Thursday, December 16, 2004

The rightwing backlash against Rummy begins

With the election (and thus the need for dissembling and disingenuousness) in the rear view mirror, the Republican party intellectual establishment has begun a campaign for Rumsfeld's head, especially after Rummy's comments about how the lack of adequate armor was a result of having to "go to war with the army you have" -- as if the Army we have is not the Secretary of Defense's responsibility.

Now even elected Republicans, like Trent Lott, are piling on. Bush shouldn't be surprised that Lott's the first public critic: Bush had Lott thrown under a bus (well out of the majority leader's chair) for racist comments last year. Bush is probably wishing he'd sent the guy packing back to Mississippi, but then let him linger on in the Senate because Bush needed the vote in the tight Senate. There's surely some appropriate line from The Godfather for this kind of mistake: if you're going to kneecap someone, you may as well whack them altogether so they can't come back and getcha.

Even more shocking, in a story which hasn't gotten nearly enough play, the Army's own (much more honest and accurate) response to the "lack of armor" problem was to explain that, actually, the real problem is that the insurgents are becoming "more effective":

The assessment from Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, second in command at U.S. Central Command, was a stark reminder that the capture of Fallujah has not stopped a well-organized and resourceful insurgency from continuing to kill coalition members and disrupt crucial supplies of food, fuel and bullets.

The enemy is getting better at manufacturing and placing its weapon of choice, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he said.

"They have gotten more effective in using IEDs," Gen. Smith told reporters at the Pentagon. "The enemy is very smart and thinking. It is a thinking enemy. So he changes his tactics and he becomes more effective."

The IED is a variety of roadside bombs hidden amid debris and detonated by remote control when Americans come near. The terrorists also put IEDs in vehicles driven by suicide bombers recruited by a terror organization led by Jordanian-born Abu Musab Zarqawi.

In a briefing before Gen. Smith spoke, an Army officer said the insurgents have found ways to pack more explosives into each bomb, increasing lethality. It was the appearance of IEDs in the late summer of 2003 that signaled to commanders that a deadly insurgency was under way and that lightly fortified vehicles were particularly susceptible.

As the U.S. death toll mounted, the Army launched an unprecedented effort to put armor on all Humvee multipurpose vehicles and supply trucks.

The Defense Department also set up an IED task force at the Pentagon to design countermeasures. To date, the tactics have resulted in foiling about 40 percent of planted bombs, according to U.S. officials.

"We have been hoping that our technology would be more effective than it has been," Gen. Smith acknowledged. Countermeasures have included driving fast past areas suspected of being booby-trapped and using electronic signals to blow up the remotely controlled bombs at a safe distance. Iraqis use a variety of electronics, such as parts of cell phones and radios, to send a signal for detonation as convoys pass.

"They may use doorbells today to blow these things up," Gen. Smith said. "They may use remote controls from toys tomorrow. And as we adapt, they adapt." Gen. Smith also said Central Command now believes that Zarqawi, who has organized cells of suicide bombers and personally beheaded captives, is moving around Baghdad rather than operating out of Fallujah.

"Baghdad would be the most likely area, but these guys are getting very, very good at concealing ... making it difficult for us to track them," Gen. Smith said. "He can operate pretty safely, we think. In some areas of Baghdad there are those that would hide him and those that would passively allow him to operate."

Sure sounds like things are moving in the right direction, doesn't it?

It's not Rumsfeld's fault that we will are losing the war in Iraq, any more than it was McNamara's fault we lost in Vietnam, or Goering's fault that Germany lost the Second World War. Each was a unwinnable war, launched for ignoble reasons by megalomaniacs, and supported by the benighted majorities of their countries. Like McNamara and Goering, however, Rumsfeld must bear responsibility for the particularly horrid nature of the way we are going about losing -- the incredible damage we are inflicting on our national reputation in the course of losing the war.

1 comment:

brainhell said...

Given the nature of the times, perhaps a caveat lector would be in order.