Should Don Rumsfeld Hang Up His Sword?
Jude Wanniski
September 6, 2003


Memo: To: Don Rumsfeld
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Resignation?

I'm sure even during your travels around Tikrit and Baghdad you have heard that Rep. David Obey, a very senior Democrat, has called for your resignation as Defense Secretary. For good measure he has recommended your deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, also fall on his sword. Obey's argument is that you are primarily responsible for the mess in Iraq, having not done any planning beyond the conquest of the Iraqi army. Clearly you did not think ahead, Don, just as you are now brushing off the very idea that you might have to resign. You may remember that a month after 9-11 I wrote in this space you should fire Wolfowitz, as I could see then he was planning his Iraqi adventure. Instead you went along for the ride, on the assumption he knew what he was doing.

From your comments in Baghdad this weekend, you seem to think "getting rid of Saddam's regime" was enough to justify the adventure, but surely you must be able to see that the ground is caving in around you because of the postwar "quagmire" you think a mere mud puddle. I'll bet you were surprised to see your pal Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, taking a shot at you for your poor planning. Of course Bill has decided you are expendable, that you really will have to resign if President Bush is to have any chance of being re-elected next year. He probably has your replacement in mind after conferring with your other buddy, Richard Perle, who still seems to be running your Defense Policy Board. [I see Perle told the Christian Science Monitor we should start thinking of bombing North Korea.]

When retired Mideast commander General Anthony Zinni got cheers from an audience of big brass Friday for dropping a daisy cutter on the Pentagon civilians who did the postwar non-planning, he of course had you in mind. Or do you think he is only miffed at Wolfie?

Now I'm not saying for sure that you will have to resign, Don, but perhaps you should do some contingency planning -- or you'll have to leave on short notice, with no place to go.

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 - A senior House Democrat called today for the resignation of the top two officials at the Defense Department, saying that miscalculations by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the deputy secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, had cost American lives in Iraq and damaged the nation's fiscal health.

In a letter to President Bush, Representative David R. Obey, the ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the Pentagon should be relieved of its role in determining foreign policy in Iraq, in part because of errors made by Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz before and after the war.

"It is impossible to review the record of the past year and not conclude that they have made repeated and serious miscalculations," said Mr. Obey, who has represented northern Wisconsin for 34 years.

The unilateral conduct of the war and the planning for postwar occupation cannot be seen as "anything other than a disaster," he wrote.

The White House did not respond to the letter, but Stuart Roy, a spokesman for Representative Tom DeLay, the House Republican leader, dismissed Mr. Obey's call.

"Here the president is, freeing Iraqi citizens and giving them a first taste of democracy, and you have Democrats like Obey who come up with bizarre requests like this," Mr. Roy said. "They think they're going to get a political gain from this, but they're really running their own party off the cliff."

Mr. Obey's remarks reflected a growing fury among Congressional Democrats about the handling of the occupation and the vast sums that will be required to rebuild Iraq at a time of record-setting budget deficits in the United States. Later this month, the administration is expected to submit a supplemental spending bill for more than $40 billion to keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and to rebuild the country.

Mr. Obey will probably not be the last Democrat to demand high-level resignations.

On Thursday, Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said Democrats were willing to pay to rebuild Iraq, but not for what she said was the administration's poor planning.

On the Senate floor today, Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, questioned how Republicans could be willing to spend tens of billions of dollars on Iraq while refusing to spend $6 billion to bring the administration's education program, known as No Child Left Behind, up to its authorized spending level.

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