Tags: Rumsfeld's | Wrong | Answer

Rumsfeld's Wrong Answer

Sunday, 12 December 2004 12:00 AM

The temptation for us red-leaners is to think: “Thank God the election is over. Kerry can’t exploit that issue. It’s a bummer for our side, all right – an American fighting man complaining about having to poke through landfill looking for “hillbilly” armor to jerry-rig onto unarmed Humvees – but we’re saved by the bell; or at least by the calendar. As bad as that story is for the administration, its guts will be eaten up by the Happy Holidays. It’ll be done with by Christmas. And the bones will be cleared away and forgotten before New Year’s.”

Any conservative who succumbs to that temptation and fails to speak out, any conservative who does nothing but hope the specialist-versus-the-secretary confrontation blows away like an ungainly kitchen stench is, in my view, as gross a political villain as any we conservatives have lately lacerated and defeated.

The story comes to mind of the young Jewish man who strikes it rich, buys a big yacht, has a tailor design for him a uniform with epaulets and lots of gold braid, and then peacock-struts in uniform over to visit his mother.

“Look, Mom,” he exuberates, “I’m a captain!”

The under-impressed mother laconically says (try to dub in a Yiddish accent here): “Marvin, by you you’re a captain. By me you’re a captain. But tell me, Marvin – by a CAPTAIN are you a captain?”

In other words, if “by Kerry” our troops lack basic armor, yeah: expected political rhetoric. If “by those who hate George Bush” our troops lack basic armor, no big deal. But when “by an American fighting man about to head north into Iraq” our troops lack basic armor, then I expect every American armed with pen, pencil, pad, microphone, TV camera or word processor to head for the ramparts with a broken bourbon bottle to fix this unacceptable outrage even if those responsible are the very administration heroes we were so happy to see elected on November 2.

At this moment, I’m as disappointed by conservatives’ reaction to all this as they will surely be with me.

A question as bold as Spc. Wilson’s takes us right down to the burlap. The righteousness or bankruptcy of that question would be instantly revealed by the spontaneous reaction of the assembled troops, undoubtedly as startled as Secretary Rumsfeld himself. Did those troops boo the candid questioner? No. They clapped and cheered. Like a magnesium flare, that moment in American military history revealed something too vital to consign to that lower shelf labeled post-election partisan bickering.

It revealed an administration failure that goes far beyond “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” “Your families aren’t going to get their allotments on time,” “Your GI benefits are not quite all your recruiter promised,” and “Ha ha ha, we can call you back long after you think your military service is completed.” This failure was not only damaging to morale. It says, “We’re not really all that hell-bent upon improving your chances of battlefield survival.”

And it’s a failure that’s persisted over an unforgivably long time. How dare anyone in our “patriotic” wing of American media merely heave a sigh, throw out a little jab or two and then dance away!

Rumsfeld has always been my favorite. I’d pay for a video library of all of his early press conferences in which he took on the fiercest of the carping liberals and showed them one by one – slam-dunk style – where the bear sat in the buckwheat. In fact, I had fantasies of a President Rumsfeld to succeed President Bush!

His age, early 70s, was always offered as a disqualifier. I’d planned to argue that. After all, Rumsfeld was a champion wrestler in college. When you once get yourself in shape for college wrestling, you have to become almost a suicide bomber ever to get yourself OUT of shape. Not so for football players. You don’t have to be in anywhere near as good shape for football as for wrestling. In baseball, after an occasional burst of effort, you can rest. Basketball players THINK they’re in shape, until you get them on the wrestling mat for one uninterrupted minute. Wrestling is the most demanding of all sports. And Rumsfeld made sure he STAYED in shape long AFTER he left college.

Therefore, I was prepared to make the case that we should consider Donald Rumsfeld’s POLITICAL age as eight to ten years younger than his actual age.

