If I were the King of the forest…

Secretary Rumsfeld, as you know, we are in serious trouble in Iraq, and this war has been consistently and grossly mismanaged. And we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire. Our troops are dying, and there really is no end in sight. And the American people, I believe, deserve leadership worthy of the sacrifices that our fighting forces have made. And they deserve the real facts. And I regret to say, that I don’t believe that you have provided either. You were wrong on September, 2002, when you told the House Armed Services Committee that knowing what we know about Iraq’s history, no conclusion is possible, except that they have, and are escalating their WWD programs. And you were wrong when you told this committee that no terrorist state poses a greater or immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. When General Shinseki estimated that we would need several hundred thousand soldiers, you scoffed, and said the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces is far from the mark. And when the massive looting occurred after Baghdad fell, because we didn’t have enough troops for security, you callously said stuff happens. You wrongly insisted after Saddam fell, that there was no guerilla war, even though our soldiers continue to be killed. In June, 2003, you said the reason I don’t use the phrase guerilla war is because there isn’t one. You wrongly called the insurgents dead-enders. But they are killing Americans, almost three a day, and Iraqis with alarming frequency and intensity. You wrongly sent our service members into battle without the proper armor. When asked by a soldier about inadequate equipment, you said you go to war with the army you have. They’re not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time. You exaggerated our success in training capable Iraqi security forces. In February, 2004, you told this committee we have accelerated the training of Iraqi security forces, now more than two hundred thousand for. That’s in February of this year. In fact, we have far fewer, actually able or capable of fighting then, and far fewer that are capable even now. So you basically have mismanaged the war and created an impossible situation for military recruiters, and put our forces and our national security in danger. Our troops deserve better, Mr. Secretary. And I think the American people deserve better. They deserve competency, and they deserve the facts. In baseball, it’s three strikes, you’re out. What is it for the Secretary of Defense? —Massachusetts Senator Edward M Kennedy’s statement to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during yesterday’s Senate Armed Services committee hearing (23/Jun/05)

Well, that is quite a statement. —Secretary Rumsfeld’s response.

nicholsonThis is why I would never make it in politics. I think I would find it difficult to have the proper attitude of respect and humility and back-slapping good-natured fun in such a situation. It seems more like an opportunity to unleash my Jack Nicholson alter-ego: “Baseball analogies, Senator?! You’re giving me baseball analogies? Well, I just happen to have a baseball right here in my expensive, leather briefcase. Whaddaya say you and me play us a game of hardball, shall we, Senator?”

As I listened to the sparring last night on the news, I wondered what I might say if I were in Rumsfeld’s shoes, answering Senator Kennedy’s charges. For instance, I might have replied:

I see you’ve been discussing the war effort with your bartender again, haven’t you Senator. (I’d deliver that line with a wink and a smile, of course.)

Or, maybe this, which is a bit more deferential:

Senator Kennedy, I thank you for those comments. As I stand at my post in the Pentagon, not a day goes by that I don’t think to myself, ‘If only, if only the distinguished senator from Massachusetts where here right now to tell me what to do, everything would be peachy-fine.’

Or, I might go for a diversion:

Speaking of baseball, Senator, how about them Red Sox! I think they’ve got a shot at the pennant, don’t you?

Perhaps the backhanded compliment would be better:

Long after I leave public service, Senator, I will cherish these moments sitting at your feet and being tutored by someone with such vast military knowledge and experience.

But maybe the best reply would simply be the direct reply:

Last time I checked, a Senator from Massachusetts doesn’t get to tell the President of the United States who will serve on his cabinet. Deal with it, Teddy.

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  1. What is wrong with you? Do you think there is something wrong with holding a person’s feet to the fire? Which of Teddy’s points do you think are factually incorrect? Your best defense would be that the senator is an alcoholic? So is your hero George W.

  2. Kennedy’s charges have all been answered before. He was grandstanding, and increasingly my Democratic party has been acting like a bunch of petulant 6-year-olds. No ideas, just whining, carping, and obstruction.

    The fact is, Iraq has a popularly-elected democratic government for the first time in its history. The “insurgents” are Al-Queda sympathizers, mostly from Saudi Arabia, Syria and other countries bent on overturning that government. Even Kofi Anan now believes that the UN needs to support and protect this new seedling of democracy in the middle east.

    But Senator Kennedy’s only priority seems to be returning his out-of-touch party to power by demonizing the current administration and the war in Iraq.

    By the way, your fake email address suggests you are afraid to own up in public to your convictions. At least Kennedy doesn’t hide behind an alias—I’ll give him that.

  3. The charges have been answered before? Yes, with white house doublespeak. I believe that the “last throes” of the insurgency may last 12 years, according to Rummy. Remember how they sold this war to you: (a) war will be quick (Rummy said less than 6 months), (B) we are going in to dismantle a WMD program that is near nuclear capable (C) Iraq had ties w/ Al Qaida (and hence 9/11, nudge nudge) (d) we will be greeted as liberateors (e) war will be cheap, just a few billion dollars.

    Which of these is true? Exactly.

