I once had the opportunity to talk about Rumsfeld with someone who had wrestled against him in college.
He never let go.
Look - I think of tenacity as a virtue. But so is humility. I still wonder what image of war Rumsfeld is guided by, as he never directly saw conflict. Now generals are speaking up against his management. The Financial Times reports Bush backs his secretary. I'm happy he's so predictable.
Retired Major General Charles Swannack, who commanded the 82nd Airborne division in Iraq, criticised Mr Rumsfeld this week for micro-managing the war, while retired Major General John Riggs accused the defence secretary of cultivating a climate of “arrogance” among the Pentagon’s top civilian leaders.
This week, Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs before the war, wrote that the “cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood”.
He was joined days later by retired Major General John Batiste. He commanded the 1st Infantry division in Iraq, and said that the Pentagon needed a defence secretary who leads “without intimidation”.
Rumsfeld responded saying its only a couple, and if we changed our minds everytime someone objected, it would be a circus! “I respect their [the generals’] views but, obviously, out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed, we changed the secretary of defence of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round.”
"Intimidation," "Arrogance," "Flawed leadership." Yep. Just ignore it people. It's no big deal. Just a one or two inconsequential generals with sour grapes. But wait:
The administration is trying to counter these devastating statements by noting that none of the generals voiced such reservations during the lead-up to the war. And, because so many Americans now lack any direct experience with the military, the tactic may just work. After all, it's easy to dismiss these retired generals just that easily. "So, where were your qualms when we really need them, general?"
I know the answer to that question -- and it's not the answer the Bushies want you to get.
When an officer has a particularly sticky problem with the actions or orders of a superior officer, s/he can "request permission to speak freely, sir."
Well, that was tried, by Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was promptly and unceremoniously "shit-canned." (Another term my fellow vets may find familiar.)
The Pentagon's civilian leaders sent a clear message to the rest of the Pentagon brass: "Do what we want, or we'll find a junior officer who will."
With the "permission to speak freely" option off the table, the brass was left only with their prime directive: Civilians rule.