Abu Ghraib: The Rumsfeld Factor

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The allegations of brutal acts, abuse, and torture at the Enemy Prisoner of War prison Abu Ghraib are being connected to the plans, thoughts, and actions of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld: The Rumsfeld Factor.


Rumsfeld's Long List of Failures

"His record in Iraq over the last 13 months is the most dramatically incompetent performance by a public official in recent American history.
"United States forces entered Baghdad in triumph in April 2003. Today they cannot prevent an assassination on the doorstep of occupation headquarters. Insecurity roils the country. Six weeks before some uncertain form of sovereignty is to be turned over to an Iraqi regime, no one knows what that regime will be.
"Rumsfeld is the man responsible. He sought and won the responsibility for postwar Iraq from President Bush. He and his aides tossed aside State Department studies on the difficulties to be expected. Rumsfeld relied for advice on Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who was wanted for fraud in Jordan and who provided what many have described as fraudulent intelligence. Chalabi and his organization got $39 million from the U.S. government until it finally, last week, stopped the gravy train.
"The speed with which Iraq unraveled was stunning, beginning immediately after the military victory. Mobs looted Iraqi institutions -- and for two months, incredibly, U.S. forces did nothing effective to stop it. Every Iraqi government department except the oil ministry was looted. The great national museum and the national library were ransacked. Looters took beds from hospitals, computers from universities.
"It was a disaster for the occupation that followed. Electricity and water supplies were hurt. But the psychological damage was worse. Iraqis saw the occupying forces as being grotesquely unprepared to provide elementary security. The U.S. has never recovered from that loss of confidence. Asked about the looting at the time, Rumsfeld dismissed it as 'untidiness.'
"Rumsfeld's man in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, started out by disbanding the entire Iraqi army. The result was to leave hundreds of thousands of men on the street without income or dignity -- a recipe for resentment. Lately, under the pressure of growing nationalist resistance, Bremer has started trying to undo his folly and rehire some former soldiers. He dealt with the confrontation in Fallouja by turning security in that city over to Saddam Hussein's former officers.
"It was Rumsfeld who thought it was wise to violate the third [of the] Geneva Conventions, to which this country is a signatory, and unilaterally label all the prisoners held at Guantanamo as 'unlawful combatants' -- without the right to the hearings required by the convention."
"Brushing aside the law at Guantanamo Camp Xray was a prelude to the lawlessness at Abu Ghraib."
"The political performance of the occupation authority in Iraq, again under Rumsfeld's agent, Bremer, has been halting. Bremer resisted Iraqi calls for early elections -- an unpersuasive position for a power supposedly bringing democracy to Iraq. He imposed on Iraq a transitional constitution written by Americans -- and sure to be disowned by the Shiite majority in any truly sovereign Iraqi government.
"And now, Abu Ghraib, according to Seymour Hersh in the last issue of the New Yorker, can be traced directly back to Rumsfeld."
"And it is hard to see any way out of the mess Rumsfeld has created in Iraq. We are now reduced to pleading for help from a United Nations we so recently scorned."
  • The May 17, 2004 (edition), editorial in the Army Times article "A failure of leadership at the highest levels" concludes with "This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential -- even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war."
"The Defense Secretary should resign--now. Although George W. Bush is ultimately responsible for the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq, it is Donald Rumsfeld who is the Cabinet member directly charged with planning and carrying out the nation's wars. He should take with him those two self-inflated policy warriors, Paul Wolfowitz (his deputy) and Richard Perle (head of the Defense Policy Board until his venality was exposed). Together with Vice President Dick Cheney, they were the principal architects of this venture, in pursuit of which they have deceived the American people, misled US soldiers whose lives are at risk, scorned the United Nations and defied international law."

Rumsfeld Must Go ... and His Little Dog "Wolfowitz", Too

  • The American Prospect, May 11, 2004: "The number of media outlets calling for Donald Rumsfeld to leave his post has mushroomed in recent days, including some of the leading papers in battleground states."
"Jim Jordan and colleagues at the Thunder Road Group, who send out regular e-mail updates for America Coming Together that are every bit as pleasantly vicious as the Center for American Progress's Progress Report, though with little of the editorializing, have pulled together a nice list of the regional papers calling for Rumsfeld's head."

Will Rumsfeld Survive?

"Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, repeated on Friday that President Bush remained in support of his defense secretary, as did some others. But a person close to Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, speculated that Ms. Rice, who has a history of tense dealings with Mr. Rumsfeld, might not be unhappy if he resigned.
"'He appears to have become a liability for the president, and has complicated the mission in Iraq,' the person close to Ms. Rice said, adding that Ms. Rice, like the president, is leaving options open: 'They're waiting to see what the system will bear, and if the story dies down after today, Rumsfeld survives.'"
"If Donald Rumsfeld went to Congress yesterday to explain why he should remain secretary of defense, he failed. His daylong testimony in the House and Senate has confirmed that Mr. Rumsfeld fatally bungled the Abu Ghraib prison scandal."

Rumsfeld: "I Won't Quit"

  • Julian Borger and Luke Harding, "I Won't Quit," Guardian/UK, May 8, 2004:
Rumsfeld "admitted he had considered resigning and he also apologised to the president and to Congress for failing to keep them informed of the growing scandal before the news broke on television last week. 'If I felt I could not be effective I'd resign in a minute. I would not resign just because people were trying to make a political issue of it,' he said."

