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The Chief Weirdo at the Pentagon

Rumsfeld Must Go

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

The new-model, compassionate, caring, tender-hearted, public-related Donald Rumsfeld flew to Iraq Christmas Eve, and went to Mosul. We are assured by the Pentagon that the Mosul visit by their CEO was – but of course – planned well before the carnage in the mess hall and that Rumsfeld went to see wounded soldiers because he is a caring and compassionate sort of guy. Pass the sick bag, Alice.

There is abundant evidence that Rumsfeld, described by Bush as an "doing a very fine job" as his Secretary for War and Incompetence, is an insensitive creep who has all the tender feelings, urbane charm, moral awareness and civilized manners of the recently not-appointed Bernard Kerik. His antics at the Pentagon have been a disaster for the United States. He has proved to be Osama bin Laden’s Secret Weapon, such is his never-failing aptitude for clumsy and callous statements that are the hair-tearing despair of his supporters, some of whom are beginning to realize he is CEO of the greatest military shambles that has befallen America since Kennedy and MacNamara began the Vietnam War.

On May 6, 2004 The Economist carried a cover piece titled "Resign, Rumsfeld". This exhortation, coming from a publication that believes the world is a better place for having CEOs who display some of the more unpleasant characteristics of Attila the Hun, was an extraordinary yet appropriate demand for removal of a man who is arrogant, evasive, mendacious and stupid.

Even the New York Times criticized him when the sadistic torture at Abu Ghraib was first uncovered. It pronounced that "The world is waiting now for a sign that President Bush understands the seriousness of what has happened. It needs to be more than his repeated statements that he is sorry the rest of the world does not "understand the true nature and heart of America". Mr Bush should start showing the state of his own heart by demanding the resignation of his secretary of defense." There seems little chance of that happening. Even the latest discoveries of torture at Guantanamo Bay and of torture and murder of countless Iraqis and Afghans in hideous circumstances are not being sheeted home to Rumsfeld and his grubby minions.

Rumsfeld’s flaring anxiety and spiteful (and often incoherent) responses when posed discomfiting questions are a matter for deep concern. Sometimes he indulges in insults or what he intends as humor (often of the crudest kind, as about Afghanistan : "WE haven’t run out of targets: THEY have"), but his panic attacks may be symptoms of a troubling mental malaise. One wonders if the men in white coats may be preparing a padded room for him. His absurd throw-away line about lack of armor protection for soldiers in Iraq was but one example of his inability to understand the real world, but it isn’t that particular incident that may prove to be the top of the ice-slide down which, we must all hope, the hard-hearted thug will thunder to richly-deserved oblivion. In the end the decider for Rumsfeld will probably prove to be his contemptuous (and contemptible) treatment of soldiers’ relatives.

Rumsfeld’s refusal to personally sign letters of condolence to the next-of-kin of soldiers killed in the useless war in Iraq (and presumably Afghanistan) was presented to us by his gnomes as being necessary to get the letters out quickly. That is a deceitful and insulting explanation, simply because personal signing of even fifty letters doesn’t take more than a few minutes. And the instant follow-up claim that Rumsfeld is away from his office so much that the auto-pen is quicker just doesn’t wash. Nobody waits with bated breath to receive a letter of condolence. It might relieve some of the ache when it comes, but bereaved relatives don’t expect it to arrive right away. The new (caring) policy that will have Rumsfeld personally signing messages makes it obvious that the explanation about speeding-up dispatch of letters was a silly lie. His weirdly asinine comment that "I have directed that in the future I sign each letter" presumably means he has told his staff to put letters on his desk rather than into the auto-pen, but what he should have said was : "I’m sorry. I was insensitive and personally wrong not to sign letters of condolence in the past and I will ensure I sign them in future".

But the arrogant Rumsfeld couldn’t utter such decent words ; they wouldn’t get past his lips. (Incidentally : does Rumsfeld sign letters to the relatives of those who are non-combat fatalities? Do the nearest and dearest of those who die of diseases contracted in Iraq matter as much as those who are killed by car bombs? And will he sign letters to the relatives of those who die of wounds several months after they are shot or blown up? Is there a cut-off date for expressions of sympathy?)

The plain fact is that Rumsfeld, like all abrasive, cocky and malevolent CEOs, does not believe that human beings are important. People in US military uniform don’t matter unless they are his personally selected sycophantic yes-team, and all others are but dust beneath the wheels of his (well-armored) chariot. He, more than any other individual apart from the Commander-in-Chief, is responsible for the shambles in Iraq. And neither he nor George W (‘The Buck Stops Anywhere But Here’) Bush could care less about the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, the hell holes in Afghanistan, and other torture chambers on ships and in faraway colonial gulags.

