Monday 12 September 2011

Donald Rumsfeld, 9/11 and the war on terror

Let there be no mistake about it, 9/11 was a horrific event. The media coverage shot around the world meant that people everywhere were in the know for better and for worse. Even those who were on the other side of the globe were psychologically traumatised by the disturbing images. Everyone is marked by this defining moment with "I remember where I was when..."

At the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, commentators, pundits and journalists have turned their attention to analyzing and assessing all that transpired before and after. Why did it happen in the first place? Has enough been done to ensure it will never happen again?

Donald Rumsfeld (born 1932) has the twin distinction of having been the youngest and oldest person to have served as Secretary of Defense. At the age of 43, he was the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and then at the age of 74 was the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. According to Wikipedia, Rumsfeld was sworn in shortly after Bush took office on January 20, 2001 because Bush's first choice, FedEx founder Fred Smith, was unavailable.

On September 11, 2011, The Globe and Mail wrote (Looking back, I was right, Rumsfeld says of Bush-era wars by Paul Koring):

In a Sept. 11 interview, Mr. Rumsfeld told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the Iraq war was worthwhile, despite the absence of Baghdad’s involvement with al-Qaeda and its alleged arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. “I think the world is certainly a better place with Saddam Hussein gone,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Okay. But what about any number of despots or dictators elsewhere in the world? North Korea's Kim Jong il? Libya's Muammar Gaddafi? Egypt's Hosni Mubarak? Syria's Bashar al-Assad? Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh?

The war will last 6 months
"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy; Feb 7/2002 (USA Today)

The War in Iraq started on March 20, 2003. All U.S. forces are scheduled to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. (Wikipedia) That is eight years, nine months and eleven days.

The War in Afghanistan started on October 7, 2001. President Barak Obama has stated that all troops will be out of the country by 2014. (Wikipedia: War in Afghanistan)

The war will cost $50 billion
In 2002, Larry Lindsey, director of the National Economic Council under Bush, was ousted after he said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal that the war would cost $100 to $200 billion. Rumsfeld called this "baloney" while suggesting that $50 to $60 billion was an accurate assessment. (Wikipedia: Lawrence B. Lindsey: The Iraq controversy)

In 2008, Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes, both of whom are American economists, published the book "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict". The book uncovers many hidden expenses of the war including caring for wounded veterans for the rest of their lives. They calculate the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts exceed (as of 2008) the cost of the 12-year war in Viet Nam, more than double the cost of the Korean War and projected, will be ten times the cost of the first Gulf conflict. (The Sunday Times)

The Fiscal Times wrote on September 6, 2011:

The U.S. launched a global War on Terror in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the most deadly strikes against domestic targets by foreigners in U.S. history. Beyond the incalculable human cost of nearly 3,000 civilian deaths, and the subsequent deaths of over 6,000 soldiers, 2,300 contractors and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi soldiers, policemen and civilians, the fateful choices made after the attacks had profound ramifications for the U.S. government and continues to be a major contributor to its fiscal woes. If one includes both the next decade’s interest payments on the debt-financed wars and future veterans’ benefits, the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is now estimated to reach more than $5 trillion.

Weapons of Mass Destruction
U.S. Department of Defense, News Transcript, March 30, 2003
Secretary Rumsfeld Remarks on ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"

Mr. Stephanopoulos:
Key goal of the military campaign is finding those weapons of mass destruction. None have been found yet. There was a raid on the Answar Al-Islam Camp up in the north last night. A lot of people expected to find ricin there. None was found. How big of a problem is that? And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction?

Sec. Rumsfeld:
Not at all. If you think -- let me take that, both pieces -- the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Al Jazeera - Sep 11/2011
Colin Powell regrets Iraq war intelligence

"It turned out, as we discovered later, that a lot of sources that had been attested to by the intelligence community were wrong," Powell said in Washington, DC.

"I understood the consequences of that failure and, as I said, I deeply regret that the information - some of the information, not all of it - was wrong," said the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"It has blotted my record, but - you know - there's nothing I can do to change that blot. All I can say is that I gave it the best analysis that I could."

The Connection between Iraq and Al Qaida
September 26, 2002: The United States has accused Iraq of having long-standing links with the al-Qaeda network. Two senior Bush administration figures, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, made the allegations - without giving detailed information to back them up. (BBC)

September 17, 2003: Breaking with other top Bush administration officials, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disputed the possibility yesterday that Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. "I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say" Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda's suicidal hijackings, Rumsfeld said. (New York Daily News)

Special Envoy to the Middle East: 1983
Rumsfeld served from November 1983 to May 1984 as Special Envoy to the Middle East for Ronald Reagan. He visited Baghdad on December 19 - 20, 1983 and had a 90 minute meeting with Saddam Hussein. This was in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War (Sep 1980 - Aug 1988) during which over a half a million people, soldiers and civilians were killed.

