"Weapons of Mass Deception"
Neocons want someone else blamed for their Iraqi war
BY JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY
The most curious turn of the worm this season is the attack by the neoconservatives on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the failures in Iraq.
It should be noted that until now Rumsfeld was the darling of that same bunch. He hired a batch of them as his most trusted aides and assistants in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Paul Wolfowitz as his undersecretary. Douglas Feith as his chief of planning. He installed the dean of the pack, Richard Perle, as chairman of the Defense Policy Board for a time.
The doyenne and room mother of the whole bunch, Midge Decter, wrote a fawning biography of Rumsfeld titled Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait.
Now, suddenly, the voice of the neoconservative movement, William Kristol, editor of The Standard, suggests that Rumsfeld has fouled up everything in Iraq and ought to be fired for his failures. Ditto, writes Tom Donnelly of the right-thinking American Enterprise Institute.
Rumsfeld himself was never a neoconservative. He just found them useful as he took over the Pentagon for the second time. Clearly the neocons found Rumsfeld useful as well as they pushed their ideas on transforming the Middle East.
So what happened? Why is Rumsfeld being stabbed in the back by those he trusted the most to back his play? By the very people who have argued for years in favor of taking out Saddam Hussein, installing democracy and creating a bully pulpit, and the military bases, from which the Middle East would be weaned from dictatorship and an implacable hatred of Israel and the United States.
Simple. They want someone else to be blamed besides them for fouling up their marvelous plans and schemes -- someone who is a handy lightning rod and who is not a card-carrying neoconservative. So who better than Rumsfeld?
Now those folks who cheered Rumsfeld, and the Bush administration, the loudest of all nearly two years ago are marching behind such grumpy Republicans as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska in laying much of the blame at the feet of Rumsfeld.
The sharpening attacks on the defense secretary as the old year fades and the new year approaches prompted the one man who has a vote on Rumsfeld's survival, President Bush, to step forward and praise him. That, in turn, prompted a semi-spirited defense of the secretary by Republican congressional leaders.
Rumsfeld himself, who has basically no people skills at all, found it politic to spend the holidays with the soldiers and Marines in Iraq. He was even pictured wearing an apron and serving up turkey and dressing in an Army mess hall in the desert. How could anyone think, he asked, that he was not totally committed to providing those troops everything they need for survival in a bad place?
We do not for a minute suggest that Rumsfeld be let off the hook, be absolved of responsibility for gross miscalculations and gross lack of planning in the Iraq war and, especially, the post-war period. But neither do we absolve the neoconservatives for shooting the horse they've been riding the last four years.
They were the loudest proponents of an attack on Iraq from the beginning. It was the neoconservatives who wanted to unleash the dogs of war. It was they who championed Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraq National Congress and saw that their bogus defector tales of Saddam's nuclear-weapons program and his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons gained attention and traction.
America's damaged standing
They believed Chalabi and the INC's predictions that American troops would be welcomed with showers of rose petals and there would be no need for an American occupation. Ergo, no need for anyone to actually plan to secure the country in the wake of victory or lay the groundwork for rebuilding a nation whose water, power and sewer services were falling apart before we bombed and shelled them.
When Rumsfeld goes, so, too, should every neoconservative who squirmed his way into a Pentagon sinecure. They must also bear responsibility for a war that so far has cost nearly $200 billion and the lives of more than 1,300 U.S. troops and has damaged America's standing in the world.
They cannot be allowed to load all the blame on Rumsfeld and scoot away to lick their wounds and dream again their large dreams of conquest and empire and preemptive strikes.
Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers.
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Milton Frihetsson, 02:07