In the Bush/Rumsfeld prison camp at Guantanamo Bay there are hundreds of people, some of whom are children. We have recently learned there are seven kids still there, but the fact that there are any children at all in this terrible place is barely believable. The news was revealed by accident, which is not surprising because you would think that even the most hardhearted, cynical and unmerciful individual would feel just a tad shamefaced about slamming kids inside without any human rights whatever.

Well . . . no. There is not the slightest remorse felt by Rumsfeld, Bush or General Myers, America’s senior military figure. Myers justified imprisonment of children by saying his teenage prisoners "are very dangerous. Some have killed, some have stated they are going to kill again. They may be juveniles, but they’re not on the Little League team anywhere, they’re on a major league team and it’s a terrorist team and they’re in Guantanamo for a very good reason, for our safety, for your safety." His pronouncement was bizarre.

"Some have killed," says Myers. Therefore "some" have not killed. So what crimes are they being held for? How many is "some"? There were at least three Afghan kids aged between 13 and 15, but the ages and nationalities of the others under 18 can’t be discovered. These details are a State Secret because Myers said the kids are "a terrorist team" and must be imprisoned forever, without trial, "for our safety, for your safety". What utter drivel.

Three of the youngest victims of Bush democracy were quietly set free in 2004, and here is part of the BBC report about one of them:

"More than a year after being captured by US troops . . . Naqibullah, 13, is back home in eastern Afghanistan [so he was 12 when he was thrown in the slammer]. He spent much of his time in captivity in Camp Iguana, the children’s section of the US detention center on the tropical island of Cuba. The teenager said he felt fine and was happy to tell his story. He had never even been to Kabul, let alone outside Afghanistan, before he was taken prisoner by the Americans. ‘I hadn’t done anything, but they suspected me because I was standing next to some men who had guns,’ he said. ‘I told them I was innocent. I don’t even know how to use a gun’."

But the gallant Myers mouths his idiotic incantation that these kids were "very dangerous". The only dangerous thing about this fiasco is that there are US generals who are so direly dumb that they make fools of themselves and, by association, their country. And his commander-in-chief, Bush, said on December 20 that "You’ve got to understand the dilemma we’re in. These are people that got scooped up off a battlefield attempting to kill US troops. And I want to make sure, before they’re released, that they don’t come back to kill again." So it took his highly-skilled operatives over a year to find out if a 12 year-old kid who didn’t know how to use a gun would "kill again". Do these people ever listen to themselves?

Rumsfeld was also asked questions about children imprisoned on his orders, and once more showed himself to be a prize booby. He attracted criticism even from the International Red Cross, an agency that is highly respected throughout the world, except in Bush Washington.

The President of the Red Cross, Mr Jakob Kellenberger, is considered to be yet another enemy of the Bush administration and therefore must be attacked in every devious way that can be dreamed up, as have been Kofi Annan, Mohammad ElBaradei and Hans Blix (to name but a few), who have dared to be right when the Bush World-Masters were wrong. There has been flagrant misuse of US national intelligence-gathering resources in attempts by the Bush Reich to ‘get’ something on them, but even the most assiduous hi-tech snooping has not come up with anything sordid in their past that can be handed to the US media – – and this means that they MUST be clean. (What a pity some of this spook energy wasn’t devoted to investigating the intricate past of colorful Bernard Kerik.) But the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, is a pretty clean organization all round.

I have two friends who work for the ICRC. They never tell me anything about their travels, or who they see, or what they talk about. This is frustrating, because I would very much like to know what they do, but they stick rigidly to the ICRC code of never speaking about any aspect of their activities. It is vital they do not, because the Red Cross guarantee of silence usually ensures access to all sorts of prisoners held in hellish conditions throughout this horrible world. Usually – but not in George Bush’s America, because Rumsfeld ordered that some of his captives be hidden from the Red Cross.

Regarding one particular case, on June 18 the Baltimore Sun reported that "Asked whether other detainees were held in similar secrecy, and not registered, the defense secretary said, "I don’t know . . . I’ll be happy to tell you more when we get more . . . I can think of one additional case off the top of my head . . . I think there’s some," he said."

ICRC representatives are trusted by some of the world’s vilest governments (but obviously not by Bush Washington) whose victims receive at least some solace from their visits. So the organization is never publicly critical of any country or regime. Or it has never been until it was forced by moral imperatives to state that "the ICRC does not consider Guantanamo an appropriate place to detain juveniles. It is especially concerned about the fact that they are held away from their families and worries about the possible psychological impact this experience could have . . ."

