City of Roses
Rumsfeld Lashes Out at Bush's Critics
Tuesday August 29, 2006 9:31 PM
By ROBERT BURNS
AP Military Writer
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday the world faces ``a new type of fascism'' and likened critics of the U.S. war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis.
In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the Bush administration's critics as suffering from ``moral or intellectual confusion'' about what threatens the nation's security. His remarks amounted to one of his most pointed defenses of President Bush' war policies and was among his toughest attacks on the president's critics.
Speaking to several thousand veterans at the American Legion's national convention, Rumsfeld recited what he called the lessons of history, including the failure to confront Hitler in the 1930s. He quoted Winston Churchill as observing that trying to accommodate Hitler was ``a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.''
``I recount this history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism,'' he said.
``Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?'' he asked.
``Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America - not the enemy - is the real source of the world's troubles?''
Rumsfeld spoke to the American Legion as part of a coordinated White House strategy, in advance of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to take the offensive against administration critics at a time of doubt about the future of Iraq and growing calls to withdraw U.S. troops.
Rumsfeld recalled a string of recent terrorist attacks, from 9/11 to deadly bombings in Bali, London and Madrid, and said it should be obvious to anyone that terrorists must be confronted, not appeased.
``But some seem not to have learned history's lessons,'' he said, adding that part of the problem is that the American news media have tended to emphasize the negative rather than the positive.
He said, for example, that more media attention was given to U.S. soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib than to the fact that Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith received the Medal of Honor.
He did acknowledge that the U.S. military has its own ``bad actors - the ones who dominate the headlines today - who don't live up to the standards of the oath and of our country.'' But he added that they are a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
``Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and lies and distortions being told about our troops and about our country,'' he said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was addressing the American Legion convention later Tuesday, and Bush is scheduled to speak here later in the week. On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld made separate addresses to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev.
Rumsfeld made similar arguments in Reno about doubters of the administration's approach to fighting terrorism, saying too many in this country want to ``blame America first'' and ignore the enemy.
Rumsfeld's remarks ignited angry rebukes from Democrats.
``It's a political rant to cover up his incompetence,'' said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a former Army officer and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Reed said he took particular exception to the implication that critics of Pentagon policies are unpatriotic, citing ``scores of patriotic Americans of both parties who are highly critical of his handling of the Department of Defense.''
Rep. John Murtha, the hawkish Pennsylvania Democrat who voted in favor of the war but recently called for troops to withdraw, said in a statement: ``It's interesting to me that they generalize the support for the war. They're not realistic with the fact that there's no progress.''
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chimed in that Rumsfeld's remarks were trying to ``shoot the messenger'' rather than examine failed policy.
Rumsfeld defended the war in Iraq, saying that while U.S. military tactics have changed as conditions on the ground have changed, the administration's war strategy has remained constant: ``to empower the Iraqi people to defend, govern and rebuild their own country.''
In arguing against giving up in Iraq, he said people should know from history that wars are never easy.
``You know from experience that in every war - personally - there have been mistakes and setbacks and casualties,'' he said. ``War is,'' as Clemenceau said, `A series of catastrophes that results in victory.''
Firstly, in response to him suggesting that war critics don't value history, I realize wide awake that we're less than three months away from another grim milestone; the moment where the war in Iraq is about to go on longer than World War II. That alone should tell you something. The historical comparison he draws up lacks so much credibility it almost seems to suggest that if he were Secretary of Defense during the Roosevelt Era, he would have recommended invading China in response to the Pearl Harbor bombings.
Secondly, this administration has continuously re-branded the war in Iraq with new, evolving excuses, where each one is so lame it has its own expiration date and is then stamped with a whole new re-written one. First it was about weapons of mass destruction, yet none were found. Secondly it all a sudden became about establishing elections (though it was initially opposed until Grand Ayatollah Sistani demanded them). Then it was about spreading freedom throughout the Middle East, and now it appears it's about stopping a new wave of fascism.
The bottom line regarding my second point is thatthis whole war, especially at the initial stage of the occupation, has been driven immensely by neoconservative ideology, not careful preparation and a clear understanding of the issues these people face each day of their lives. Perle, Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives have been blueprinting this "long war" in the Middle East since even before Clinton's time, and that's precisely why the "Axis of Evil" label is no accident, as they aspire to expand the pre-emptive military strike campaign, nor why Colin Powell was portrayed as out of place to the administration and why Condoleeza Rice may be moving toward that fate as well after her pushes for a ceasefire that put her at odds with other administration officials.
And finally, yes, I do absolutely agree with Rumsfeld on one point; that there are always acts of kindness and good that happen on the most local and community levels in every military conflict that do absolutely deserve and should get reported along with the negative in the general sense. I actually read a most touching story last Thursday about an Army special forces doctor by the name of Colonel Warner Anderson, who had been in Iraq in 2003 with the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, and his wife, Ruth Macias de Anderson, a registered nurse, finding a 3-year old deaf Iraqi girl named Amina, and then arranging to have her flown to the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, where they gave her this cochlear implant that allows her to hear because it turns sound into electrical impulses that activate the hearing nerve. That story made me cry and touched me so because it is moving and inspirational, and when I produced the KBOO News last Friday, I ran that story, and some were criticizing me of running it because they thought it was taking the war lightly, but I 100% defend running it because I believe 99.9% of our troops do wonderful things that deserve to be honored and applauded, such as helping re-open schools and hospitals, despite the terrible things war does overall to humanity, and both sides should be reported in my opinion.
But the bottom line is, in the general and larger sense, this war is a disaster, costing the American tax-payer over $1,075 per person and growing, diverting our attention away from the basic American necessities such as health care, education and flood and hurricane management, and frankly, with the nation in the mild beginning stages of a civil war, Iran has more influence in Iraq than ever before, probably more than we currently do.
Rumsfeld is an absolute embarrassment, and his words are an insult to the 60% of Americans who disapprove of the handling of this war, which include both pragmatist pacifists like myself, as well as conservatives who are quite the opposite of pacifist such as William Buckley, George Will and Chuck Hagel who have been criticizing as well.
Our troops have been working very hard down there, and now they're virtually on their guard at all times alone down there, without any assurance of when that light at the end of the tunnel for this mission is due. They deserve more than that. The first-ever ground poll conducted in Iraq made up entirely of servicemen and servicewomen from Zogby International on February 28th of this year revealed that 72% of them polled believe we must leave either now or within the next 6-12 months. Six months have passed, still no response.
They deserve better, and we deserve better than this calculated dissent-bashing from Rumsfeld and others. Frankly, I feel that with Cheney, Tony Snow and others doing likewise recently almost strikes me as though they actually believe anti-war protesters and Democrats are just as bad as the terrorists sometimes, and I find that most heartbreaking.
As far as I see it, the troops have already done what they were told to do and have done their job. They were asked to take out Hussein's loyalists, and they did so in two weeks with minimal casualties. Then we asked them to help build the foundation for an election process, and they did that. And now this administration has left our troops vulnerable out there, often in the middle of 120 degree heat, stuck tirelessly at great risk.
The best thing we can continue to do at this point, and also advance freedom and democracy in the Middle East, is to redeploy, and let democracy take its course, for I believe believing wholeheartedly in freedom and democracy means accepting the results when people vote, and when you're continuing to interfere with the will of the very people you are trying to give that freedom to, it only backfires eventually and generates greater distrust and heated conflict.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"