Its own reward

December 17, 2004

HERE'S HOPING Donald H. Rumsfeld gets the Medal of Freedom. Or, at least, let's hope he gets the freedom part -- freedom to do as he wants, free of the confines of the Pentagon or in fact any government service.

His own team is turning against him. When Trent Lott, the senator from the shipyards of Pascagoula, says Mr. Rumsfeld is not up to the job, you know something's stirring. When William Kristol of The Weekly Standard calls for him to go, it makes you wonder if someone thinks Mr. Rumsfeld might be letting down the neoconservative side.

Conventional wisdom says the defense secretary exposed his weakness when he demonstrated last week his perfect disconnect from political reality while lecturing troops in Kuwait on the Army they can't have, because he hadn't gotten around to giving it to them. The Army they can't have is one that would have enough men and enough armor before launching a war of choice in an inhospitable part of the world.

And of course exposing a weakness is a cardinal sin in the world of Mr. Rumsfeld. It invites attacks from all those who've been lurking in the bushes, waiting for their chance. And there's no question that Mr. Rumsfeld, in that airport hangar, demonstrated a less than admirable inability on the part of a leader to understand the needs of his men.

But surely a more seminal moment occurred this week, when President Bush conferred the nation's highest civilian award on three men intimately connected to the debacle in Iraq: George J. Tenet, who as CIA director discerned weapons of mass destruction where there weren't any; Gen. Tommy Franks, who refused to ask for more troops though he must have known he'd need them (and who let Osama bin Laden slip away in Afghanistan, to boot); and L. Paul Bremer III, who tromped around "post-war" Iraq in his Army boots, leaving a mess everywhere he and his young ideological entourage went and perhaps earning primary responsibility for the current insurgency by deciding early on to disband the Iraqi army.

More than one American -- more than one neoconservative, hawkish American -- must have looked upon this diorama of reward and wondered just what was going on. If these three men were being feted for their Iraq work, then there must be someone else responsible for the utter disaster Iraq is turning into, mustn't there? Why else would Americans still be fighting and dying there? And for what, precisely? Does anyone remember?

Donald H. Rumsfeld, raise your hand. Your friends are starting to believe you'd make a swell fall guy. Sure, that's not the role you might want to have. But those are the breaks. Just do what you can.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.