Every six months or so the American Legion sends me a letter asking why I haven't joined yet. Last week, at its annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Legion answered its own question.
It's bad enough that the Bush administration abuses its authority at every opportunity to use active duty troops as a Leni Riefenstahl style backdrop for its political rallies. The military, constitutionally under young Mister Bush's command, has no other choice but to play along. But for a so-called "veterans' service organization" to volunteer itself as a wall in the neoconservative GOP echo chamber is a particularly offensive piece of Rovewellianism.
The keynote speaker list, as you probably know, included not one, not two, but three heavy hitters in the administration. Well, call it two heavy hitters plus Condi Rice. Okay, call it one heavy hitter plus Rice and young Mister Bush himself. As heinous as the addresses given by Condi and Dubya were, they were downright palatable compared to the nose whistle recital that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave. The major hue and cry over Rumsfeld's speech was how he managed to insult the intellectual and moral clarity of the majority of Americans who now believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. I was more struck by how, once again, Rumsfeld's remarks proved just how ill suited he is for the job he presently holds.
From the sound of his warfare analogies, Rumsfeld seems to think he's fighting Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy all over again. That goes a long way in explaining how badly he's screwed up the war he's actually fighting now. But then again, Rummy and the rest of the inner neo-circle never have been all that good at making sense.
They insist on blaming their failures on the "new" nature of the so-called war on terror--but that doesn’t keep them from comparing their "new" kind of war to the "old" kind of war whenever they find it convenient to do so. Rummy and his neo-cronies tell us that this kind of war is "new" because it involves non-nation state entities. They also castigate their critics for not having learned the "lessons of history." But they either forget or neglect to mention that America's history is chock full of wars against non-state entities--Barbary pirates, Mexican banditos, Indian tribes, rebels, insurgents, terrorists, guerillas and all other sorts of evil doers. They also neglect to mention that, with the notable exception of Vietnam, their predecessors who fought the old kind of new wars were a darn sight more successful than they have been at fighting this new new kind of war.
You'd think that a smart guy like Rummy would have learned from the historic lessons of America's old new kind of wars in the course of fighting his new new kind of war, but that would be too much like Rummy admitting that history is smarter than he is. You also might think that Rummy would realize he failed to learn the same historic lessons that Vietnam era Secretary of State Robert McNamara failed to learn. But admitting that would be too much like Rummy admitting he was--and still is--wrong.
Rumsfeld and McNamara are running neck and neck for the Worst U.S. Cabinet Secretary Ever title. Rumsfeld deserves a lions share of the blame for driving America to the Project for the New American Century's catastrophic policy of toppling Saddam Hussein through military force. But as Bush the Younger's second in command of the military, he is singularly responsible for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and for fumbling the overall war on terrorism.
But Rumsfeld has done far more damage than that. His hands-on management of the wars he helped to create has shown the "best trained, best equipped" armed force in the history of humanity to be an all but impotent tool of U.S. national power. Despite great expense of human life and national treasure, America's military is unable to decisively defeat an enemy that has no army, navy, air force, Halliburton or USO. Objective future historians will point to Rumsfeld as one of the key figures who squandered the power the United States had accumulated at the end of a decades-long Cold War against the Soviet Union.
Incredibly, ironically and tragically, Rumsfeld is still at the helm of neoconservative America's misguided, warfare-centric foreign policies, and is likely to stay in that position as long as George II sits on the throne. From the sound of Rummy's remarks to the American Legion Convention, there's no reason to think he's about to start learning from his own mistakes either, and well, why should he? He's an old man. Unlike most of the rest of us, he won't have to pay the price for his mistakes.
So, a sensible, concerned American citizen might ask, what sort of "veterans' service organization" would invite a guy like Rumsfeld to be a keynote speaker at its annual convention?
(Next: the band of brothers at the back of the bus)
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.