    It’s not about party lines, it’s about competence. I don’t know what you do for a living but if you consistently showed up to work and screwed things up you’d get fired wouldn’t you? Teddy is trying to return his party to power? The republicans are in control of the white house, senate, and congress and still are trying to blame the dems for all of their problems. Look, the fact that people like you don’t hold the administration accountable for anything means that they can contiunue to mess up for another 3+ years without check. Where will we be then? I’ll tell you. 1.) still in Iraq fighting insurgents or trying to qwell a civil war (hopefully not) 2.) broke beyond all comprehension (multi trillion dollar budget deficit) 3.) unable to respond militarily to any real problems that arise (Iran, North Korea, the latter with a standing army of 2 million by the way) 4.) in desperate need of friends

  4. “A) war will be quick…” The war was quick. The nation-building has taken much longer than the administration suggested. I don’t hold the administration responsible for failing to accurately predict the future. I never did believe the stablization of Iraq would be easy or quick.

    “B) WMD’s…” Iraq had an active and ongoing WMD program. Or else the Kurds gassed themselves? It’s fairly obvious to everyone that the program assets were transferred to friendly countries, such as Syria. Even the UN admits that the inspections did nothing to halt Saddam’s continuing R&D, and the UN oil for food program actually provided him with the funds to continue his research.

    “C) Iraq had ties w/Al Qaida (and hence 9/11…” See Andrew McCarthy’s lengthy list of the Al Queda/Iraq connections in the National Review.

    In the end, a democratic Iraq and Afganistan will do more to quell terrorism than any other effort. The root cause of Islamic fundamentalism is the frustration of centuries of poverty and tyranny. If democracy takes hold and a fair and free economy grows in Iraq, it will spread to many other areas of the middle east that are in need of the blessings of freedom.

  5. (a) “The war was quick. The nation-building has taken much longer …”

    That’s a VERY convenient definition, especially since almost all of the 1700+ dead American soldiers died after Baghdad “fell” and Bush stood under a Mission Accomplished banner. You SHOULD blame the administration for not having planned for an insurgency. Various military advisors DID counsel the president that insurgency/civil war were strong possibilities but he/Cheney/Rumsfeld didn’t listen.

    (b)The Kurds were gassed with stuff the US gave to Iraq to fight Iran. Follow this link to learn about that and view a photo of Rummy shaking hands with Hussein in the 80’s.


    “It’s fairly obvious to everyone that the program assets were transferred to friendly countries, such as Syria.”

    Things for which there is no evidence are usually not obvious to me.

    (c) You know who is responsible for 9/11 and he’s still out there because we’re bogged down and distracted in Iraq. Al Qaida had no presence in Iraq before we invaded and practically handed them the country to use as a training/recruiting ground.

    “In the end, a democratic Iraq and Afganistan will do more to quell terrorism than any other effort.”

    Yes, but only if it actually happens. (Life is full of risks, and rather devoid of guarantees. Charlie)

  6. "accurate info" says

    The Kurds, you might remember, were gassed with weapons that we, the United States of America, gave to Saddam in the ’80s to use in their war against Iran. Remember when Rumsfeld went to meet Saddam in Baghdad with the idea that “The enemies of our enemies must be our friends”?

    I don’t know what news you listen to, but the UN weapons inspectors asked for more time to complete the inspection and since we’ve been in Iraq our own inspectors have concluded that there were NEVER any weapons of mass destruction.

    Once again, every reputable news source has repeatedly pointed out that the US has many more connections to Al Qaeda (the CIA gave them support via Pakistan’s government, in order to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan) than Iraq. The 9/11 Commission also found no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Incidentally, Iran, which actually does have nuclear capability, has strong ties to Al Qaeda.

    The oil-for-food program has admitedly been a source of money lining pockets and corruption, but since there were NO WMDS, it’s doubtful that Saddam was using that money to make them.

    The fact that Senator Kennedy is trying to hold the government accountable for its actions is part of what makes America great. If no one in government were ever accountable, we would not be able to either learn from our mistakes or improve the situation. You must agree that the ongoing deaths of Iraqi and American people due to any type of incompetance is of concern. If you’re really a Christian, you should recognize that death of innocent people is never okay and that if it can be avoided, it should be. That’s the goal in holding Rumsfeld and the entire Bush Administration responsible for their actions. If you read “Plan of War” (endorsed by Mr. Bush himself), you’ll learn that no one in the Administration even bothered to plan for what might happen after Saddam was overthrown. It’s almost hard for me to imagine that distinct lack of forethought. You are probably right that the Senate cannot remove someone from their cabinet appointment, but you should be aware that they are required to approve cabinet appointments – it’s part of our fine government’s system of checks and balances, in which the President isn’t the King and the Congress and Judiciary have the responsibility to check his power. If you love democracy so much, you might wish to study how ours is set up and why.

    I don’t think that anyone is arguing that a democratic Iraq is a bad thing. What we are arguing is that an unstable Iraq (or Afghanistan) is a breeding ground for terrorists. Also, I don’t know if you’ve noticed that when you invade and occupy another country, it looks an awful lot like “tyranny” and when the people there don’t have jobs or reliable electricity (2 years after the invasion, no less), that strongly resembles “poverty” so I don’t think we’re doing a lot to make friends with Muslims in Iraq.

