Four Military Papers: Rumsfeld Must Go genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

You're fired

The war in Iraq has been the albatross around the Bush administrations neck for some time now. Last week, the President reaffirmed his support for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney. Today we find out that four leading military newspapers will call for the resignation of Rumsfeld just days before an election that is seen to be largely about the war in Iraq and a referendum on the Bush administration handling of the war. That would suggest that things have gone from bad to worse.

An editorial set to appear on Monday -- election eve -- in the four leading newspapers for the military calls for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The papers are the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times. They are published by the Military Times Media Group, a subsidiary of Gannett Co., Inc. President Bush said this week that he wanted Rumsfeld to serve out the next two years.

"We say that Rumsfeld must be replaced," Alex Neill, the managing editor of the Army Times, told The Virginian-Pilot Friday night. “Given the state of affairs with Iraq and the military right now, we think it’s a good time for new leadership there."

In early September Thought Theater argued that it would be better for the Democrats if Rumsfeld remained in his position until after the election because it would simply demonstrate the intransigence of the President to consider a new strategy for the war in Iraq. In the end, I would argue that the administration was between a rock and a hard place. They didn't want the firing of Rumsfeld to signal to voters that the execution of the war had been a failure and on the other hand they ran the risk of appearing to be tone deaf to the prevailing voter sentiment that the war was being mismanaged. Frankly, the administration's tough guy approach to politics put them in this predicament because they continued to defend the handling of the war when it was evident to any reasonable observer that our efforts in Iraq were not succeeding.

The timing of the editorial was coincidental, Neill said. But he added, "President Bush came out and said that Donald Rumsfeld is in for the duration … so it’s just a timely issue for us. And our position is that it is not the best course for the military" for Rumsfeld to remain the Pentagon chief.

Neill said he was uncertain how troops will react. “I think we’ll hear from both sides," he said. “It will be interesting to find out if it swings significantly one way or the other."

Again, many political observers were shocked that the President would offer an endorsement of Secretary Rumsfeld so close to the midterm eleciton. As it now turns out, it may have facilitated this editorial and brought more focus to the war in Iraq at perhaps the most inopportune time. The following are excerpts from the actual editorial.

"So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth."

That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.

But until recently, the "hard bruising" truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "mission accomplished," the insurgency is "in its last throes," and "back off," we know what we're doing, are a few choice examples.

Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.

Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war."

[...] For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake.

[...] Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

I'm still puzzled as to why the Bush administration has failed to focus its midterm message more on the war on terror and less on the war in Iraq. Prior to the Mark Foley scandal it appeared that the GOP was having some success with that message but since that time, the President has redirected his comments and attention to the war in Iraq. While we will probably never know the reasoning behind this apparent shift, one might speculate that this President simply cannot accept or acknowledge mistakes and when he was confronted by the release of the classified NIE assessment and gloomy reports from Iraq, he did what he always does...defend and deny. It now appears that voters are poised to offer their own candid response...enough is enough.

Daniel DiRito | November 4, 2006 | 10:03 AM
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