Rough Justice; prowling Baghdad with a sidearm and a defective bulletproof-vest

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by Mike Whitney

On Monday, an editorial is scheduled to appear in the “Army Times” which will call for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation as Secretary of Defense. The article will run simultaneously in the “Air Force Times”, “Navy Times” and “Marine Corps Times” and will be available to every active member in the United States Military.

The editorial “Time for Rumsfeld to go” provides a brief summary of Rumsfeld’s role in engineering the greatest strategic defeat in American history. It says that the “rosy reassurances” made by the administration (like “Mission accomplished” and that the insurgency “was in its last throes”) were in stark contrast to the military’s “misgivings about the war’s planning, execution and prospects for success”.

Note: The “Army Times” has traditionally been about as critical of the government as their Soviet equivalent, Pravda. They have never publicly bashed the civilian leadership even in the worst days of the Vietnam War. This is entirely unprecedented. The military has clearly lost its faith in Rumsfeld’s ability to lead.

Rumsfeld’s inability to learn from his mistakes or follow the advice of his subordinates has caused him to underestimate the challenges of military occupation or “the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity.”

Even at this late date, Rumsfeld has no plan for establishing security and he never did. He always believed that he could bomb the Iraqis into submission and bring the nation “to heel” with America’s overwhelming firepower.

He failed and his model of military subjugation failed as well.

The editorial states:

“Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead has been compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt….It’s time to face the hard bruising truth: Donald Rumsfeld must go.”

Rumsfeld has reacted in typical fashion. He is reorganizing the Pentagon’s public relations operations to create a “rapid response unit” to address the mounting criticism of himself and his war. His actions suggest that the personal attacks on him and the conduct of the war are merely a matter of perception management which can be corrected by a competent team of PR agents.

But the war will not be won by simply revving up the propaganda-machine. Nor will Rumsfeld’s image be restored by recasting his blunders as the bold actions of a military genius.

Baghdad is surrounded. Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured and killed every day. The country is in a state of collapse. There’s only so much that one can expect from public relations makeovers. Even the best propaganda has its limits.

Surprisingly, there are signs that Rumsfeld and Co. finally grasp the seriousness of the situation in Iraq and have begun negotiations with the Sunni-backed resistance. Juan Cole (Informed Comment) cites news from Amman newspaper al-Ra’y:

“Contacts between US Officials and Armed Factions…The Iraqi government meets representatives of the Ba’ath Party and armed Resistance and calls for reconsidering the decision to dissolve the army and canceling the Deba’athification.” Iraqi elites, including former members of the Saddam regime are negotiating the terms for “reconciliation” which may include the reinstating the Iraqi military and many of the members of the Ba’athist Party to positions of political power. “Some of those who attended the meetings are from the armed resistance moving under political cover.” They are insisting that the Bush administration “reconsider the dissolution of the army” and “cancel the De’bathification Law”.

If secret negotiations are in fact going on, then that is certainly a positive development. The present conflict won’t end without communication between the warring parties and a clearly-defined political solution.

Still, it seems manifestly hypocritical for President Bush to continue blasting the Democrats as the “cut and run” party, while he’s secretly working out the details for putting Saddam’s henchmen back into power.

The reports of secret talks coincide with a glut of rumors from Jordan which suggest that high-ranking American officials have met with Iraqi Generals in Amman and are working out the details to depose Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki through a coup d’etat. In fact, Al-Ahram Weekly reported that “discussions of a coup have been underway for some time between American and Iraqi officers. One politician stated that several Iraqi leaders, who have been working closely with the Americans…are also involved in the discussions.” (“A Volte Face for Iraq, Salah Hemeid)

Is it true? Is the Bush administration so desperate that they would abandon any pretense of “establishing a democracy in the heart of the Middle East” and try to resurrect the Saddam regime?

And, how does this new information square with Cheney’s claim that, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists; we defeat them!” Was it just more empty bravado and tough-talk like, “Bring ‘em on”?

The administration appears to be wearing-down from the deluge of bad news coming out of Iraq. Last week, Bush held a live interview with right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh where Bush opined:

“I am deeply concerned about a country, the United States, leaving the Middle East. I am worried that rival forms of extremists will battle for power, creating incredible damage that will topple modern governments, and they will be in a position to use oil as a tool to blackmail the West….If they control oil resources, and pull oil off the market in order to run the price up, and they do so unless we abandon Israel for example, or unless we abandon our allies.”

Imagine the level of desperation that Bush must feel to finally admit the real reason for our involvement in Iraq. All the nonsense about WMD and “bringing democracy to the Iraqi people” is brushed aside in one somber statement. Bush not only concedes that the war was about oil but, also, that we may now be facing a burgeoning resistance that could cross borders and engulf the entire region in flames. Now that IS a threat to our national security.

The war has released the genie of mass-destruction and there’s a strong probability that the fighting won’t be contained within Iraq. Oddly enough, this has always been the dark-vision of the neoconservatives who espoused “creative destruction” as the organizing-principle of foreign policy. Now that their dream appears to be materializing, they’re all in full-retreat trying to distance themselves from the president.


Only Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are left to take the blame.

The editorial in the “Army Times” is just the beginning of a long and agonizing slide toward the political ash-heap. Many will undoubtedly say that it is inappropriate for active military to speak out against the civilian leadership in a democracy, but most will conclude that the article doesn’t go far enough. There are some people who’d like to see a convoy of tanks and armored-vehicles clanking down Pennsylvania Ave on their way to removing the corporate-interlopers from the big white house with the rot-iron gates. And there are others are who’d like to see those same tanks take a spin through the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court on their way to the Time-Warner Building where they can send Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn scuttling down 5th Ave with cake-makeup and mascara dripping from the terrified faces.

And, there are even those who’d like to see the Decider-in-chief packed-off to Crawford while a responsible adult like retired General Zinni takes over and extracts the ship-o-state from the Iraqi quagmire.

But that’s too much to hope for, and besides, the problem we face is much greater than Bush or Rumsfeld. The American Corporatocracy cannot be beaten by removing a few small cogs in the mighty wheel of state-power. We need a sea-change in our political life; a complete system-makeover from top to bottom.

None of the people who started this war will ever be held accountable. In fact, the cabal of militarists, think-tank sycophants, and genocidal nutbars, who operate covertly behind the scenes, are probably devising their next bloodbath already. Unless we root them out, the cancer will persist.

The best solution would be to gather the lot-of-them together, issue each one a sidearm and the standard defective bulletproof-vest, and make them prowl the warrens of Baghdad in an unarmored Humvee like our troops do everyday.

That oughta’ be fair enough.

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