Like many people, I once got a kick out of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Blunt and tough-talking, the former top gun and wrestler particularly amused journalists, who saw his impatience with them as breath of fresh air from mealy-mouth bureaucrats.
Despite strategical blunders in Iraq after the mission was declared accomplished, insulting our European allies and pooh-poohing the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Rumsfeld somehow managed to hang onto his job.
But it’s time for him to go.
The last straw came last week during a visit to Kuwait when, in response to troops’ complaints about a lack of armor and bulletproof glass for their vehicles, the secretary basically replied that they should “buck up.”
Easy to say when you’re traveling with a contingent of Secret Service and you know you’re not going to end up spending a year in Iraq.
The idea that, as one soldier said, troops from the best-trained military in the world are having to scavenge dumps for material to fortify their vehicles, is unconscionable.
The only thing more amazing is the lack of outrage by the American public.
In response to their concerns, Rumsfeld informed the troops in so many words that, “war is hell” and that, “You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it still can be blown up.”
Again, easy to say when it isn’t your tank.
Only one in eight Humvees currently deployed in Iraq is heavily armored. In September, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane bluntly informed Congress that the reason for the shortage is because the Army did not foresee the level of resistance it has encountered.
The military has ordered 3,200 more vehicles outfitted with heavy armor plate, but completed orders are only at the halfway point.
In the meantime, how many more arms and legs will be blown off?
Granted, troops serving in Iraq are there because they volunteered to serve their country; they still deserve nothing less than to be heard and to be taken seriously.
Rumsfeld’s red-meat-and-martini rhetoric suddenly seems dangerous and disconnected.
Confidence is one thing. Hubris is a prelude to disaster.
In the real world, people understand that it’s not sign of weakness to admit that, yes, maybe we did need more boots on the ground; that, no, we didn’t foresee the level of resistance to our plans for someone else’s country; that perhaps we should have concentrated our efforts on Afghanistan and left Iraq alone.
The problem is, the price for never being wrong is rarely paid by the children of the men who make the decisions, but by people whose only crime is in being good soldiers.
Resign, Mr. Rumsfeld.###
December 12, 2004 BY Charita Goshay, staff writer
©2004 The Repository CANTON, OHIO