"Jail Don"

  • G. Pascal Zachary, in the May 7, 2004, online journal AlterNet article "Jail Don," says that
"Dismissal is too good a fate for Donald Rumsfeld. George W. Bush realizes that Rumsfeld deserves better. Faced with demands that he dismiss his Secretary of Defense, Bush vows to keep Rumsfeld on the job.
"Three cheers for the President's endorsement, which opens the way for a more delicious possibility: the appointment of a special prosecutor who will seek and obtain an indictment against Rumsfeld for a variety of crimes. Thank you, Mr. President.
"You could have allowed Rumsfeld to go quietly in the night and begin a well-deserved retirement from government affairs. You could have allowed Rumsfeld to beat a hasty retreat into obscurity. But you know he deserves better.
"Rumsfeld deserves to be sent to prison for his acts as Secretary of Defense. So the President is doing the right thing: he is keeping Rumsfeld in place in order to give the legal system time to do maximum damage against our country's arrogant, pompous and unrepentant war chief."

Blaming Rumsfeld

President Bush
  • "is 'not satisfied' and 'not happy' with the way Rumsfeld informed him about the investigation into abuses by U.S. soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison or the quantity of information Rumsfeld provided."
  • "was particularly disturbed at having had to learn from news reports this week about the scope of misconduct documented in an Army investigative report completed in March."
"Other U.S. officials said Rumsfeld and the Pentagon resisted appeals in recent months from the State Department and the Coalition Provisional Authority to deal with problems relating to detainees. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell urged action in several White House meetings that included Rumsfeld, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity."
  • David Sirota, Christy Harvey and Judd Legum, "Rumsfeld's Reckoning," The Progress Report, May 6, 2004: "The fallout over the mishandling of the Army report detailing abuse in an Iraqi prison and calling for immediate action is hard and fast and it's falling directly on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld."
"It is time now for Mr. Rumsfeld to go, and not only because he bears personal responsibility for the scandal of Abu Ghraib. That would certainly have been enough. The United States has been humiliated to a point where government officials could not release this year's international human rights report this week for fear of being scoffed at by the rest of the world. The reputation of its brave soldiers has been tarred, and the job of its diplomats made immeasurably harder because members of the American military tortured and humiliated Arab prisoners in ways guaranteed to inflame Muslim hearts everywhere. And this abuse was not an isolated event, as we know now and as Mr. Rumsfeld should have known, given the flood of complaints and reports directed to his office over the last year.
"The world is waiting now for a sign that President Bush understands the seriousness of what has happened. It needs to be more than his repeated statements that he is sorry the rest of the world does not "understand the true nature and heart of America." Mr. Bush should start showing the state of his own heart by demanding the resignation of his secretary of defense.
"This is far from a case of a fine cabinet official undone by the actions of a few obscure bad apples in the military police. Donald Rumsfeld has morphed, over the last two years, from a man of supreme confidence to arrogance, then to almost willful blindness. With the approval of the president, he sent American troops into a place whose nature and dangers he had apparently never bothered to examine.
"We now know that no one with any power in the Defense Department had a clue about what the administration was getting the coalition forces into. Mr. Rumsfeld's blithe confidence that he could run his war on the cheap has also seriously harmed the Army and the National Guard.
"This page has argued that the United States, having toppled Saddam Hussein, has an obligation to do everything it can to usher in a stable Iraqi government. But the country is not obliged to continue struggling through this quagmire with the secretary of defense who took us into the swamp. Mr. Rumsfeld's second in command, Paul Wolfowitz, is certainly not an acceptable replacement because he was one of the prime architects of the invasion strategy. It is long past time for a new team and new thinking at the Department of Defense."
  • The proof, as they say, is always in the pudding. On May 6, 2004, Representative John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, issued a letter to President Bush calling for Rumsfeld's "immediate" resignation.
  • "Among those calling Thursday for Rumsfeld to leave office was Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. ... 'For the good of our country, the safety of our troops, and our image around the globe, Secretary Rumsfeld should resign,' Harkin said in a statement. 'If he does not resign forthwith, the president should fire him.'" CNN, May 7, 2004
  • "But calls for Rumsfeld to resign and take responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison came from congressional Democrats, led by Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the party's presumptive presidential nominee.
"Asked while campaigning in California whether Rumsfeld, 71, should resign, Kerry replied that he should have quit 'long ago' and faulted him for not providing Congress with information about pre-interrogation practices at the prison near Baghdad." Boston Globe, May 7, 2004
  • "The Economist magazine Thursday called for Rumsfeld to resign, as did an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman called on Bush to fire Rumsfeld 'today, not tomorrow or next month.'" CNN, May 7, 2004
  • "An editorial in the Washington Post blames Rumsfeld for developing the system that enabled the abuse to occur. The paper said Rumsfeld overturned decades of military practice handling detainees in foreign countries, including ruling that the U.S. military would no longer be bound by the Geneva Conventions." CNN, May 7, 2004
  • The May 7, 2004, edition of Newsday comes right to the point: "They all should go. It's not just Rumsfeld who's responsible for the misjudgments about Iraq; it's the whole defense and national-security team." The "all" are the Vulcans, right?

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