Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
HAVE YOUR DONATION DOUBLED!

If you are able to donate $100 or more for our Annual Fund Drive, your donation will be matched by another generous CounterPuncher! These are tough times. Regardless of the political rhetoric bantered about the airwaves, the recession hasn’t ended for most of us. We know that money is tight for many of you. But we also know that tens of thousands of daily readers of CounterPunch depend on us to slice through the smokescreen and tell it like is. Please, donate if you can!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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 /

More articles by:

JASON LEOPOLD is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires where he spent two years covering the energy crisis and the Enron bankruptcy. He just finished writing a book about the crisis, due out in December through Rowman & Littlefield. He can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

October 23, 2017
Jack Heyman
Puerto Rico and the Jones Act Conundrum
Howard Lisnoff
Will the Military Throw the Book at Bowe Bergdahl?
Robert Hunziker
Hidden Danger of Ecological Collapse
Sheldon Richman
Dying for the Empire is Not Heroic
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
Careening Toward Nuclear War: the Political Paralysis of Europe, Russia and China
Jeff Berg
Looking for a Glass of Water and a Place to Shit
Yoav Litvin
The Art of Trolling – an Analysis of a Toxic Trend
Sarah Browning
There’s No Defense for Founding Fathers Who Practiced Slavery
Chuck Collins
An Independent Thinker’s Guide to the Tax Debate
Elliott Adams
Congress Can Stop War with North Korea
Jesselyn Radack – Kathleen McClellan
Insider Threat Program Training and Trump’s War on Leaks
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
The Global Food and Health Crisis: Monsanto’s Science is Bogus
Thomas Knapp
Hillary Clinton: Cold Creepiness with a Side of Corruption
Mel Gurtov
The Tragedy of American Foreign Policy
Weekend Edition
October 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Clinton, Assange and the War on Truth
Michael Hudson
Socialism, Land and Banking: 2017 Compared to 1917
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in the Life of CounterPunch
Paul Street
The Not-So-Radical “Socialist” From Vermont
Jason Hirthler
Censorship in the Digital Age
Jonathan Cook
Harvey Weinstein and the Politics of Hollywood
Andrew Levine
Diagnosing the Donald
Michelle Renee Matisons
Relocated Puerto Rican Families are Florida’s Latest Class War Targets
Richard Moser
Goldman Sachs vs. Goldman Sachs?
David Rosen
Male Sexual Violence: As American as Cherry Pie
Mike Whitney
John Brennan’s Police State USA
Robert Hunziker
Mr. Toxicity Zaps America
Peter Gelderloos
Catalan Independence and the Crisis of Democracy
Robert Fantina
Fatah, Hamas, Israel and the United States
Edward Curtin
Organized Chaos and Confusion as Political Control
Patrick Cockburn
The Transformation of Iraq: Kurds Have Lost 40% of Their Territory
CJ Hopkins
Tomorrow Belongs to the Corporatocracy
Bill Quigley
The Blueprint for the Most Radical City on the Planet
Brian Cloughley
Chinese Dreams and American Deaths in Africa
John Hultgren
Immigration and the American Political Imagination
Thomas Klikauer
Torturing the Poor, German-Style
Gerry Brown
China’s Elderly Statesmen
Pepe Escobar
Kirkuk Redux Was a Bloodless Offensive, Here’s Why
Jill Richardson
The Mundaneness of Sexual Violence
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Choreography of Human Dignity: Blade Runner 2049 and World War Z
Missy Comley Beattie
Bitch, Get Out!!
Andre Vltchek
The Greatest Indonesian Painter and “Praying to the Pig”
Ralph Nader
Why is Nobelist Economist Richard Thaler so Jovial?
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuela Regional Elections: Chavismo in Triumph, Opposition in Disarray and Media in Denial
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
NAFTA Talks Falter, Time To Increase Pressure
GD Dess
Why We Shouldn’t Let Hillary Haunt Us … And Why Having a Vision Matters
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail