the weight of our government’s failure to respond to the catastrophe of
Hurricane Katrina dropped like a Daisy Cutter on America’s mainstream
consciousness, a convergence of political operatives and media
spokespersons demanded a fall guy. They received one post-haste in the
person of wide-eyed FEMA Director Michael Brown, who was suddenly
portrayed as an unqualified political appointee, a deer caught in the
headlights, utterly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster.
Of course, Michael Brown did not appoint himself.
Months later it became apparent that White House operatives (perhaps preoccupied with other pressing concerns) miscalculated. They failed to purge video records portraying the beleaguered “Brownie” as a fully informed and engaged administrator desperately pressing the president for coordinated action.
Michael Brown was not the reason for our government’s failure in the Gulf Coast region and Secretary of Defense Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld is not the reason for the catastrophe in Iraq.
Rumsfeld did not author the Bush Doctrine of aggressive war -- Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith and Cheney did. Rumsfeld was neither the first nor the most prominent member of the administration to draw the bull’s eye on Baghdad -- Cheney and the neocon gulag were. Rumsfeld was not a leading disseminator of disinformation to justify an unjustifiable war. That designation goes to Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and the president himself. Rumsfeld did not declare war or grant authorization for war -- Congress did.
Donald Rumsfeld did not appoint himself -- Dick Cheney did.
Rumsfeld may well have sanctioned the torture regime manifest in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, eastern Europe and a handful of allied Middle East nations (and for that he should be tried by an international tribunal for war crimes) but he is not responsible for an ill-conceived and immoral war in the cradle of civilization.
Beyond the growing number of retired generals, there are many powerful persons in Washington who are anxious to pin the blame on Donald Rumsfeld but it would in fact be a tragic mistake because it would clear the path for further disasters in foreign policy -- most prominently, the prospective war with Iran.
Pinning the blame on Rummy would only serve the masters of war by feed the myth that the problem with the war in Iraq is not the war itself or the policies that precipitated it but the conduct and strategies of the war makers. Nothing could be more removed from reality.
As bad as the current state of affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan is, it could be much worse.
While rewriting history is the speculative preoccupation of neocon philosophers masquerading as historians, let us assume that the notion of overwhelming force from the Powell Doctrine was in place at the inception of the war. Let us assume that the presence of hundreds of thousands of occupying soldiers was sufficient to suppress looting and create an illusion of order.
The resistance would still be in place. The soldiers of Saddam’s army would still have thrown off their uniforms and blended into the civilian population. Perhaps we could have killed more Iraqis, ravaged more villages, towns and cities, but every death creates a backlash of hatred and resentment, fueling the resistance. With more troops on the ground, we would surely have lost more soldiers and suffered more casualties yet we would still face the same reality: stalemate.
Was it Rumsfeld’s decision to disband the Iraqi army? If that decision was reversed, does it follow that the resistance would be defeated? Hardly. The Iraqi army was disbanded because it could not be trusted to pledge allegiance to the occupation. Would the Iraqi army have participated in the purge of Fallujah or would it have come to the defense of their fellow citizens? What is often portrayed as a strategic error is at best an unknown. The Iraqi army is not a monolith. It would inevitably, as would most armies, have divided between the corrupted, choosing to play ball with the occupiers, and the resistance, choosing to defend their own people.
Ultimately, even if we assume that all of the neocon fantasies magically came to fruition (a pipedream if ever there was one), the outcome would only be postponed with increasingly tragic consequences.
Let us assume that we were greeted as liberators, that we established a viable representative government, that we soundly defeated the resistance and withdrew the bulk of our troops. What then? Would the Iraqis be content to yield control of their oil in perpetuity? Would they be content to host an American military presence on their land?
Where we speak of
four-year, eight-year or even 40-year commitments, the inhabitants of the
Persian Gulf speak of centuries. People who have struggled across
millennia against foreign invaders and occupiers, many of them with
religious fervor and a sense of god-given destiny, will never yield --
certainly not in a matter of decades.
Blaming Donald Rumsfeld for the disaster in Iraq is like blaming Robert McNamara for Vietnam. (Somewhere the ghosts of LBJ and Dick Nixon are laughing.)
Blaming the strategies of war for an ill conceived, misbegotten and morally bankrupt act of aggression is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Bismarck.
No matter how we reposition the pieces on the board, the fact remains that this was a war of choice, guided by a tortured and thoroughly discredited philosophy of dominance by military conquest -- in short, a war that should never have been fought.
There is only one person who bears ultimate responsibility for the disaster in Iraq. On the rare occasions that he is not vacationing, he reports to the Oval Office every morning.
Beyond the president, if blame must be assigned, a portion belongs to all of us. If we are in fact a democracy, we cannot escape our fair share. We enabled this incompetent leader and his band of neocon warlords to capture the reigns of power for eight long years.
If we now allow our leadership to evade responsibility on the myth of strategic blunders, we will pave the way for further disasters.
Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others. Visit his website: Random Jack.
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