  7. Personally, I like the Jack Nicholsom mode. The trouble with Cap’ns “Yes, but only if it actually happens” is that 911 isn’t representative of only one man but of the web of Islamist terrorists. It is hard to call from this point whether “we should or should not” be in Iraq. We are there, we started something important, and there is no hope to quell terrorism by withdrawing short of accomplishing the goal of giving freedom a chance.

    And no we can’t guarantee anything…except complete failure now if we don’t attempt to succeed.

  8. “accurate info” said: “If you’re really a Christian, you should recognize that death of innocent people is never okay and that if it can be avoided, it should be.”

    I agree, and so does the Pentagon. Since wars are never fought on neutral fields, the innocent always suffer. But US war planning and policy is careful to avoid the deliberate targeting of the innocent.

    One of the hallmarks of an evil regime is that it has no regard for the innocent: Hitler targeted Jews and non-Aryians for death; Saddam targeted and killed thousands of innocent Kurds; Al Queda targeted and killed thousands of innocent Americans on 9/11; the Janjaweed have targeted and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Sudanese (and continue to this day); and now the Islamic insurgents in Iraq are targeting and killing innocent Iraqis with car bombs in markets, hospitals, schools, etc.

    If your politics cannot admit a difference, if your politics forces you to believe that there is some kind of moral equivalency between civilians killed in error on the one hand, and civilians targeted and killed as a strategy of war on the other, then you and I are worlds apart.

  9. Charlie, it always amazes me how blithely that phrase “If you’re really a Christian” is brought up like a cudgel to cow Christians into abject agreement. Yes I’ll do anything..just don’t question my bona fide Christian membership! Yet, how often is a scriptural argument brought up? Not often… because there is usually little interest in the scripture and much in forcing the point.

    The fact of your own opinion is no doubt looking at the definitions of killing and how God views that as illustrated in the law of Moses.

    The question is rather, is it Christian to allow tyrants to continue to kill unabated, and unchallenged? Is that Christian?

  10. “it always amazes me how blithely that phrase “If you’re really a Christian” is brought up like a cudgel to cow Christians into abject agreement.”

    Actually, it’s a way to call you on your piety, i.e. the so called “moral values” that neoconservative republicans think they have that the rest of us supposedly lack. What amazes me, ilona, is how christian republicans try to force these “values” on us by turning them into constitutional law and then, when we don’t want to adopt them, they call it religious persecution or a “war” on christianity (I’m thinking of Hostettler as a recent example). You guys are the major religion in the US, how is that persecution exactly? What you have is a set of different (scripture-based) values, not a monopoly on values altogether. I, for instance, think it’s immoral to discriminate against gays. Believing it to be a “lifestyle choice” does not get ‘christian values” pushers off the hook.

  11. I hesitate to add more, since this thread is drifting so far from the original topic… But self-control is not one of my strengths.

    Cap’n says: “What amazes me … is how Christian republicans try to force these “values” on us by turning them into constitutional law and then, when we don’t want to adopt them, they call it religious persecution or a “war” on Christianity.”

    I’d be curious to hear some examples of constitutional law created by Christians to force their values on others. Something more recent than Prohibition. I know the fever swamps are abuzz with paranoid theories about what horrors might happen if the right manages to put a conservative justice on the court…

    But it seems to me that the opposite has been the case in the world of reality, e.g., Roe v. Wade rejected the Christian view of the fetus; Santa Fe v. Doe and others have gagged students from making religious comments (and only religious comments) at public functions and on public property; and recent decisions have removed religious symbols from public buildings, just to name a few.

    Which recent constitutional ruling has forced non-Christians to adopt Christian values?

  12. I guess you didn’t watch the Bush inauguration speeches. I don’t think anyone has been gagged from making religious comments, based on that. Furthermore, one would think that everyone in the US is a christian from what was said. You may be surprised to hear that non-religious Americans, and pretty much all of Europe, find this inappropriate.

    Bush very much wants to ban gay marriage and overturn Roe v. Wade. You know that is true, and it is based on christian values. I grant you it hasn’t happened yet and I hope this means there still are some checks and balances left in place.

    Separation of church and state is an ideal that most democracies strive for and better ones (Spain, Candan, Belgium…) achieve.

  13. I appreciate your candor, Cap’n.

    To get back to the baseball analogy, it’s like the Chicago Cubs. They really, really, really want to win the World Series, but in the world of actual games played and records recorded, they have been defeated in every attempt since 1908.

    The power of Republicans to check the left’s march towards social liberalism is altogether in the dreams of the right and the nightmares of the left. By the light of day, however, the left has swept the series.

  14. I appreciate that is how it must feel to you and am not going to say that you’re wrong. However, there have been 43 consecutive christian presidents. How many outwardly non-religious? Also, what you call “social liberalism” I would call social progress. The left in this country are trying to move in the same direction as other progressive democracies, a few of which I already named. The US is not a leader on this front, and is barely a follower. I think that gay americans probably feel like they are the Cubs. Well, with the possible exception of Jeff Gannon.