Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is a bully who mismanaged day-to-day Iraq war operations from 8,000 miles away, failed to plan ahead in Iraq, provided insufficient troops to win the peace, doesn't understand counterinsurgency warfare, continues with a cold warrior view of the world, relies too much on military technology and should resign.
While we agree fully, the assessment is not ours. No wild-eyed liberal who conservatives love to dismiss, like Molly Ivins, offered it either. Paul D. Eaton, a retired major general in charge of training the Iraqi military in 2003 and 2004, expressed those views last Sunday in the New York Times.
Eaton's no renegade colonel turned down for promotion. A West Point graduate, he fought in Vietnam and rose through the ranks in a 32-year career that included commanding the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga. His task was to take a decimated Iraq army and rebuild it. Of his three children, two sons are in the Army, one serving in Iraq.
Now will anyone in the Bush administration see how flawed and damaging are Rumsfeld's actions and strategies? First Democrats, among them the respected Rep. John P. Murtha, and now an in-country general, see undeniable flaws in American war policy. Vice President Cheney, whose first government job came from Rumsfeld, said last week nothing should or will change who's in the administration's wheelhouse.
If that's so, victory doesn't loom for the United States in Iraq. The nation faces protracted, uncertain war in which more Americans and Iraqis will die before President Bush or his successor faces facts. The American public, in polls, already has.
Pentagon generals are known for bridling under civilian authority, but even if Eaton's reading of the situation comes from ingrained military thinking, it's equally rare for a general, even a recently retired one, to publicly and bluntly criticize standing commanders. More striking is that Eaton goes beyond Rumsfeld in his critique, to single out Eaton's peers, including former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers, whom Eaton says Rumsfeld intimidated into ineffectiveness; and current Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace, whom Eaton says lost a faceoff with Rumsfeld on a crucial policy matter -- how American soldiers should react if they witnessed Iraqi authorities treating prisoners illegally -- and is now inconsequential.
Eaton -- who it's a safe bet is speaking for many still active officers who feel they can't -- depicts military leaders in disarray, hounded into silence or retirement if they opposed Rumsfeld, who sees the world in straight lines, never imagining potholes or dead ends loom. Eaton says Congress must reassert itself over Iraq, and fight Bush's expansion of executive power.
Concludes Eaton: "Our most important, and sometimes most severe, judges are our subordinates. That is a fact I discovered early in my military career. It is, unfortunately, a lesson Donald Rumsfeld seems incapable of learning."