Rumsfeld vs. the Generals

by JASON LEOPOLD


Last October, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the military’s regional commanders to rewrite all of their war plans to capitalize on precision weapons, better intelligence and speedier deployment in the event the United States decided to invade Iraq. That plan, which Rumsfeld helped shape, has now failed and has led to deep divisions between military commanders and the defense, according to recent news reports.

Despite Rumsfeld’s recent denials that he did not override requests by military brass to deploy more ground troops in Iraq last year, the cornerstone of his war plan against Iraq was in fact designed to use fewer ground troops, according to a copy of the plan; a move that angered some in the military who said concern for the troops would require overwhelming superiority on the ground to assure victory.

These officers said they view Rumsfeld’s approach as injecting too much risk into war planning and have said it could result in U.S. casualties that might be prevented by amassing larger forces.

But Rumsfeld refused to listen to his military commanders, Pentagon officials told the Washington Post Saturday.

Rumsfeld was quoted in news reports last year as saying that his plan would allow "the military to begin combat operations on less notice and with far fewer troops than thought possible — or thought wise — before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

"Looking at what was overwhelming force a decade or two decades ago, today you can have overwhelming force, conceivably, with lesser numbers because the lethality is equal to or greater than before" Rumsfeld said.

The speedier use of smaller and more agile forces also could provide the president with time to order an offensive against Iraq that could be carried out this winter, the optimal season for combat in the desert, which is exactly what President Bush did.

The new approach for how the U.S. might go to war, Rumsfeld said last year, reflects an assessment of the need after Sept. 11 to refresh war plans continuously and to respond faster to threats from terrorists and nations possessing biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Rumsfeld first laid the groundwork for a U.S. led invasion of Iraq shortly after the Sept. 11. Like his well-known, "Rumsfeld’s rules,"–a collection of wisdom he has compiled over three decades on how to succeed in Washington, Rumsfeld’s checklist used the same methodical approach to determining when U.S. military force should be used in the event of war against Iraq.

Rumsfeld kept the checklist tucked away in his desk drawer at the Pentagon. Since last March, when it became clear that the Bush administration was leaning toward using military force to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime, Rumsfeld added what he said were important elements to the checklist to ensure the U.S. would be prepared for a full-scale war. But Rumsfeld and the Bush administration never lived up to the promises laid out in the checklist when the U.S. military bombed Baghdad. For example:

Casualties. Rumsfeld says the public "should not be allowed to believe an engagement could be executed . . . with few casualties." Yet the president and Rumsfeld didn’t prepare Americans for major casualties. Bush warned in an Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati that "military action could be difficult" and that there is no "easy or risk-free course of action."

* Risks. Rumsfeld warns that the risks of taking action "must be carefully considered" along with the dangers of doing nothing. The administration has repeatedly made the case against inaction — the possibility that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons and strike the U.S. But it has not been equally candid about the dangers of action.

* Honesty. Rumsfeld urges U.S. leadership to be "brutally honest with itself, Congress, the public and coalition partners." Yet the administration has not produced compelling evidence to support its claims that Saddam is linked to al-Qaeda terrorists, is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons or intends to strike the U.S. To the contrary, the CIA has played down Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda and a possible first strike.

Rumsfeld said too many of the military plans on the shelves of the regional war-fighting commanders contained outdated assumptions and military requirements, which have since changed with the advent of new weapons and doctrines.

It has been a mistake, he said, to measure the quantity of forces required for a mission and "fail to look at lethality, where you end up with precision-guided munitions, which can give you 10 times the lethality that a dumb weapon might, as an example," Rumsfeld said, according to an Oct 14, 2002 report in the New York Times.

Through a combination of pre-deployments, faster cargo ships and a larger fleet of transport aircraft, the military would be able to deliver "fewer troops but in a faster time that would allow you to have concentrated power that would have the same effect as waiting longer with what a bigger force might have" Rumsfeld said.

