never really understood the war he was fighting in Iraq. That�s why the results
have been so terrible. He liked to say that �the war in Iraq is a test of
wills,� but that just shows that he had no idea what he was doing and was
in way over his head.
War shouldn�t be
personalized; that just makes it a battle of egos that inevitably clouds
one�s judgment. War is a means of using organized violence to achieve political
objectives. Period. Rumsfeld never really grasped that point, so it was
impossible for him to prevail. His statement just shows the shortsightedness of
a man who is incapable of thinking politically and therefore wasn't able
to appreciate the larger strategic goals.
For people like
Rumsfeld, violence and deception are the natural corollaries of their distorted
views; they become an end in themselves. That is not only tragic, but it also
ensures failure. According to the recently released Lancet report, over 650,000
Iraqis have been killed in the conflict so far. This proves that Rumsfeld
didn�t know what he was doing so he simply ratcheted up the violence to conceal
his ignorance. He had no plan for occupation, reconstruction, security, or
victory. The whole thing was a sham predicated on his unflagging belief in
overwhelming force. The outcome was not only predictable; it was predicted!
Now, the country is in a shambles, the society is irretrievably ripped apart,
and the entire project is in ruins.
In his parting
statement, Rumsfeld reiterated his belief that we are facing a �new kind of
enemy� in a �new kind of war.� But this is just more buck-passing from a guy
who wouldn�t listen to his subordinates and was thoroughly convinced of his own
genius. Anyone who has seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib and Falluja are
already familiar with Rumsfeld�s genius and his insatiable appetite for
violence. They also know that, to great extent, he is fully responsible for the
unspeakable tragedy that is currently unfolding in Iraq.
is mistaken; we are not fighting a �new kind of enemy" or a "new kind
of war.� The fundamentals of 4-G guerilla warfare are well known, as are the
strategies for combating them. Rumsfeld�s problem is that, rather than follow
the advice of his generals who understand the nature of asymmetrical warfare;
he chose to implement his own untested theories that consistently ended in
To his credit, he
had a fairly decent plan for controlling the flow of information coming from
the front (�embedded� journalists) and for quashing unflattering news coverage.
In fact, the DOD�s media-management strategy has been the most successful part
of the war effort. The American people have been effectively blocked from
seeing the same kind of bloody footage that flooded their TV screens a
generation earlier during the Vietnam War. We haven�t seen the carnage, the
body bags, the flag-draped coffins; the wounded, maimed or killed civilians who
are, of course, the greatest victims of the current policy.
In other words, the
Iraq War has been a huge triumph for perception-management and censorship.
Score one for
The media has
played no role in undermining support for the war. Rather it has been the
steady deterioration of the security situation, the uptick in sectarian
violence, and the absence of any tangible �benchmarks� for progress that left
the American people believing that we were hopelessly trapped in another
quagmire. At this point, no amount of media cheerleading will convince the
public that the war is anything more than a dead loss.
himself as a master technician, singularly capable of tiptoeing through the
abstruse details of his �new type of war� while developing entirely original
tactics. Naturally, he favored blitzkrieg-type military maneuvers and massive,
destabilizing counterinsurgency operations, both of which have had a
catastrophic effect on Iraqi society, thrusting the country into �ungovernable�
Was that the point?
Rumsfeld seemed to
believe that if he spread chaos throughout Iraq (�creative destruction�), US
occupation forces would eventually come out on top. The policy is a reworking
of the covert operations (the Contras) that were used in Central America during
the Reagan administration. The basic concept is to use extreme violence (El
Salvador option) against enemy suspects in a way that discourages others from
joining the fight. That�s shorthand for �terrorism,� which, of course, the US
does not officially support.
suggested that the strategies that worked in Central America would not succeed
in Iraq for various cultural and historic reasons. They turned out to be right;
"one size does not fit all". The Iraqis are fiercely
independent, proud, nationalistic, and hostile to all manifestations of
imperial rule. Although Iraqi society has begun to splinter, the violence has
only intensified as more and more people find refuge in tribal groups and
well-armed militias. This has caused a steady rise in the number of attacks on
American forces. It has also made the country completely unmanageable. Iraqis
are not cowed by imperial violence. They are not the submissive, compliant
sheeple that Rumsfeld imagined. This is another tragic misreading of history.
There is no
antidote for the continuing crisis in Iraq. The inevitable American withdrawal
will only hasten the looming battle between the competing political forces.
It�s better to get out now and allow that process to begin.
and historians will undoubtedly be harsh on Rumsfeld for his iron-fisted
methods of trying to establish order, but occupying Iraq would have been
difficult, if not impossible, under the best of circumstances. Rumsfeld�s poor
decision-making sped up the process but, ultimately, the project was doomed
from the beginning.
Rumsfeld still refuses to accept any responsibility for the hundreds of
thousands of casualties or the complete breakdown of Iraqi society.
Instead, he has brushed aside any blame saying that Iraq is too �complicated�
for normal people to understand.
Even after being
forced to resign in utter disgrace, he still shows no sign of doubting his
abilities as a military genius. His ego remains as impervious to criticism as
But the facts don�t
lie. Rumsfeld was given the best-equipped, best-trained, high-tech, military
machine the world has ever seen. He was given unlimited political and financial
support and a ringing endorsement by the American media. All that was expected
of him was to establish security and execute the smooth transferal of power
from a "widely-despised" tyrant to a provisional government. At the
same time, he was supposed to put down an �insurgency,� which (by the
Pentagon�s own estimates) included no more than 5,000 or 6,000 �Islamic
extremists and dead-enders.�
Towards the end of
his tenure, he became so desperate that he began to blame leftist web sites and
�bloggers� for the escalating violence in Iraq.
If there is an
�upside� to the Rumsfeld saga, it is this. If it weren�t for
Rumsfeld�s sheer incompetence in every area of supervising the occupation,
the Bush administration would have pressed on with their plans for toppling the
regimes in Tehran and Damascus.
ineptitude, along with the tenacity and steadfastness of the Iraqi resistance,
has made that prospect seem far less likely.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.