It is no secret that Donald Rumsfeld treats his flag rank officers with contempt and disdain. Rumsfeld’s latest dissing of his senior officers came when he chose retired General Peter Shoomaker, the former head of the US Special Operations Command, to succeed outgoing Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki.
Rumsfeld was faced with the problem that neither of the two active duty generals he first asked to take the Army Chief of Staff job, wanted it. CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks, fresh from his victory over Iraq, decided to retire rather than preside over Rumsfeld’s plan to restructure the U.S. Army into small mobile SWAT teams. Shinseki’s Vice Chief of Staff, General John Keane, turned down Rumsfeld’s offer because of his wife’s illness.
Rumsfeld vainly looked for others to take their turn in the lion’s den. The job that every flag rank officer covets was systematically turned down by Army commanders around the world: General B.B. Bell of the US Army European Command, General James Campbell of the US Army Pacific Command, General Larry Ellis of the US Army Forces Command, and General Philip Kensinger, commander of the US Army’s Special Operations Command.
The deputy head of CENTCOM, Lt. Gen. John Abazaid, an Arab-American, also turned down Rumsfeld. Shinseki, Franks, Keane, and Abazaid could not stand the thought of putting up with Rumsfeld and his chickenhawk advisers on a daily basis. It was Rumsfeld’s gruff manner that similarly forced Army Secretary, retired General Thomas White, to resign.
In its typical “Inside the Beltway” sycophantic manner, The Washington Post described Shoomaker, who Rumsfeld selected over the heads of every one of his 3- and 4- star active duty generals as an “innovative” move. The Post also hailed Shoomaker’s experience as the head of the Special Operations Command as fitting in with Rumsfeld’s plans to transform the Army. The Post conveniently omitted the fact that Rumsfeld has had problems with the current head of Special Operations, General Charles Holland, who Rumsfeld obnoxiously said had a “case of the slows” in developing war plans against Iraq. In Rumsfeld’s world, it’s “my way or the highway.” Anyone who has ever taken a management course knows that is considered a totally ineffective leadership method by most experts.
The Post also downplayed the obvious unprecedented nature of Rumsfeld’s choice of a military retiree to be Chief of Staff. The paper referred to President John Kennedy naming retired Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell Taylor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Fine, but not even then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who had his fair share of arguments with his flag ranks, treated them with as much disdain as Rumsfeld. The Post also states that retired Joint Chiefs Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer was called from active duty to head NATO in the 1960s. NATO commander is largely a political and ceremonial job without much military clout. That is the reason why Rumsfeld exiled former Marine Corps Commandant General James Jones to head NATO after the top Marine clashed with the mercurial Defense Secretary.
Rumsfeld has also stuck it in the eye of the Navy. He had gone out of turn in having a Navy Joint Chiefs Chairman when he named General Richard Myers, an Air Force general, to the post. Rumsfeld has now chosen to bypass the Navy again by extending Myers’ to a second term. No wonder one senior Navy Admiral rolled his eyes in utter disgust as he was describing the current state of affairs within the “five-sided puzzle palace.”
And in a final blow to his officers, Rumsfeld decided to stay away from General Shinseki’s June 11 retirement ceremony. Was Rumsfeld off on some important military mission? No, alas, this poor excuse for a Secretary of Defense was in Tirana, Albania thanking that nation’s kleptomaniac government for signing up to the “coalition of the willing” in the war on Iraq. Never mind that Albania sent no troops to the war.
When I was in the Navy, we had our share of friendly (and even some serious) rivalries with the other services. And while I have never been a supporter of incessant Pentagon wasteful spending and the revolving doors inherent in the military-industrial complex, I cannot tolerate such shabby treatment of professional military officers by the likes of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith.
Shinseki was obviously referring to how thin the Army has been spread in his farewell address. To his troops he said, “today, nearly 370,000 of you are on point for the Nation in more than 120 countries around the globe.” These nations include those where Big Oil, not the “Nation,” is the raison d’etre for the Bush admnistration’s foreign and military policies: Iraq, western Afghanistan, the Gulf, Colombia, the Horn of Africa, the Caucasus, Southeast Asia, and former Soviet Central Asia. But Shinseki, all the professional, opted to keep his remarks on the positive side. Rumsfeld would have not been so magnanimous.
To paraphrase another Army official during the McCarthy hearings, “Mr. Rumsfeld, have you no shame, sir? Have you no shame?” It’s high time you and your band of neo-cons pack your bags and return some semblance of sanity to the Pentagon. Every day you remain on the job, our nation, its people, and its armed forces are put in more and more jeopardy. We just can’t afford that. Do the right thing and go.
WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of the forthcoming book, “America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II.”
Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com