The Airing of Grievances
Monday, May 10, 2004
Dance With Them What Brung You
I tried writing this a little earlier today, but like many potential AofG entries, it wound up getting scrapped before it really got started. I'm going to try again but, unfortunately, I'm piecing my thoughts together from memory. As everyone has seen by now, President Bush today commended Donald Rumsfeld for his leadership, effectively squashing any chance of Rumsfeld being fired. A practical move on Bush's part - outgoing administration officials, whether they are fired or resign, have tended not to be shrinking violets (Paul O'Neill, Rand Beers, Dick Clarke, etc.) after they leave their posts. Probably not the best scenario to fire a loose cannon like Rumsfeld, with only six months until the election.
Where I think Bush really did himself in was the following quote: "You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense." Huh? In whose eyes? Let's grade Rummy, shall we? Rumsfeld's failure to enforce Geneva Convention standards in setting precedents for treatment of prisoners of war has culminated in Abu Ghraib, which alone is enough to warrant a failing grade. Taking a step back, Rumsfeld, with the elfin help of Paul Wolfowitz, did concoct a brilliant strategy of charging into Iraq, bombing the hell out of key Saddam installations, and racing to Baghdad before any of the Republican Guard could fire up what little sand-blasted, '80s-era materiel they could muster. Unfortunately, the post-war planning (which seemed to consist primarily of collecting laurel wreaths and having big V-I Day parties) sort of fell apart once Saddam loyalists realized there actually was no post-war plan and started fighting back. Now, with most important cities in Iraq engulfed in chaos, Rumsfeld's vision of a nimble force of 135,000 policing and pacifying an increasingly hostile population of 25 million doesn't seem so smart. Even before Abu Ghraib, I'd give him a 'D'. Afterwords, a big fat 'F'. Your grade may vary, but I'm willing to bet you haven't read a newspaper in a few months.
Afghanistan? The Taliban is out of power, but we shouldn't exactly start slapping each other on the back just yet. Incidents like this are still all too common and grim assessments like these from a Pakistani newspaper and from the Center For American Progress paint a bit more gloomy picture. Still, the training camps are gone, Osama is on the run, and they are likely having elections later this year. I'll be generous and give Rummy a 'B' for his efforts. After all, the Brits and the Russians couldn't pin down that friggin' country, we did as well as anyone could.
"Superb"? Hardly. Average? No. Bush's explicit and complete endorsement of Rumsfeld in this troubled time in our history is utterly baffling in three respects. First, you have the obvious dissonance between Bush stating that he finds the "freedom tickling" (thank you, Jon Stewart) at Abu Ghraib "abhorrent" yet he later verbally fellates the man ultimately responsible. Second is the steadfast refusal to hold accountable in any way someone who has so clearly screwed the pooch that even the Army Times is calling for their resignation. Finally, it's hardly original for me to say that Abu Ghraib is the straw that seems to be breaking the camel's back, as far as foreign support is concerned. Effusively commending the person responsible has shocked and mystified the Arab world and won't be doing us any favors. But then, for an avowed C student like Bush, maybe this is superb performance. After all, he is America's Low-Expectations-Having M*therf***er.