(Initially written Dec. 12, 2006)
When you have the enemy surrounded, completely outnumbered and severely outgunned, sounding retreat is not the viable or sensible road to victory. In war there is only victory or defeat - and it is why Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should have been fired the very first time the Marines were not allowed to take Fallujah. It emboldened Shiite thug Muqtada al-Sadr and aided Al Qaeda backed insurgents. For them it reinforced Osama bin Laden's claim that America was/is a paper tiger.
The enemy used their religious shrines and mosques for battlefield preparations and fortressees. It was their decision to blaspheme and denigrate their own mosques and we should not have shown more reverance to their shrines than they did. It allowed the enemy to regroup, rearm and steadfastly grow.
The course of this poorly managed war by Secretary Rumsfeld has received criticism from all corners of the American political and journalistic spectrum. However, it is the abdication of responsibility of those very institutions that has led us to where we are today. Each time Richard Luger and Joe Biden, senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, throw around the term incompetence as it regards the Bush administration it is, quite simply, the pot calling the kettle black. Exactly what did they do, as members of their committee, when the master terrorist blew up buildings and murdered innocent people abroad? Did they meet with the Clinton administration, or the CIA or National Security to discuss a plan to take out Osama bin Laden and his murderous networks? Senators John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd, all boisterous critics of the administration's War on Terror, were members of the International Operations and Terrorism Subcommittee prior to Sep. 11th. And unless these committee assignments are nothing more than to provide patronage for the spouses and children of their colleagues and campaign donors, what were they doing between the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Sept. 10, 2001? And why hasn't anyone in the Fourth Estate bothered to ask?
Every major network and cable news entity in America has a reporter covering Capitol Hill. Exactly how many bombings and body bags were going to be required before the question got asked! And why was it not asked of Senators Ted Kennedy and John Warner of the Armed Services Committee when some of those body bags contained American soldiers and sailors: or Senators Pat Roberts and Carl Levin of the Intelligence Committee when it was clearly Osama bin Laden, declarer of war against America, wreaking havoc at an ever more dangerous pace. What were they doing about it? It's a very simple question - why wasn't it asked?
The press, its pundits and our politicians wrapped their rhetoric around the "leadership" of President Clinton, the commitment of the victims and the grief of our nation, but not the need for the safety and security of the American citizenry.
Tasked with a specific purpose, even the Sept. 11th Commission failed to ask. What should have been a careful, methodical and focused investigation of lax security and governmental incompetence, at all levels, became a poorly chosen, agenda driven, self-aggrandizing exercise in insult to the American public. No one who worked for Bill Clinton or George W. Bush should have been on the panel. Commission member and New School President, former Senator Bob Kerrey, after stating that he did not want to spend too much of his time talking about Iraq, continually questioned Dr. Condoleezza Rice about Iraq - all the while calling her Dr. Clark. His regard for her was so dismissive that he failed the simple courtesy of writing down her name when she was sworn in to avoid the obvious embarrassment. In fact, no member of the panel, including the bi-partisan chairmen, even bothered to correct the continuing insult. To her credit, Dr. Rice remained courteous and professional in the face of this discourteous unprofessionalism.
"There was no collaborative effort between Iraq and Al Qaeda," was how co-charirmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton opened their many discussions at the conclusion of their commission hearings. An apparent dig at the Bush administration, this finding went largely unchallenged by the news media.
One reasonable question - why do the chairmen think that so many non-Iraqi members of Al Qaeda who were captured or killed in possession of Iraqi passports? If there was no collaborative effort, why do they believe that one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers fled to Baghdad rather than any of the known Al Qaeda camps? Harboring the fugitive bomber and providing passports to non-Iraqi Al Qaeda members is extremely strong circumstantial evidence that Saddam Hussein was in a very comfortable bed with Osama bin Laden. And believing that the secularist Hussein and the radical fundamentalist bin Laden's hatred toward one another would never have allowed them to partner in terror is dangerously naive. The fictional Don Vito Corleone's adage, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," is simply a more modern day slogan from a much older caveat - the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It is unlikely that FDR and Churchill planned on meeting Stalin over bangers and mash, hot dogs and apple pie, and borscht and vodka on each D-Day anniversary. Nor were Hitler and Yamamoto likely to have celebrations of sake and sauerbraten had World War II gone the other way. And it was the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, 444 days of Americans held hostage, and the ascension of the Ayatollah Khomeini to the leadership of Iran that led to America's flea-bitten relationship with Saddam Hussein. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
In 1998 the US Senate voted a regime change resolution in regard to Iraq. And in 1998, after he called for air strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan, Bill Clinton stated that, "... countries that persistently host terrorists have no right to be safe havens." Of our battle against terrorism he said, "It will require strength, courage and endurance. We will not yield to this threat... This will be a long ongoing struggle between freedom and fanaticism... We must be prepared to do all that we can for as long as we must."
President George W. Bush's decision to go into Iraq as an extension of the War on Terror was tough, noble and necessary. And that Rumsfeld screwed it up and Bush failed to fire him a lot sooner does not change that fact.