(See part 1 here.)
Of course, one thing that all the people interviewed in the Vanity Fair article share is that they never acknowledge any personal responsibility for causing the mess in Iraq. They never apologize. Instead they are anxious to say that they are not to be blamed for this mess. So scapegoats must be found.
Rumsfeld is turning out to be everyone’s favorite target and the knives are definitely out for him, fueled by the ringing endorsement that Bush gave him and Cheney last week, a move that stunned those who perhaps thought the Iraq policy might be salvaged with someone new as Secretary of Defense.
Kenneth “Cakewalk” Adelman is one of those disillusioned by his former hero. He had expected great things from Rumsfeld but now says: “I’m very, very fond of him, but I’m crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don’t know. He certainly fooled me.”
The Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times released a joint editorial on Saturday, November 4, 2006 under the headline “Time for Rumsfeld to go” in which it argues that the current military leadership has lost faith in him. The editorial ends:
Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with
Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.
This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:
Donald Rumsfeld must go.
Rumsfeld, with his strutting, his overbearing language and demeanor, and his browbeating of anyone who might deign to challenge him, epitomized the know-it-all arrogance of this administration and is fully deserving of criticism, But this editorial is quite an extraordinary and disturbing development for a democracy. Although these newspapers are not part of the military, they seem confident that they are expressing the sentiments of the current military leadership. When the current military people quasi-publicly criticize the defense secretary, this undermines the principle of civilian control of the military. It does not rise to the level of a coup but is disturbing nonetheless. More than anything, this illustrates how dangerously out of balance the whole government has been brought to by the Iraq war.
Other former war supporters interviewed in the Vanity Fair article are also gloomy about the possible outcome of the war. Eliot Cohen, director of the strategic-studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and member of the Defense Policy Board, says: “I wouldn’t be surprised if what we end up drifting toward is some sort of withdrawal on some sort of timetable and leaving the place in a pretty ghastly mess.”
Frank Gaffney, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan and founder of the Center for Security Policy, delivers perhaps the unkindest cut of all: “[Bush] doesn’t in fact seem to be a man of principle who’s steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn’t track with the rhetoric, and that’s what creates the incoherence that causes us problems around the world and at home.”
Bush’s appeal to many voters has been that he is a man of principle who knows what he believes and acts on those beliefs. To be accused by his erstwhile friends of being weak and confused must hurt.
Richard Perle wants everyone to understand that none of the current mess is the fault of the neoconservatives. He says: “Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I’m getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war.” (my emphasis)
Meanwhile infamous Iranian exile Ahmed Chalabi, now living in London, has emerged from the shadows and blames Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon, the Americans, anybody. This is the same Chalabi who regaled gullible and now disgraced New York Times reporter Judith Miller with stories about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs provided by Iraqi “defectors” who turned out to be frauds. She then published those stories on the front pages of that paper, and the Administration then completed that incestuous cycle by using those same stories to argue that there was independent proof that Iraq had WMDs.
An article in Editor and Publisher excerpts an article by reporter Dexter Filkins that just appeared in the New York Times, giving us Chalabi’s own revisionist history:
Now, in an interview in his London home, Chalabi, betraying what Filkins calls “a touch of bitterness,” declares, “The real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz,” the former assistant secretary of defense, whom he still considers a friend. “They chickened out. The Pentagon guys chickened out. . .The Americans screwed it up. . .America betrays its friends. It sets them up and betrays them. I’d rather be America’s enemy.”
Chalabi has nothing to say about his leaks to Judith Miller of The New York Times, but Filkins does recall her famous email from 2003 when she boasted that Chalabi had “provided most of the front-page exclusives on WMD to our paper.”
David Kay, the weapons inspector, weighs in on Wolfowitz: “He was a true believer. He thought he had the evidence. That came from the defectors. They came from Chalabi.”
. . .
Chalabi counters views that he was the catalyst [for the war], saying that it was Bush officials who “came to us and asked, ‘Can you help us find something on Saddam?’”
Chalabi, after doing all that he did to provide the US with arguments to go to war, now “claims that he warned the Bush people that various Iraqi informants were unreliable, only to hear the Americans say, referring to the source, “This guy is the mother lode.” Chalabi, of all people asks, “Can you believe that on such a basis the United States would go to war?”
These people are a real piece of work. After feeding each other stories that they all wanted to believe, and foisting them on a gullible American public through an equally gullible media, they now express amazement that anyone would have taken the case for war seriously.
We have to leave it to editorial cartoonist Tom Toles to sum up the idiocy of this position: