Did Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld misspeak last month when he said that the Pentagon could duke it out simultaneously with both North Korea and Iraq? Or did he join the SecDef Liar’s Club?

Like most control freaks, Rummy picks his positions very carefully, and you better believe a whole lot of strategizing goes down before his carefully scripted weekly gig on national television.

In this case, he surely would’ve been aware that the U.S. forces earmarked for fires on the Korean peninsula are many of the same Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units now moving at max speed toward Iraq. He also had to know that despite the almost $400 billion 2003 defense budget, there’s no way the USA can handle two major scraps at the same time – not to mention the mother of all threats: al-Qaida – with forces at about half Desert Storm strength and stretched to the breaking point in more countries than there are flags.

So in this old soldier’s opinion, Rummy has just joined a club of cads chartered by Louis Johnson in 1950 when he assured Harry Truman that we had the right stuff to easily prevail over North Korea’s blitzkrieg into South Korea – an attack we were able to stop only after several hundred thousand battered and brave grunts paid a hard price at the Pusan perimeter.

Another charter member of the club is the architect of the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara, who for eight years told the lies that kept us in another war in which – he promised – we’d also “prevail.” Those words cost almost half a million American casualties in a bloodbath that almost ripped our country apart and came close to destroying Vietnam.

Both Johnson and McNamara walked. The perps did no jail time for their perjuries despite rows upon rows of white crosses and stars bearing witness to their deceptions and dereliction of duty.

Will Congress investigate Rummy’s lie? Don’t hold your breath. Most members voted for war with Iraq and aren’t about to allow a little Pentagon political fast-and-loose to get in the way. Hey, they’re just patriotic Americans looking to be re-elected so they can continue serving the people. And no way are they going to let planeloads of kids returning home in body bags interfere with their Washington power trip.

They, the White House and all the president’s men are now as locked on the agenda as a pit bull with a squeaky Baghdad terrier twisting in its jaws. Why deviate from a plan that’s been in place at least since Rummy marched into the Pentagon? Why take on the meanest chow in the East when chomping Iraq will help sate America’s appetite for oil?

Not to mention that Iraq, with its elusive bio/chem weapons and maybe some nuke hardware “misplaced by the Soviets,” is by far the easiest of the Axis of Evil rogue nations to put down.

Iran is target No. 2. Of the three nations on the Axis of Evil list, “Iran is the hardest and the toughest military and social adversary,” reports a spook friend who knows where the bodies are buried because he helped put them there. But, as he puts it, “Once we’ve neutralized Iraq, we’ll have completed the encirclement of Iran.”

With Iran surrounded, it’ll be payback time for Hezbollah and the other terrorist horrors this vicious outlaw state has launched and supported from 1979 until today. Not to mention how convenient it would be for the USA and its double-talking war allies if another U.S.-appointed shah ruled Iran.

That’s probably why Rummy and his oil-obsessed chicken hawks prefer to play nuclear poker and treat North Korea as a sideshow regardless of the hard-to-hide facts: its nukes, long-range missiles, tons of bio/chem stuff and a million hardcore fanatics now leaning forward in their foxholes readying to banzai south.

Rummy is sounding more and more like Johnson and McNamara – and continuing in the tradition of a long line of SecDefs who never bothered to understand our enemies.

Let’s hope an unstable North Korea that’s really run by geriatric generals out for a last hurrah – not that goofy front guy Kim Jong Il – doesn’t soon call his liar’s hand.

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