Friday, December 15, 2006

Good Riddance, Rummy.

So Donald Rumsfeld is now officially leaving office, his political career having come to a disastrous end. It's been a long time coming. Rummy (as his frat-boy boss affectionately calls him) began his rise to power in 1962, and served until 1969 in the US Congress. He left elected office to serve in the administration of President Richard Nixon, who famously summed up his new employee by saying, "He's a ruthless little bastard. You can be sure of that."

Subsequently he served as Ambassador to NATO, before returning to Washington to serve under President Gerald Ford, eventually assuming the roles of Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense. It was there that he formed his perpetual alliance with Dick Cheney. Together they worked to undermine the national policy of detente with the Soviet Union. For his work, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

When Ford failed to win re-election, Rumsfeld entered the civilian workforce. But he continued to do crucial service for his country. As Special Envoy to the Middle East under Ronald Reagan (1983), he cemented ties between the US and Iraqi head of state Saddam Hussein. This work purportedly coincided with his position as negotiator for Bechtel Corporation, which was then pursuing the construction of an oil pipeline in Iraq. He would later state that his work in restoring relations with Iraq was among his best achievements in public service... no doubt a claim that he would reassess two decades later.

In the meantime Rumsfeld toiled as the CEO and Chairman of the wordwide pharmaceutical manufacturer, Searle and Co... working to promote a line of quality products that included oral contraceptives and the carcinogenic sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet). Rummy worked for many corporations... and found his groove on the board of European engineering company ABB... a firm that, in the year 2000, sold two light water nuclear reactors to North Korea. Somehow among all these responsibilities, our hero found time to help form the Project for the New American Century (1998), a neoconservative outfit that vociferously called for regime change in Iraq. But Rumsfeld would have to wait for the achievement of this objective. He continued to serve the business world until he was named the 21st Secretary of Defense by George W. Bush.

Under Bush he forged an alliance with his old croney Cheney, awaiting a pretext to pursue the objectives of the PNAC. 9-11 gave him the perfect opportunity. After a bungled operation to capture Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld turned his sites upon Hussein. Rumsfeld was forefront in the administration, warning the American Public that the Iraqi leader had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and assuring that he knew where they were. In the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion, former Eagle Scout Rumsfeld was tragically ill-prepared to bring stability to the beleaguered country.

His belief in a thinner, more mobile military (the "Rumsfeld Doctrine") proved to be entirely inappropriate for the task at hand. The "Shock and Awe" of an initial American bombing campaign gave way to widespread looting, and the devastation of Iraq's infrastructure and ancient historical legacy. Further embarrassing the Bush administration was the futile search for WMDs that did not exist. Rumsfeld compounded the initial failures of the operation by disbanding the Iraqi army in the wake of an administration-declared "victory" and instituting a policy of torture to "subdue" captured Iraqi resisters... resulting in a climate of intense civil strife that continues to this day.

The US Military has fared little better than the Iraqis during the occupation. Rumsfeld made many enemies in the armed forces with his ongoing repression of officers that disagreed with his strategic approach. His famously prickly attitude won no converts... especially when Rumsfeld attempted to respond to complaints that soldiers had inferior tank and body armor. The Secretary of Defense pointed out that, "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want." This rejoinder did little for troop morale.

Mr. Rumsfeld will now retire to his home (ironically named "Mt. Misery") in St. Michaels, MD. The Rumsfeld homestead is notable for being the location of a slave-breaking enterprise during the 1830's. It's owner, Edward Covey, actually atttempted (but failed) to tame Frederick Douglass there. It seems fitting somehow... that Rumsfeld should spend the rest of his life in a place notorious for trying to break the will of history's most vulnerable victims.

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