces, on arrival the US forces set themselves up in Sadaam's grandest palace, turned it into a fortress, and then cordoned off an immense area around it and called it the "Green Zone"--a "safe place" where Americans can walk around as they like but where Iraqis can't even enter without special permission. In fact, Iraqis are subject the commands of American soldiers all over their whole country, in all sorts of circumstances, day and night, and sometimes even in their own homes. And if they defy the commands of US soldiers, they're in danger of being arrested and sometimes even killed.

This occupation is never, ever going to be successul, and could never have been successful, no matter what generals were in charge. And it's not because Iraqis are hundreds of years behind us in terms of democracy. It's because the lessons of colonialism were never learned by the colonizers.

havinfun said...

This is not a simple issue -

1. 'Time' and 'US News & World Report' have both commented on the fact that every general speaking out against Runsfield has a political motive. This should not discount their comments entirely, but it certainly means that one needs to take the comments with a grain of salt.

2. Why are we in Iraq, how did we get there, etc? Important questions, maybe - but are they. The fact is that we are fighting terrorists there. These are not Iraqi 'insurgents', these are terrorists coming across the border (this is a fact that no one disputes). If we pull out, do you believe that these terrorists are just going to go home? Of course not...

Either we fight terrorism in Iraq, or we fight terrorism minside the US borders. Personally, I like the fight being as far away from my house as possible!

Is it pleasant - no, war never is.
Is it costly - yes, war always is.
But what is the alternative?

Please do not think that pulling out does not have consequences - consequences to us, inside the US. Please do not be nieve.

Please offer a solution, a next step, given these realities. The options, whatever they are, are more complex than 'Pull out' (and hope that nothing further happens)

Dave Barrett said...

havinfun,
The idea that we have to fight the terrorists somewhere and Iraq is a better place to fight them than here contains a lot of false assumptions. For example, it assumes that all the people we are fighting in Iraq are terrorists that, if we were not in Iraq for them to fight would come over here to fight us. Do you really believe that?

paladin said...

Does anyone here remember why our republic was organized in a way that civilians control the military? Has anyone been paying attention what has been the long, sad history of South America? Has anyone here ever read "Seven Days in May"? Sheesh!
Hell yeah, let's put the military in control and see what happens.
Pathetic.

Dave Barrett said...

paladin,
Just in case your remarks were prompted by the mistaken belief that I was advocating that the military not be under civilian leadership I want to state emphatically that I do not believe that. I believe strongly in the concept that the military always being subject to the civilian leadership of the president and the Secretary of Defense for all the reasons you cited and more.
The point we are making by quoting the criticism of Donald Rumsfeld by 6 retired generals has to do with wisdom and competence of this Administration.
Your objections remind me of Casey Stengel. When his selection of a particular catcher for his baseball team was questioned he said, "Oh, but you have to have a catcher. Without a catcher you would have a lot of passed balls."
When we say that the Secretary of Defense should be fired for his mistakes you say (imitating Casey), "Oh, but you have to have civilian leadership. Without civilian leadership we would have coups like they do in South America."

By the way, paladin, I think it would be neat if you found a picture of Paladin from the old tv show and uploaded to your blog account as your picture. That way it would appear next to your comments and make a nice counter-point to my "Maverick" picture.

Anonymous said...

Subordination is imperative, but today's definition of subordination includes submission and acquiescence.

I'd like a general that says, "I believe we should have 400,000 troops in theater, but I've been limited by the national command autority to 160,000 and I'll modify my plan to do my best to make it work with acceptable risk." Unfortunately, these warfighters never make it past two stars because they speak their minds.

paladin said...

I'll confess Dave (Bret, Bart, Whoever) that when I picked the moniker "paladin" I never thought of Richard Boone.
I was thinking of a knight in full body armor on a white horse with a lance.
I don't have a blogspot account, but I'll look into it and see if I can find a photo of Richard Boone, as Paladin.

Anonymous said...

Another decision apparently made by a general today makes me wonder what's really going on and who's really calling the shots.

http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/04/26/iraq.main/index.html

General Casey is recommending and announcing a plan to reduce troop levels by 30,000, which would leave less than 100,000 in Iraq by year's end.

I really wonder if this decision is truly a recommendation, or if it is a response to pressure from Rumsfeld to get troop levels below the six figure mark before the State of the Union address or at least be well on the way before the mid-term elections.