America would be a whole lot safer if the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, was flying for Virgin Airlines, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was competing on “Survivor.” Both war leaders have done so miserable a job honchoing the military side of our critical conflict against global terrorism, and in the process so jeopardized our national security, that they should be sacked for dereliction of duty.
Contrary to continuing political spin, Iraq and Afghanistan both are running sores with little promise of even a long-term turnaround, and our world today is far more dangerous than it was before 9-11. Unless there’s a 180-degree change in overall strategy, the USA is doomed to follow the same bloody path through these two brutal killing fields that the Soviet Union took in Afghanistan.
The mighty sword that Rumsfeld and Myers inherited four years ago – the finest military force in the world – is now chipped and dulled. And the word is that it will take at least a decade to get our overextended, bone-tired soldiers and Marines and their worn-out gear back in shape.
Top generals like former NATO commander Wes Clark and a squad of retired and active-duty four-stars warned long before the invasion of Iraq: Don’t go there. It doesn’t involve our national security. It’s not the main objective in our war with international terrorism. Even retired four-star Colin Powell said that if we go to Iraq and break the china, we own it. But know-it-all Rumsfeld and go-along-to-get-along Myers totally ignored this sound military advice.
Before the invasion of Iraq, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, a distinguished soldier with counter-guerrilla campaigns in Vietnam and Bosnia under his pistol belt, was asked by Congress how many soldiers he thought would be needed for the occupation phase in Iraq. His response: A minimum of 200,000.
Rumsfeld treated this courageous soldier – who left half a foot in the Vietnam Delta – like a leper for telling a truth that was obviously contrary to party lockstep. And Shinseki’s spot-on troop estimate was discredited and ridiculed by senior Pentagon chicken hawks like Paul Wolfowitz, a man who dodged the draft during Vietnam and wouldn’t know a tank from a Toyota.
Even though Rumsfeld and Myers know zilch about ground fighting in an insurgent environment, they were convinced “Shock ‘n’ Awe” would do the trick, just as another military dilettante, former SecDef Robert McNamara, believed the big hammer would win in Vietnam, a war where the USA dropped three times the bomb tonnage and used twice the artillery firepower than was used in all of World War II.
Space doesn’t allow for the long laundry list of what went wrong after the Iraqi army was predictably defeated by a brilliant “Wham, Bam, Goodbye Saddam” air-and-ground attack and the present occupation phase kicked off. But the key screw-ups are:
- Our ground units went in far too light. They didn’t have – and still don’t have – sufficiently trained numbers and the right force mix to cope with the growing mess on the ground.
- There wasn’t an effective plan to deal with the looting, rioting and civil disorder or the early insurgent attacks. Army and Marine skippers in Iraq from company to division tried to put out four-alarm fires without sufficient force, equipment and logistics. Crisis management prevailed.
- Iraqi police, civil-defense corps, the regular army and border-patrol units – which could have prevented much of the chaos and civil disobedience that followed – were precipitously disbanded.
In this column on April 1, 2003, when many Americans and all the White House and Pentagon war hawks were gloating about the easy victory in Iraq, I wrote: “Hopefully … he (G.W. Bush) won’t make the mistake of another Texas president who didn’t sack his SecDef and Joint Chiefs chairman straight away for their screw-ups.”
Fox’s Brit Hume publicly ridiculed my analysis, much like Wolfowitz did Shinseki’s. I wonder if Hume and Wolfowitz like their crow served hot or cold.
Our president says he’s not big on reading newspapers. But perhaps former librarian Laura will share this column with her husband and suggest he follow Harry Truman’s example of firing his inept SecDef when the Korean War was going badly.
Eilhys England contributed to this column.