Jewish World Review April 16, 2003/ 14 Nisan 5763


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Rumsfeld Rolls On: Bush's number-one visionary is vindicated | Is there any doubt, with the rapid collapse of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian regime, that Donald Rumsfeld is President Bush's most valuable ally?

Not even 15 days ago, the secretary of defense was savaged in the mainstream and left-wing press as the architect of another Vietnam and likened to Robert McNamara, his counterpart during that protracted war. He was accused by The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh (whose April 7 article cements his reputation as a paranoid quack almost the equal of Oliver Stone) for conducting this war "on the cheap" and sabotaging the theater commanders' request for more ground troops. On March 30, Maureen Dowd, the noted military analyst for the New York Times, blasted Rumsfeld in her frivolous semiweekly op-ed column. She wrote: "We're shocked that the enemy forces don't observe the rules of war. We're shocked that it's hard to tell civilians from combatants and friends from foes... Golly, as our secretary of war likes to say, it's unfair...

"Why is this all a surprise again? I know our hawks avoided serving in Vietnam, but didn't they, like, read about it?"

For the record, Rumsfeld, 70, spent three years (1954-57) in the Navy, and remained an active reservist until becoming President Ford's secretary of defense in 1975.

Dowd concluded her naive piece by saying that instead of responding to criticism about the alleged quagmire of a war not even two weeks old, "Rummy was too busy shaking his fist at Syria and Iran to worry about the shortage of troops in Iraq." In fact, it's Rumsfeld's blunt assessment of threats in the Mideast that makes him so important to Bush.

Not that Howell Raines' Times will ever admit, as long as a Democrat is breathing, that Rumsfeld was skillful in coordinating the war strategy with Bush and Franks. An April 12 editorial demonstrated to what extent the Times' ostriches will go to distort the comments of those they disagree with.

In reaction to the looting that overwhelmed Baghdad immediately after it became clear Saddam was either dead or holed up in a tunnel like a rat, the paper denounced Rumsfeld for his allegedly cavalier comments about the chaos in the streets. The editorial read: "The images of smiling children and cheering crowds in Iraq have been overtaken by a new, much more disturbing portrait of anarchy and fear. Looters, who began by going after the offices and homes of Saddam Hussein's henchmen, have moved on to stores, warehouses and even hospitals...

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was understandably defensive but stunningly off message yesterday when he claimed: 'Freedom's untidy. And free people are free to commit mistakes, and to commit crimes.' That was not the vision of freedom the Bush administration was selling when it began this enterprise, and it is not necessarily one the Iraqi people would welcome."

Ignore, for the moment, the Times' typical characterization of the Iraq invasion as an "enterprise" hardly more significant than an advertising campaign. Rumsfeld was, in reality, more expansive in his reaction to the looting. He said: "While no one condones looting, on the other hand one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who've had members of their family killed by that regime, for them to be taking their feelings out on that regime...," acknowledging that, "We do feel an obligation to assist in providing security, and the coalition forces are doing that."

In fact, in Monday's Times, reporter John F. Burns vindicated Rumsfeld's statement. Burns wrote: "The chaos that turned Baghdad into a place of nightmarish lawlessness during the past five days began today to give way to tentative signs of a city determined to begin the long climb back to order...

"Almost everywhere, from the revival of some bus service in the city center to squads of Iraqi volunteers venturing out into what had been free-fire zones to recover the putrefying bodies of the dead, there were signs that the 4.5 million people of Baghdad were beginning to reclaim the edges of a normal life."

Like Bush, Rumsfeld is explicit in his opinions, doesn't coddle reporters and has successfully implemented changes at the Pentagon that aren't popular with the status quo. His advocacy of a military that relies on speed and fewer ground troops is as shocking to past (and some present) generals as the president's proposals for tort, tax and Social Security reform are to Congress.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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