Critics in the military said last year there were several reasons to deploy a force of overwhelming numbers before starting any offensive with Iraq. Large numbers illustrate U.S. resolve and can intimidate Iraqi forces into laying down their arms or even turning against Hussein’s government.

Large numbers in the region also would be needed should the initial offensive go poorly.. Also, once victory is near, it might require an even larger force to pacify Iraq and search for weapons of mass destruction than it took to topple Hussein.

According to Defense Department sources, Rumsfeld at first insisted that vast air superiority and a degraded Iraqi military would enable 75,000 U.S. troops to win the war. Gen. Tommy Franks, the theater commander-in-chief, convinced Rumsfeld to send 250,000 (augmented by 45,000 British). However, the Army would have preferred a much deeper force, leading to anxiety inside the Pentagon in the first week of war, conservative columnist Bob Novak reported last week.

While Army officers would have preferred a larger commitment, even what was finally approved for Operation Iraqi Freedom was reduced when the 4th Infantry Division was denied Turkey as a base to invade northern Iraq. The Defense and State departments point fingers. Secretary of State Colin Powell is criticized for not flying to Ankara to convince the Turkish government. The Pentagon is criticized for not immediately dispatching the division via the Red Sea, Novak reported.

To the critics who said last year that Rumsfeld is accepting too much risk in U.S. war planning, Rumsfeld said he had ordered rigorous reviews and was satisfied. "We are prepared for the worst case," he told the Times.

JASON LEOPOLD can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

Today’s Features

William S. Lind
The Pitfalls of War Planning

Jorge Mariscal
Latinos on the Frontlines, Again

Paul de Rooij
Arrogant Propaganda

Jo Wilding
From Baghdad: "I Am His Mother"

Tarif Abboushi
Operation Embedded Folly

Lee Sustar
Labor’s War at Home

Akiva Eldar
Israeli Dreams of Iraqi Oil

Bernard Weiner
The Vietnam Connection

Robert Fisk
The Graveyard at Baghdad’s North Gate

Steve Perry
War Web Log 04/01

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

Rumsfeld vs. the Generals

by JASON LEOPOLD


Last October, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the military’s regional commanders to rewrite all of their war plans to capitalize on precision weapons, better intelligence and speedier deployment in the event the United States decided to invade Iraq. That plan, which Rumsfeld helped shape, has now failed and has led to deep divisions between military commanders and the defense, according to recent news reports.

Despite Rumsfeld’s recent denials that he did not override requests by military brass to deploy more ground troops in Iraq last year, the cornerstone of his war plan against Iraq was in fact designed to use fewer ground troops, according to a copy of the plan; a move that angered some in the military who said concern for the troops would require overwhelming superiority on the ground to assure victory.

These officers said they view Rumsfeld’s approach as injecting too much risk into war planning and have said it could result in U.S. casualties that might be prevented by amassing larger forces.

But Rumsfeld refused to listen to his military commanders, Pentagon officials told the Washington Post Saturday.

Rumsfeld was quoted in news reports last year as saying that his plan would allow "the military to begin combat operations on less notice and with far fewer troops than thought possible — or thought wise — before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

"Looking at what was overwhelming force a decade or two decades ago, today you can have overwhelming force, conceivably, with lesser numbers because the lethality is equal to or greater than before" Rumsfeld said.

The speedier use of smaller and more agile forces also could provide the president with time to order an offensive against Iraq that could be carried out this winter, the optimal season for combat in the desert, which is exactly what President Bush did.

The new approach for how the U.S. might go to war, Rumsfeld said last year, reflects an assessment of the need after Sept. 11 to refresh war plans continuously and to respond faster to threats from terrorists and nations possessing biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Rumsfeld first laid the groundwork for a U.S. led invasion of Iraq shortly after the Sept. 11. Like his well-known, "Rumsfeld’s rules,"–a collection of wisdom he has compiled over three decades on how to succeed in Washington, Rumsfeld’s checklist used the same methodical approach to determining when U.S. military force should be used in the event of war against Iraq.

