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March 31, 2003

Seymour Hersh pins it on Rumsfeld
Posted by Teresa at 09:34 AM *

Seymour Hersh’s much-anticipated New Yorker article about Rumsfeld repeatedly overriding the Pentagon’s military planners, and personally micromanaging what has turned out to be a military fiasco, has been posted online. It’s dead solid:

As the ground campaign against Saddam Hussein faltered last week, with attenuated supply lines and a lack of immediate reinforcements, there was anger in the Pentagon. Several senior war planners complained to me in interviews that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisers, who had been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, had insisted on micromanaging the war’s operational details. Rumsfeld’s team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning—traditionally, an area in which the uniformed military excels—and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “He thought he knew better,” one senior planner said. “He was the decision-maker at every turn.”

On at least six occasions, the planner told me, when Rumsfeld and his deputies were presented with operational plans—the Iraqi assault was designated Plan 1003—he insisted that the number of ground troops be sharply reduced. Rumsfeld’s faith in precision bombing and his insistence on streamlined military operations has had profound consequences for the ability of the armed forces to fight effectively overseas. “They’ve got no resources,” a former high-level intelligence official said. “He was so focussed on proving his point—that the Iraqis were going to fall apart.”

The critical moment, one planner said, came last fall, during the buildup for the war, when Rumsfeld decided that he would no longer be guided by the Pentagon’s most sophisticated war-planning document, the TPFDL—time-phased forces-deployment list—which is known to planning officers as the tip-fiddle (tip-fid, for short). A TPFDL is a voluminous document describing the inventory of forces that are to be sent into battle, the sequence of their deployment, and the deployment of logistical support. …

The TPFDL for the war in Iraq ran to forty or more computer-generated spreadsheets, dealing with everything from weapons to toilet paper. When it was initially presented to Rumsfeld last year for his approval, it called for the involvement of a wide range of forces from the different armed services, including four or more Army divisions. Rumsfeld rejected the package, because it was “too big,” the Pentagon planner said. He insisted that a smaller, faster-moving attack force, combined with overwhelming air power, would suffice. Rumsfeld further stunned the Joint Staff by insisting that he would control the timing and flow of Army and Marine troops to the combat zone. Such decisions are known in the military as R.F.F.s—requests for forces. He, and not the generals, would decide which unit would go when and where. …

Plan 1003 was repeatedly updated and presented to Rumsfeld, and each time, according to the planner, Rumsfeld said, “‘You’ve got too much ground force—go back and do it again.’” In the planner’s view, Rumsfeld had two goals: to demonstrate the efficacy of precision bombing and to “do the war on the cheap.” Rumsfeld and his two main deputies for war planning, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, “were so enamored of ‘shock and awe’ that victory seemed assured,” the planner said. “They believed that the weather would always be clear, that the enemy would expose itself, and so precision bombings would always work.” (Rumsfeld did not respond to a request for comment.) …

In early February, according to a senior Pentagon official, Rumsfeld appeared at the Army Commanders’ Conference, a biannual business and social gathering of all the four-star generals. Rumsfeld was invited to join the generals for dinner and make a speech. All went well, the official told me, until Rumsfeld, during a question-and-answer session, was asked about his personal involvement in the deployment of combat units, in some cases with only five or six days’ notice. To the astonishment and anger of the generals, Rumsfeld denied responsibility. “He said, ‘I wasn’t involved,’” the official said. “‘It was the Joint Staff.’”
All this and much more. Read it now. (via Maureen Speller)


Yesterday Rumsfeld appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Check out the transcript. If you made it a drinking game, and took a drink every time every time Rumsfeld says the conduct of this war stems from General Tommy Franks’ plan, decision, analysis, idea, etc., you’d be under the table in ten minutes. An especially poignant moment:
Franks then sat down and began planning. The plan we have is his. I would be delighted to take credit for it. It’s a good plan. It’s a creative and an innovative plan. And it’s going to work. And it is his plan and it has been approved by the chiefs. Every one of the chiefs has said it’s executable and they support it. It’s been looked at by all the combatant commanders. It’s gone through the National Security Council process. And what you’re seeing is fiction. You’re seeing second-guessers out there. …The people who are commenting on the war plan, I think, are probably people who have never seen it.
One feels for the second-guessers who are on the ground in Iraq. Rumsfeld, that busy man, also appeared yesterday on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow, where he said very similar things at greater length:
SNOW: Secretary Rumsfeld, there is a piece in the New Yorker today that is criticizing your management of the Pentagon and the war effort generally. I want to read a couple of quotes and get your reactions.

Number one is the allegation that you have been trying to micromanage the war. Somebody even likened it to what happened during the Johnson Administration in micromanaging the Vietnam conflict out of the White House.

Here’s the quote: “Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisors who have been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, have insisted on micromanaging the war’s operational details. Rumsfeld’s team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning — traditionally an area in which the uniformed military excels — and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arms of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Are you telling the planners what to do?

RUMSFELD: No, what we really are doing—the planners are not on the Joint Staff, the planners are in the Central Command, and they come up with their proposals. And I think you’ll find that if you ask anyone who has been involved in the process from the Central Command that every single thing they’ve requested has in fact happened.

SNOW: So it is not true, for instance, that they requested more armor and more troops, and you said, “Nope, we’ve got to go in quicker and lighter”?