During his brief bid for the 1988 Republican nomination, Rumsfeld stated that restoring full relations with Iraq was one of his best achievements. This was not a particularly controversial position at a time when U.S. policy considered a totalitarian yet secular Iraq to be an effective bulwark against the expansion of Iranian revolutionary Islamist influence. (Wikipedia)

Baghdad Museum actions: 2003
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was a great deal of lawlessness. The U.S. was criticized for not doing more to protect historical artefacts and treasures plus museums and other cultural institutions.

When asked at the time why U.S. troops did not actively seek to stop the lawlessness, Rumsfeld infamously replied, "Stuff happens ... and it's untidy and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here." (Wikipedia)

Calls for resignation: 2006
In an unprecedented move in modern U.S. history, eight retired generals and admirals called for Rumsfeld to resign in early 2006 in what was called the "Generals Revolt," accusing him of "abysmal" military planning and lack of strategic competence. Scott Ritter, a former intelligence advisor to General Schwarzkopf and UNSCOM inspector publicly called Rumsfeld a "Cold War Dinosaur" and "out of touch with reality". Rumsfeld rebuffed these criticisms, stating that "out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round." Commentator Pat Buchanan reported at the time that "Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who travels often to Iraq and supports the war, says that the generals' and admirals' views mirror those of 75 percent of the officers in the field, and probably more." Bush responded to the criticism by stating that Rumsfeld is "exactly what is needed". (Wikipedia)

There are unknown unknowns
[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.
- Donald Rumsfeld, Feb 12/2002
DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

The above statement was made by Rumsfeld on February 12, 2002 at a press briefing where he addressed the absence of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups.
(Wikipedia: There are known knowns)

From the Decider himself
Time Magazine: The President Will Now Answer Your Questions
By Mike Allen/Philadelphia - Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005

Squinting into the television lights, Bush later called on Faeze Woodville, 44, of Stratford, Pa., who cares for two sons at home. "Mr. President," she began, "I would like to know why it is that you and others in your administration keep linking 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalist or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed." She got a burst of applause—this was no Bush-Cheney campaign audience. The President and other administration officials have often implied a link between Saddam Hussein and the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, and polls have shown that lots of Americans believe it. Bush was not so forthcoming with this answer. "I appreciate that," he began, which is the way he often begins the answers to questions he does not appreciate. He repeated some of his stock lines about how 9/11 had changed his view of foreign policy and then got even bigger applause by concluding: "Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country." Chatting afterward with reporters from TIME and The Washington Post, Woodville said she was disappointed by the non-answer. "He must think we're morons," she said.

Final Word
9/11 was a tragedy. Justice was demanded and whether we will admit it or not, revenge was a glint in our eyes. However, in the wake of the event, any criticism of the Bush administration was tantamount to treason and was the need to do something, anything at all, a factor in blinding our leaders and possibly blinding all of us as to what happened, why it happened and what was the best course of action afterwards?

Human beings can be resilient, brave, hard-working and self-sacrificing when presented with a cause. However, our leaders are not gods; they are mere mortals subject to same emotions of revenge, short-sightedness and pride as we are. They can just as well make a bad decision as we can. Unfortunately, their bad decision involves more zeros, a lot more zeros.

10 years after 9/11, the papers are filled with articles questioning what has happened after the event, the decisions that were made and the actions carried out trying to determine if we are better off than we were. Whatever the case, at the end of the day, at the end of this decade, what has happened is so big, so unbelievably huge, "it just is". We are obliged to contend with the current state of affairs. We can't change anything; we must deal with what is.

The old saying is that history repeats itself. Will we learn anything? Knowing what we know now, would we collectively spend $5 trillion to topple Saddam? What about Gaddafi? Or Kim Jong il? Would we spend $5 trillion to go after a single man and his extremist ideology?

We will all be discussing this from here to eternity trying to determine the truth and playing What if? scenarios. There will be no "right" answer. However, if you had $5 trillion, what would you do to make the world a better place?


Wikipedia: Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Henry Rumsfeld (born July 9, 1932) is an American politician and businessman. As a government official, Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977, under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006, under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest (at 43 years old) and the oldest person (at 74 years old) to have served as Secretary of Defense.

About.Com: Donald Rumsfeld Quotes

The Fiscal Times - Sep 6/2011
9/11 and the $5 Trillion Aftermath by Merrill Goozner
In the last four budget years of President Clinton’s term in office (fiscal years 1998 through 2001), the U.S. ran a $559.3 billion surplus. In the succeeding eight years (fiscal years 2002 through 2009), the U.S. ran a $3.5 trillion deficit. Even if one excludes the $1.4 trillion deficit of 2009, when the economy was in freefall from the financial crisis, the Bush administration racked up over $2 trillion in deficits despite unemployment falling below 5 percent thanks to the housing bubble.