Rumsfeld kept the checklist tucked away in his desk drawer at the Pentagon. Since last March, when it became clear that the Bush administration was leaning toward using military force to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime, Rumsfeld added what he said were important elements to the checklist to ensure the U.S. would be prepared for a full-scale war. But Rumsfeld and the Bush administration never lived up to the promises laid out in the checklist when the U.S. military bombed Baghdad. For example:

Casualties. Rumsfeld says the public "should not be allowed to believe an engagement could be executed . . . with few casualties." Yet the president and Rumsfeld didn’t prepare Americans for major casualties. Bush warned in an Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati that "military action could be difficult" and that there is no "easy or risk-free course of action."

* Risks. Rumsfeld warns that the risks of taking action "must be carefully considered" along with the dangers of doing nothing. The administration has repeatedly made the case against inaction — the possibility that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons and strike the U.S. But it has not been equally candid about the dangers of action.

* Honesty. Rumsfeld urges U.S. leadership to be "brutally honest with itself, Congress, the public and coalition partners." Yet the administration has not produced compelling evidence to support its claims that Saddam is linked to al-Qaeda terrorists, is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons or intends to strike the U.S. To the contrary, the CIA has played down Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda and a possible first strike.

Rumsfeld said too many of the military plans on the shelves of the regional war-fighting commanders contained outdated assumptions and military requirements, which have since changed with the advent of new weapons and doctrines.

It has been a mistake, he said, to measure the quantity of forces required for a mission and "fail to look at lethality, where you end up with precision-guided munitions, which can give you 10 times the lethality that a dumb weapon might, as an example," Rumsfeld said, according to an Oct 14, 2002 report in the New York Times.

Through a combination of pre-deployments, faster cargo ships and a larger fleet of transport aircraft, the military would be able to deliver "fewer troops but in a faster time that would allow you to have concentrated power that would have the same effect as waiting longer with what a bigger force might have" Rumsfeld said.

Critics in the military said last year there were several reasons to deploy a force of overwhelming numbers before starting any offensive with Iraq. Large numbers illustrate U.S. resolve and can intimidate Iraqi forces into laying down their arms or even turning against Hussein’s government.

Large numbers in the region also would be needed should the initial offensive go poorly.. Also, once victory is near, it might require an even larger force to pacify Iraq and search for weapons of mass destruction than it took to topple Hussein.

According to Defense Department sources, Rumsfeld at first insisted that vast air superiority and a degraded Iraqi military would enable 75,000 U.S. troops to win the war. Gen. Tommy Franks, the theater commander-in-chief, convinced Rumsfeld to send 250,000 (augmented by 45,000 British). However, the Army would have preferred a much deeper force, leading to anxiety inside the Pentagon in the first week of war, conservative columnist Bob Novak reported last week.

While Army officers would have preferred a larger commitment, even what was finally approved for Operation Iraqi Freedom was reduced when the 4th Infantry Division was denied Turkey as a base to invade northern Iraq. The Defense and State departments point fingers. Secretary of State Colin Powell is criticized for not flying to Ankara to convince the Turkish government. The Pentagon is criticized for not immediately dispatching the division via the Red Sea, Novak reported.

To the critics who said last year that Rumsfeld is accepting too much risk in U.S. war planning, Rumsfeld said he had ordered rigorous reviews and was satisfied. "We are prepared for the worst case," he told the Times.

JASON LEOPOLD can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

Today’s Features

William S. Lind
The Pitfalls of War Planning

Jorge Mariscal
Latinos on the Frontlines, Again

Paul de Rooij
Arrogant Propaganda

Jo Wilding
From Baghdad: "I Am His Mother"

Tarif Abboushi
Operation Embedded Folly

Lee Sustar
Labor’s War at Home

Akiva Eldar
Israeli Dreams of Iraqi Oil

Bernard Weiner
The Vietnam Connection

Robert Fisk
The Graveyard at Baghdad’s North Gate

Steve Perry
War Web Log 04/01

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?