Michael Brown isn’t the first, or most dangerous, of the incompetents that Bush has appointed to office. And unlike some, Brownie is gone.
First on the list of Dangerous Clowns is Donald Rumsfeld. You’d have to go back to Robert McNamara to find another Secretary of Defense who was so incompetent. Now we’re hearing criticism of Rummie from an unexpected source: the generals themselves.
These are retired generals, no longer under military discipline and able to say aloud what they’ve long thought privately. The list of who’s come out and said Rumsfeld should go is like a who’s who of stars:
Major General Charles Swannack, former commanding officer of the 82nd Airborne in Iraq:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The general who led the elite 82nd Airborne Division during its mission in Iraq has joined the chorus of cadre calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to leave the Pentagon.
“I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him,” retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, told CNN’s Barbara Starr on Thursday.
“Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there,” Swannack said in the telephone interview.
“And I believe he has culpability associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and, so, rather than admitting these mistakes, he continually justifies them to the press … and that really disallows him from moving our strategy forward.”
Major General John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, 2004-2005:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Another retired general called for the resignation of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, adding to a drumbeat of pressure from the military for new leadership and fresh thinking on Iraq.
Major General John Batiste, former commander of the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, criticized Rumsfeld for ignoring military advice and failing to provide sound military planning.
“You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense,” Batiste said in an interview with CNN.
His was the latest in a groundswell of calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation by respected retired generals who served in Iraq or key positions in the military hierarchy. Batiste led the 1st Infantry Division during a year-long Iraq tour in 2004 and 2005.
“We need a leader who understands team work, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation,” said Batiste.
“Conversely, I think we need senior military leaders who understand the principles of war and apply them ruthlessly, and when the time comes, they need to call it like it is,” he said.
General Anthony Zinni, commander US Central Command:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - A former senior US military commander, Anthony Zinni, called for the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over critical mistakes made in the Iraq war.
Zinni, who headed the US Central Command from 1997 to 2000, was asked if anyone should lose their job over how Washington has managed its Iraq policy.
“Secretary of defense to begin with,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
“Integrity and getting on with the mission and doing it right is more important than loyalty. Both are great traits, but integrity, honesty and performance and competence have to outweigh, in this business, loyalty,” the former Marine Corps general said.
“There’s a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the secretary of state say these were tactical mistakes. They were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here,” he said.
Lieutenant General Anthony Newbold, director of operations to the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
In the current issue of Time magazine, another retired Marine, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, writes an extraordinary viewpoint calling for Rumsfeld’s ouster.
In it, the former three-star general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he should have spoken out more publicly before the war:
“After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq — an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots’ rationale for war made no sense. … But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat — al-Qaida. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11’s tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I’ve been silent long enough.”
Like many war critics, Newbold says simply pulling out now would be a mistake. But he pulls no punches about how we got to this point:
“The consequence of the military’s quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaida, became a secondary effort.”
And, with a note of bitterness, he charged that, “My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results.”
What to do?
“We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them.”
Major General Paul Eaton, tasked with training the new Iraqi army:
Former Fort Benning commanding general Paul Eaton, in a Sunday op-ed piece in the New York Times, has called for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign, claiming Rumsfeld “is not competent to lead our armed forces.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Eaton, who served as post commander from October 2001 to June 2003, when he was sent to Baghdad to train the Iraqi army, has been an outspoken critic of his old boss since retiring from active duty on Jan. 1.
“He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq,” wrote Eaton, who now lives in Fox Island, Wash.
He added: “Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.”
In response, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff has supposedly leapt to his feet to defend his boss. Last we heard from General Pace, he was being openly contemptuous of Rumsfeld (as we blogged here). Now:
(CNN) — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from new criticism by former Pentagon brass Tuesday, telling reporters that “nobody works harder than he does.”
“He does his homework. He works weekends. He works nights,” Gen. Peter Pace said. “People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld.”
What’s interesting about Pace’s remarks is that they don’t say a thing about the actual charges, which are that Rumsfeld is incompetent. Pace doesn’t argue with that. What he’s effectively saying is, “Well, yeah, but he’s trying really hard” —which in a command position is no defense at all.
No one’s questioned Rumsfeld’s dedication, his patriotism, or the hours he works. No one said Rumsfeld doesn’t arrive early or stay at his desk late. For all we know he comes in on holidays. Maybe he hasn’t taken a vacation in years.
But that isn’t why he’s being criticized. The word we’re hearing, from the people who would know best, is that Rumsfeld is incompetent.
On that point, General Pace is tellingly silent.
President Bush said today in a written statement that embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has his full support and deepest appreciation. “Earlier today I spoke with Don Rumsfeld about ongoing military operations in the Global War on Terror,” the statement said. “I reiterated my strong support for his leadership during this historic and challenging time for our Nation.”
“Heckuva job, Brownie.”
The game may be going into extra innings. From today’s New York Times:
But there were also signs that the spate of retired generals calling for Mr. Rumsfeld’s departure was not finished. Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who is retired from the Marine Corps, said in an interview Thursday he had received a telephone call from another retired general who was weighing whether to publicly join the calls for Mr. Rumsfeld’s dismissal.