The Center for American Progress - Sep 1/2011
Think Again: War Is Hell
On September 23, 2002, at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Al Gore explained to his listeners that instead of President George H.W. Bush’s prudence, his son was embarking on a policy that would squander “the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill, and solidarity that followed the attacks of September 11.”
A young African American Illinois state senator made a similar argument at a rally organized by Chicagoans Against War in Iraq in October 2002. Barack Obama had supported the war in Afghanistan, but he predicted that “even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda."

The Australian - Feb 28/2008
Iraq war 'caused slowdown in the US'
Professor Stiglitz, an academic at the Columbia Business School and a former economic adviser to president Bill Clinton, said...

"When the Bush administration went to war in Iraq it obviously didn't focus very much on the cost. Larry Lindsey, the chief economic adviser, said the cost was going to be between $US100billion and $US200 billion - and for that slight moment of quasi-honesty he was fired.

"(Then defence secretary Donald) Rumsfeld responded and said 'baloney', and the number the administration came up with was $US50 to $US60 billion. We have calculated that the cost was more like $US3 trillion.

"Three trillion is a very conservative number, the true costs are likely to be much larger than that."

Five years after the war, the US was still spending about $US50billion every three months on direct military costs, he said.

Wikipedia: Lawrence B. Lindsey: The Iraq controversy
Lawrence B. Lindsey was director of the National Economic Council (2001–2002)... He left the White House in December 2002 and was replaced by Stephen Friedman after he estimated the cost of the Iraq war could reach $200 billion.
On September 15, 2002, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lindsey estimated the high limit on the cost of the Bush administration's plan in 2002 of invasion and regime change in Iraq to be 1-2% of GNP, or about $100–$200 billion. Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, subsequently discounted this estimate as "very, very high" and stated that the costs would be between $50–$60 billion. This lower figure was endorsed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who called Lindsey's estimate "baloney".

Wikipedia: The Three Trillion Dollar War
The Three Trillion Dollar War is a 2008 book by Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes, both of whom are American economists. The book examines the full cost of the Iraq War, including many hidden costs. The book also discusses the extent to which these costs will be imposed for many years to come, paying special attention to the enormous expenditures that will be required to care for very large numbers of wounded veterans. The authors conclude by illustrating the opportunity cost of the resources spent on waging the war.

official web site: The Three Trillion Dollar War

The Gobe and Mail - Sep 11/2011
Looking back, I was right, Rumsfeld says of Bush-era wars by Paul Koring
A decade after America launched its “war on terror,” Donald Rumsfeld, the irascible neo-conservative defence secretary on Sept. 11, 2001, and champion of toppling the Taliban and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, marked the anniversary with a combative defence of the Bush-era wars.

Wikipedia: Cobra II
Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq is a 2006 book written by Michael R. Gordon, chief military correspondent for The New York Times, and Bernard E. Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, which details the behind-the-scenes decision-making leading to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It then follows, in depth, the invasion itself and the early months of the occupation through summer 2003.

The New York Times - Mar 28/2006
How the Iraq War Was Planned and Launched by Sean Naylor
A work of prodigious research, "Cobra II" will likely become the benchmark by which other histories of the Iraq invasion are measured. Note the word invasion. Cobra II was the name United States commanders gave the operation to depose Saddam Hussein's regime. It is the story of the planning, execution and immediate aftermath of that invasion that is related by Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times's chief military correspondent, and Bernard E. Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general and former military correspondent for The Times, in "Cobra II."
the authors present a damning indictment of the Bush administration's national security team.
Obsessed with minimizing the size of the invading force, Secretary Rumsfeld dismissed advice from experts inside and outside government who argued for a larger contingent than the 140,000 or so troops sent into Iraq. His efforts "played havoc" with the military's preparations, according to the authors, and sowed the seeds for the anarchy that followed the fall of the Hussein regime.
although planning for the Iraq invasion began within weeks of Al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, a combination of hubris, arrogance, naïveté and sheer incompetence meant that little attention was paid to what the military terms "Phase IV," or post-conflict operations.
"Cobra II" provides fascinating insights into what went wrong in the first critical weeks after the fall of Baghdad. What stands out in particular is the frustration of the military leaders on the ground with decisions taken by their political bosses.
The consensus of the military leaders quoted in "Cobra II" is that these decisions, combined with the lack of enough troops to restore order, caused the United States to miss a window of opportunity and lose the initiative in the weeks following the invasion. In a reference to the insurgency that erupted in the power vacuum created by these mistakes, Mr. Gordon and General Trainor conclude that "none of this was inevitable."


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