RUMSFELD: No, indeed that’s not true. The plan is a good one—and I would be happy to take credit for it because it’s an outstanding plan and it’s going to work and we’re going to win—but the reality is it’s a plan that was developed by General Franks. It was worked through the chiefs of staff in Washington. It was looked at carefully by the combatant commanders around the world. It’s been through the National Security Council. And it is—it is our country’s plan, and it’s a good one, and it’s working. And I think that the people who are talking about it really are people who haven’t seen it.
Well, of course we haven’t seen it! Detailed overall war plans aren’t circulated to the general public. Looks like Rumsfeld’s falling back on that mainstay of this administration: “You’d agree with everything we’ve done if you had access to secret information we aren’t going to show you.”

Trouble is, campaign plans must by their nature become manifest in the real world. Rumsfeld’s bluffing on cards that have already been turned face-up.

This was supposed to be a light, fast-moving war, but last I heard our beleaguered troops were digging in, so the original game plan must have gone out the window. There are reports of southbound Iraqi refugees giving food to our troops. Senior military personnel have said that we need to start this war over again from scratch.

It is not a good plan. It is not an outstanding plan. It is not working. And it has Rumsfeld’s fingerprints all over it.

Comments on Seymour Hersh pins it on Rumsfeld:
#1 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 10:49 AM:

I expect, that by the end of the week, some unsavory bbit of Mr. Hersh's past will be hammered all over the airwaves, and the words "Moore" and "Hersh" will quickly be linked forever. The administration will insist that all is going to plan, and the US media will carefully report that, and only that. Gen. Franks will be relieved of command, possibly Wallace as well, to get the heat off Rumsfield, and some other General will be sent in, with order to Take Baghdad now.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 11:03 AM:

Check out Hersh's bio -- Pulitzer Prize winner, long career as one of America's most prominent and respected journalists. If he were a nogoodnik, someone would have noticed long before now.

#3 ::: Maureen Speller ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 11:07 AM:

Which is of course pretty much the line St Tony Blair was pushing before war got under way, in response to us peaceniks who would insist on suggesting that maybe going to war was a bad thing.

Thanks for posting the transcript details too. They're going to make interesting reading alongside the Hersh piece. It was noted on the UK news this morning that Rumsfeld had had a busy media weekend.

#4 ::: Maureen Speller ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 11:08 AM:

"You?d agree with everything we?ve done if you had access to secret information we aren?t going to show you." ... is the quote missing from the top of my previous post. Sorry.

#5 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 11:35 AM:

"I expect, that by the end of the week, some unsavory bbit of Mr. Hersh's past will be hammered all over the airwaves"
Well, after Hersh's expose of Richard Perle a couple weeks ago, Perle announced he was going to sue Hersh for libel in the UK, where the libel laws are less friendly to writers. The general response in the press has been support for Hersh, mocking of Perle, and Perle has since resigned from his chairmanship role in the Defense Policy Board (though he's still a member in a non-leadership position).

So, this demonization of Hersh has just been tried and hasn't stuck yet.

#6 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 12:06 PM:

I heard someone say (or maybe I read it in a blog) that Perle resigned because only the Chairman of that board is subject to ethics rules regarding conflict of interest. As an unpaid member, he can't be investigated.

Substantiation, if anyone can?

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 02:43 PM:

Substantiation would be interesting. All I know is that the person who asked Perle to stay on the DPB was Donald Rumsfeld.

#8 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 03:12 PM:

Well, if they dont hang together, they will deservedly hang separately.

#9 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 04:02 PM:

"It's not my fault. General Franks ate my homework."

#10 ::: Clark Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 05:53 PM:

Interesting to see Marines in Woodland and briefing folks in Desert - no doubt for good reason but Mauldin's Willy and Joe had comments on similar issues.
Still, though some place the Clinton era blame elsewhere, I suspect based on what I truly believe (true believer eh Mr. Hoffer?) was Les Aspin's decision on armor support that the urge to go cheap (Dulles and brinksmanship) is as universal as the urge to edit somebody else's copy?

#11 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 06:03 PM:

Too weird: Corporate downsizing meets right-wing expansionism in a special really long episode of Pinky and the Brain.

God help us all.

#12 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 07:15 PM:

And God help the poor grunts in the field. AND the Iraqis they will take out their frustrations on.


#13 ::: Maureen Speller ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 01:27 AM:

Teresa, I printed out the article and the transcripts for Paul last night and he read them through. Apart from commenting on Rumsfeld's enviable ability to repeat himself almost word for word in separate interviews, he also had another interesting comment. Which is that Rumsfeld's phrasing, pauses, etc. reminded him strongly of someone, and he eventually realised it was Richard Nixon. I wouldn't know - I don't really remember Nixon and wasn't paying attention at the time - but I was struck by the comment.

#14 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 02:10 AM:

I was considering rereading Pratchett's Jingo earlier for utterly unrelated reasons when I realised that I wasn't entirely certain I could handle dealing with Lord Rust[feld]. The parallels are far, far too close for anything other than wincing.

#15 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 08:53 AM:

"Rumsfeld's phrasing, pauses, etc. reminded him strongly of someone, and he eventually realised it was Richard Nixon."

You can get your very own personal sample of Rumsfeldspeak here: Ask Don Rumsfeld! (Be sure to click "Show Citations.")

#16 ::: Ben ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 03:31 PM:

Rummie: "This has been planned, that was what his plan was. I haven't signed a new deployment order in days. ... "

Today's Washington Post: "The Pentagon has reacted to unexpectedly stiff Iraqi resistance by boosting U.S. forces in Iraq ahead of their scheduled deployment dates, a defense official said."


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