And it isn’t because he ordered and condoned the torture. As horrible as it is–I say ‘is’ because I’ve seen no sign that G2 and the mercs have been removed from control–the truth is that any GOP SecDef would have done exactly the same thing. It’s our policy. It was done deliberately, yes, by Rumsfeld, but the other Likud-supporting neocons think no differently; Perle and Wolfowitz are even worse. If Rumsfeld should resign over Abu Ghraib, then so should Bush, most of the Cabinet, a healthy chunk of presidential advisors, much of the top tier of the US military, and a majority of Congress–anybody who approved the adoption or prosecution of Sharon’s hardline tactics in Iraq.
But, like it or not, it wasn’t just the mercs and MI goons doing the bashing; ordinary grunts were involved, and the question ‘How could they do that?’ is threatening to take over the story. Well, this is how and this is why Rumsfeld should resign:
The orders that sent most of the 320th Military Police Battalion to Iraq came on Feb. 5, 2003, as part of the tide of two-week-a-year soldiers being called up from the National Guard and the Army Reserve in preparation for war.In theory, the battalion’s specialty was guarding enemy prisoners of war, a task that was expected to be a major logistical problem. In fact, an Army report said few of the 1,000 reservists of the 320th had been trained to do that, and fewer still knew how to run a prison. They were deployed so quickly from the mid-Atlantic region that there was no time to get new lessons.
“You’re a person who works at McDonald’s one day; the next day you’re standing in front of hundreds of prisoners, and half are saying they’re sick and half are saying they’re hungry,” remembered Sgt. First Class Paul Shaffer, 35, a metalworker from Pennsylvania. “We were hit with so much so fast, I don’t think we were prepared.”
He doesn’t ‘think’ they were prepared. He’s being kind. They weren’t prepared at all. Almost none of them were. And that is the crime for which Rumsfeld is directly responsible.
What is now crystal clear is that Rummy’s chickenhawk background left him with a serious handicap for a Defense Secretary: his concept of what the American military is and how it operates seems to have been based on Davy Crockett movies where the call goes out to the untried, untested frontiersman and they respond by rallying ’round and crunching the evil-doers with their deadly accurate long-rifles. You think that’s an exaggeration?
Rumsfeld’s whole defense strategy was built around the assumption that the new realities required speed above all other response attributes. Right-wing militarists just love their toys, but the problem is that they tend to over-value them. Rummy, trained in America’s corporate culture, brought its key illusions into govt with him, one of the strongest of which is that the worst machine in the world is still worth more than the best hundred workers in the world put together. It never seems to occur to them that a) there are some things machines just can’t do; and b) somebody has to run the damn things, and those somebodies need training. Rumsfeld, like all clueless CEO’s everywhere, thinks like a corporate manager: ‘If we’ve got a problem here, why we’ll just take personnel from there and plug them in; they can learn on the job.’
At the level of the factory-floor, I have seen that idiotic assumption create more havoc, chaos, and accidents than any other single dopey corporate illusion, most of which are stoopid and clueless but relatively harmless. This one gets people killed, either because they’re asked to do dangerous tasks for which they’re unprepared or because dropping untrained workers into a high-pressure environment causes an incredible amount of stress to build up.
The treatment of our troops in Iraq represents not one but three distinct corporate illusions: 1) Untrained workers are as good as trained ones; 2) untrained workers can learn on the job; and 3) they don’t need vacations. In a military setting, any one of those illusions is deadly; put all three of them into play at the same time and they’re positively toxic.
And that’s what Rumsfeld did. When the Neocon Wonder Boys were putting their strategies and uninformed wishful-thinking into actual plans back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, they made that judgment about the importance of speed (didn’t think I’d get back to that, didja?) in responding to threats. Then, under the necessity of meeting this self-imposed requirement, they came up with a bunch of cockamamie notions about ‘perpetual readiness’ and using the National Guard and military reserves as integral parts of the invasions they were planning (N Korea, Iran, and the Philippines were all on the list along with Iraq). It seems never to have occurred to them that reservists were in many cases years away from their last intensive training, or that the NG was largely composed of young men playing glorified paintball one weekend a month. Or less. For no reason other than that they needed the bodies available for the plans to work on paper, they included these inactive segments as if they were fully-trained and ready to go on a moment’s notice. When Rumsfeld assured Congress during his confirmation hearings that the US military was capable of instantaneous response times in several theaters at once, that’s what he was talking about.
The PNAC (Project for the New American Century) plans had ‘hardline, know-nothing, corporate whacko’ written all over them. When the NWB’s tried to push Clinton into adopting them, it was the military establishment who squashed them, calling them ‘unrealistic’ and ‘not militarily feasible’–they knew damn well that the reserves and the NG would need massive re-training before they were ready to be usefully deployed, and by ’94 they were certain that a Republican Congress intent on cutting corporate taxes would never approve the funds for that re-training; they were right.
But Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, didn’t know that. His faith-based strategies didn’t allow for realities that would undercut them. So, despite being told by military authorities that his plans were the bunk, Rumsfeld went ahead with them, rushing hundreds of thousands of untrained or poorly trained soldiers into the field without either proper equipment or supervision.
To the degree that our regular troops overstepped their bounds due to exhaustion and poor preparation, Rumsfeld is directly responsible for their appalling behaviour. He adopted those plans and he insisted on their implementation in the face of opposition from the US military structure. What’s really appalling here is the level of his incompetence.