In terms of Red Cross diplomacy this was a major outburst, and in an address to the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent a year ago Mr Kellenberger stated bluntly that "The struggle against terrorist activities, necessary and legitimate as it is, must not undermine the values on which society must be founded." In particular, he said, "the preservation of human dignity according to international law" is paramount. I don’t suppose Bush and Rumsfeld will lose a moment’s sleep about the concerns of a wimpish outfit like the Red Cross, because they are without heart or compassion, but it is obvious to most of the rest of us, the human beings of the world, that there are serious moral and legal problems in detaining children without charge, trial or hope.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is only a minor annoyance for Bush and Rumsfeld, because they don’t give a damn about such bleeding-heart nonsense. (The latest vote on a US proposal to destroy the Convention’s main purpose was defeated by 126 to 2. Those who supported the amendment were the US and Palau. Bush does not realize how ridiculous this makes him appear.) Nevertheless, the Convention defines a child as "every human being under the age of eighteen years . . ." which is a reasonable definition but is considered rubbish by Rumsfeld who became irritated, shrill and petulant when asked why children are detained in his military prison. He declared, presumably seriously, that "these are not children".

The Rumsfeld response was agitated, dislocated and verging on the hysterical. He shot back the querulous complaint that his questioners were guilty of "a constant refrain of ‘the juveniles’, as though there’s a hundred children in there". ("He’s a good, decent man. He’s a caring fellow", said Bush about Rumsfeld last week.)

"As though there’s a hundred children in there." — Did Rumsfeld mean that the situation is less disgusting because there are fewer than a hundred children in his prison? Is Bush morality measured in numbers of children deprived of liberty? Is it in some way less inhuman if a dozen children are imprisoned without charge rather than a hundred? His mental confusion became more evident when his silly assertion that "these are not children" was self-contradicted by use of the word "children" in his attempt to justify the detention of 13 year-olds who, according to Myers, were detained by his soldiery "for our safety".

The seven children who remain in Guantanamo prison camp have no rights under the UN Convention or under any law, be that international, of their own country, or even that of the United States. The Convention specifically requires that every child alleged to have committed a crime must be "presumed innocent until proven guilty" and must "be informed promptly and directly of charges . . . and have legal advice . . ." Little wonder the rights of children, as endorsed by every country in the world except two (the US and Somalia), are anathema to such as Rumsfeld, Bush and Myers. They have stripped these children of dignity and protection. No lawyer is allowed to defend them, and they have no contact with their families. They are non-persons. What sort of demented lost soul could order or try to justify such treatment?

But the new-style, caring, compassionate Rumsfeld jets round the world to try to create the impression that he really is a tender-hearted guy, gee golly gosh, just like real people who actually believe in the Convention which states "No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily . . . The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time".

The Washington Post editorialized on December 23 that : "Since the publication of photographs of abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in the spring the administration’s whitewashers — led by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld — have contended that the crimes were carried out by a few low-ranking reservists, that they were limited to the night shift during a few chaotic months at Abu Ghraib in 2003, that they were unrelated to the interrogation of prisoners and that no torture occurred at the Guantanamo Bay prison where hundreds of terrorism suspects are held. The new documents establish beyond any doubt that every part of this cover story is false."

The facts are plain : Donald Rumsfeld is a liar. Not only is he a liar, but he is incompetent in directing the organization of which he is CEO. Not only is he incompetent, but he is domineering and arrogant. And last, but most important of all of his character defects, he is cruel and heartless. He doesn’t personally indulge in "mock executions and the torture of detainees by burning and electric shock" (which have been shown to be commonplace), but these atrocities were committed while he was CEO. He is responsible for them. One of the most damning sentences in the Post editorial was "General Miller has testified under oath that dogs were never used to intimidate prisoners at Guantanamo, as authorized by Mr. Rumsfeld in December 2002 ; the FBI papers show otherwise." Miller should have been instantly dismissed when this was revealed. He deceived and insulted the Congress of the United States, under orders of Rumsfeld. Is this the sort of America that its citizens want to live in?

Rumsfeld seems to be the sort of person that Bush trusts to continue to represent his administration. In fact, when you think of it, Rumsfeld and Myers and Miller are pretty good exponents of everything that Bush and his compassionate crusaders (don’t forget the ‘Christian’ fundamentalist nutcase General Boykin), are determined to thrust upon the world. But it must be obvious even to Bush that his ludicrously effusive support of Rumsfeld is entirely misplaced.

To repeat the words of the New York Times : "Mr Bush should start showing the state of his own heart by demanding the resignation of his secretary of defense."

Only after he gets rid of Rumsfeld can there be a clean-up of the Pentagon’s weirdoes. Rumsfeld must go.

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com