Rumsfeld’s long walk into
By Mike Whitney
Clearing House" -- -- Donald Rumsfeld 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 which 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 over-whelming force. The outcome
was not only predictable; it was predicted! Now, the country
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.
Besides, Rumsfeld 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 which consistently ended in disaster.
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 present policy.
In other words, the Iraq War has been a huge triumph for
perception-management and censorship.
Score 1 for Rummy.
The media has played no role in undermining support for the
war. Rather it has been the steady deterioration of the
security situation, the up-tick in sectarian violence, and
the absence of any tangible “benchmarks” for progress which
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.
Rumsfeld saw himself as a master technician, singularly
capable of tip-toeing 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) which 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
Some critics suggested that the strategies which 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
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.
Political pundits 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
Ironically, 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 or 6,000 “Islamic extremists and dead-enders”.
He failed completely.
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 “up-side” to the Rumsfeld saga, it is this.
If it wasn’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.
Rumsfeld’s ineptitude, along with the tenacity and
steadfastness of the Iraqi resistance, has made that
prospect seem far less likely.