In other words, I’m NOT a “Rummy hater.” I am, however, still rattling from the cosmic stupidity of his answer to Spc. Thomas Wilson: “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Let’s see. Maybe if a million Russian marines were to land near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and our tools to resist such a total surprise seemed lacking, maybe then a secretary of defense could get away with explaining that “You go to war with the army you have.” That statement, however, becomes your own grenade going off in your own face when applied to a war close to entering its third year – especially a war in which you yourself chose the time of attack. (I support our mission in Iraq.)

What has happened to America? During World War II – beginning in 1941 – we rallied from a devastating surprise attack (the Asian equivalent of Russian marines landing in South Carolina!) and overnight became the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

From sub-zero preparedness we arose.

If our military needed a base, the Seabees gave them a “city” in the jungle, the desert or the Arctic within days. Fifty thousand warplanes rolled into action from factories that were making fire trucks a few weeks earlier and blockbuster bombs from factories that used to make lamps. A can-do man named Henry Kaiser took over our shipping shortage and was soon launching one major ship per day. Britain and the Soviet Union received the American supply needle in their tired veins that enabled them to drive on to smashing victories over the Nazis.

And today? After the media quit cursing the fact that a “Gotcha!” this big came too late for the campaign, they lit up the horizon with it and right away it all got worse. The manufacturers reported that they had told the Pentagon they could produce more armored Humvees and the Pentagon gave them a “Don’t call us. We’ll call you,” but no orders for more armored Humvees. Now we hear there’s only one factory than can manufacture armored Humvees! Hold it. Another news channel reported there are two. Nobody explained whatever happened to the limitless number of American manufacturers who used to manufacture American

Embattled administration spinners may have thought a whiff of comeback was in the air on Friday, December 10, with the “startling” revelation that Spc. Wilson was “fed” the question by an embedded reporter from Tennessee. Is there any way to make short shrift even shorter? I wish I could give that wet firecracker zero words, but at least I can give it zero weight. Complaining that the soldier was fed the question by a reporter is rather like a knocked-out boxer later complaining that the punch that lost the fight for him was not the idea of his victorious opponent, but was instead whispered into his opponent’s ear by one of the guys in his corner in between rounds.

You can vote for Bush (and therefore Rumsfeld). You can elect them. You can support them. You can like them. You can love them. But you can’t protect them. Not this time.

By the way, why should we even have NEEDED Spc. Wilson to become America’s new Paul Revere, warning not that the British are coming, but that the armor is not? We heard all through the presidential campaign complaints that our troops lacked sufficient protection. Didn’t Rumsfeld – or his boss – ever get curious enough to find out if there was any merit to those complaints? Why didn’t Rumsfeld pound a wrestler’s fist onto his Pentagon desktop and yell, “Fix it!”

This failure is far from the most egregious wartime blunder in history. Gen. Moshe Dayan, Israel’s hero in the Six-Day War, drew sharp criticism in Israel by confessing in a postwar book that he had one of his entire armies deployed on the wrong border!

Others: Hitler’s refusal to delay Germany’s June 1941 attack on the Soviet Union until the following March. German Air Marshal Goering promising Hitler he could supply the Nazi troops besieging Stalingrad by air. Nazi General Erwin Rommel’s overextension of his supply lines, inviting the British counterattack at El Alamein in Egypt that caused the longest, fastest retreat in military history.

My Russian-born grandfather regaled Cousin Michael and me with wild tales of Russian troops freezing in Siberia during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 while opening boxcar after boxcar looking for heavy overcoats, long underwear, or mittens and finding … nothing but potatoes!

College wrestling matches have three rounds.

The first one has gone on points to Spc. Thomas Wilson by a wide margin, even though he’s fighting in a much lower weight class than his vastly more experienced adversary. I don’t care how conservative you are: If you’re any kinder to the administration than I’ve been, you’re showing me you love your ideology more than you love truth.


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The temptation for us red-leaners is to think: "Thank God the election is over.Kerry can't exploit that issue.It's a bummer for our side, all right - an American fighting man complaining about having to poke through landfill looking for "hillbilly" armor to jerry-rig onto...
Sunday, 12 December 2004 12:00 AM
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