been a mildly politically cognizant American since at least the late 1970s,
I've seen no small number of despicable, dangerous know-it-all rich-boy
politicians and policymakers. But I'm not sure I've ever seen a more
loathsome such character than the openly Orwellian Donald Rumsfeld, the
former Princeton wrestler who likes to quote his fellow Chicagoan Al Capone
to the effect that "a smile with a gun" will get you further in life than "a
smile alone." The enormously wealthy and legendarily abrasive bully boy
Rumsfeld is about as responsible as anyone for the criminal, racist, and
failed occupation of Iraq, which he has insisted on executing in accordance
with neoliberal principles that sacrifice US (among a much larger total
number of) lives on the altar of corporate efficiency.
How gratifying, then to see Donny Pentagon get humiliated by the mostly
working-class National Guard and Reserve soldiers he was attempting to
charge up for the war in Iraq. [See: "Rumsfeld
Faces Tough Questions from Soldiers"]
All dressed up like the corporate CEO he used to be, Rummy went to Kuwait to
give these troops a pep talk for his failed war. Instead he got a "talking
to" from the grunts themselves.
"Why," one soldier asked "Rummy," "do we soldiers have to dig through local
landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to
uparmour our vehicles." As the flustered Pentagon chief stumbled for an
answer, the solider elaborated: "we do not have proper armored vehicles to
carry us north."
I oppose the entire operation of course, but that strikes me as a decent
question, one that I'd be glad to see posed if I were stuck over there in
Bush's Godforsaken crusade.
And here was the contemptuous answer from the vile War Master in the
business suit: "you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want.
You can have all the armour in the world on a tank and it can be blown up."
Funny, these troops thought they were in the greatest army in the world, one
that certainly would offer them adequate protection on the imperial highways
they were ordered to travel.
So should the troops stop self-"uparmouring" since, well, any tank can be
destroyed? Gee, Rumsfeld, why have armour at all? Might as well just fight
naked...that would certainly save taxpayer dollars. What would Al Capone
When a different troop asked about the Pentagon's backdoor draft "stop-loss"
policy, which prevents troops from going home after their tour is up (Catch
22: "your tour is up but there's a catch...we say your tour isn't up"),
Rumsfeld informed him that "stop-loss" was "basically a sound principle"
and, get this, "a fact of life." Kind of like slavery in the South before
"Look, shit happens, you working-class guys are stuck out here in the
fucking desert, eating shitty food and getting your legs blown off and
losing your vision and miserable stuff like that. You end up living (if you
make it out) with all kinds of post-traumatic stress disorders. Meanwhile
war princes like Dick Cheney and me get to fly around in missile-proof,
liquor-stocked jetliners and ride (even through the streets of the homeland)
in well-armorued limousines. Your life's a bitch and then you die."
"But we live in big mansions and enjoy lives of luxuriant opulence. We
deserve it. Work hard and some day maybe you can to. If you can get your
sorry little working-class butts out of here in one piece, that is. That's
just the way it is. Good luck with that landfill search."
Of course there were other and deeper questions for troops to ask, like what
moral and legal basis does this administration have to justify the death and
destruction it is imposing on the Arab world? Why aren't rich people
fighting in this imperial oil war? How's your battle readiness, Rummy? How
would you like to join us in the field?
Still, tough questions about armour and stop-loss are a good place to start
I wonder if any of these insufficiently armored troops (many of whom are
surfing the web, sharing their experiences and reading critiques) had heard
about what Rumsfeld and the White House are hearing from the CIA station
chief in Baghdad: "the situationin Iraq is getting worse and may not rebound
anytime soon." This "basic conclusion" was "echoed by a senior CIA official
who recently visited Iraq." I am quoting the
New York Times on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day.
American troops, resist this illegal and unjust occupation.
Paul Street is a writer and researcher in Chicago, Illinois. His
book Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 is now
Paradigm Publishers. He can be reached at:
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