Jewish World Review Dec. 22, 2004 / 10 Teves, 5765

Jack Kelly

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Rummy's hated more for what he is doing right than for what he has done wrong | The lynch mob formed after Specialist Thomas Wilson asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld why his unit, the 278th Regimental Combat Team of the Tennessee Army National Guard, had to scrounge for armor to put on their humvees and trucks.

Rumsfeld told Wilson the Army was up-armoring humvees as fast as it could, but added that "You have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you would like to have." This, to the mob, indicated Rumsfeld was "arrogant," and "out of touch with reality."

Wilson's question had been planted by Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts, embedded with the 278th. Pitts is either the world's worst reporter, or a liar, because at the time Wilson asked his question, 97 percent of the unit's 830 vehicles had been up-armored, according to MajGen. Stephen Speakes.

Yet the lie that Rumsfeld is sending troops into battle unprotected is spreading, because Edward Lee Pitts is not the only journalist with little regard for truth.

Prominent Republicans have jumped on the anti-Rumsfeld bandwagon. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) said they have "no confidence" in the Secdef. McCain and Hagel will say whatever it takes to get them on the morning talk shows, but they were joined in public criticism by Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss), Susan Collins (R-Me), and Norm Coleman (R-Minn). Anti-Rumsfeld feeling is fueled by his manner. He does not suffer fools gladly, and there is no shortage of fools on Capitol Hill, or in the press corps. Journalists in particular resent Rumsfeld for making them look bad when they ask stupid questions during televised news conferences.

Rumsfeld has made his share of mistakes. But he is hated more for what he is doing right than for what he has done wrong.

Many generals in the Army resent him for cancelling the Crusader artillery system and the Comanche helicopter, and for passing them over to make retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker chief of staff.

Rumsfeld's willingness to cancel expensive procurement programs merely because they are unneeded also unnerves lawmakers whose constituents benefit from the pork.

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Rumsfeld is trying to reform a bloated Pentagon bureaucracy. This has incurred the wrath of public employee unions and their defenders, among whom is Sen. Collins.

I wish Rummy were more diplomatic. And though it isn't Rumsfeld's fault that we had only a 10 division Army when the war on terror began, he has been slow to recognize that the conflict we're in now requires an Army of at least 12 division equivalents. Still, I think Donald Rumsfeld has been the best secretary of defense ever.

  • Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks presided over two of the most successful military campaigns in history. Rumsfeld was right and his critics wrong about the best way to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Advocates of the old, heavyweight Army have never forgiven Rummy for advocating lighter, more mobile forces, but Rumsfeld was correct," said the Washington Post's David Ignatius.

  • Rumsfeld is re-aligning an obsolescent Cold War basing system that had tens of thousands of troops sitting needlessly in Germany and Korea, protecting the ungrateful from a threat that had vanished.

  • Rumsfeld is overhauling a procurement system that delivers us very expensive weapons a generation behind modern technology, and a Pentagon civilian employee management system which delivers the least work for the most cost.

  • Rumsfeld is pushing forward with ballistic missile defense, something for which we will be very grateful if diplomatic efforts fail (as they almost certainly shall) to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. None of this is important, Rumsfeld's critics say, because he's used an autopen to sign condolence letters to the families of service members killed in action.

First Sgt. Tommy Rikard was at the forum in Kuwait where Spc. Wilson asked his now famous question. The visit went differently, he said, than the news media has reported.

"Mr. Rumsfeld fielded a number of questions, took down notes for the ones he did not have answers to and genuinely enjoyed talking to the soldiers," Rikard said. "Afterward, he spent an hour with the enthusiastic troops who literally mobbed him and would not let him leave...He was applauded, given a standing ovation, and he was loved."

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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