Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rumsfeld Wants Everyone to "Back Off"

This whole exchange between Donald Rumsfeld and the press has to be read to be believed.


Q Sir, what I don't understand about the benchmark plan, if we can call it that, is what happens if and when the Iraqi government fails to meet the timelines, projections, whatever you want to call them, for some of the major benchmarks? I mean, we've been told that they're not given ultimatums. We've been told -- but we've also been told by the president in recent days that U.S. patience is not unlimited. So there's -- but I don't understand; there must be consequences or responses built into this plan. Can you address that at all?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's a political season, and everyone's trying to make a little mischief out of this and make -- turn it into a political football and see if we can't get it on the front page of every newspaper and find a little daylight between what the Iraqis say or someone in the United States says or somebody else in the United States says.

And I mean, it is not complicated. I've explained it two or three times. The president did an excellent job of explaining it yesterday.

And the situation is this; it is -- it is that the United States, in the persons of our ambassador and the embassy and General Casey and his team, have been, over a period of time, in continuous discussions with the Iraqi government at various levels, and they've been discussing the way forward through the rest of this year and next year. That's a perfectly logical thing for them to do.

As they do that, they then discuss, well, when might something happen? And it isn't a date and it isn't a penalty if it doesn't. I mean, you're trying to add a degree of formality and finality and punishment to something. My goodness.

You could sit down today and take the remaining 16 provinces in the country and say, well, when -- today, when do we -- the U.S. and the Iraqis -- government -- think that this province might move over to the governance of the Iraqis instead of the multinational force? What about this province and that province? And you could lay out and say, well, in this quarter or this two- or three-month period that might -- we might be able to do that, and lay it out. And as I've said before, in some cases you may beat it; you may do it faster than that. In some cases you may do it later than that. In some cases you may do it exactly when you thought and then find it didn't work out, and then you'd have to go back in, take it back, fix it, and then give it back again.

Now, you're looking for some sort of a guillotine to come flowing down if some date isn't met. That is not what this is about. This is complicated stuff. It's difficult. We're looking out into the future. No one can predict the future with absolute certainty.

So you ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult, that honorable people are working on these things together; there isn't any daylight between them. They will be discussing this and discussing that; they may have a change here or a change there, but it will get worked out. And the value of it, in my view, is that you are, in effect, establishing priorities. You're saying, among the coalition and the Iraqi government, that the goal is to kind of get from where we are to there, and "there" is having the Iraqis govern their country and provide for their own security. And the way to get there is in steps. And we've already passed over two provinces to the Iraqis, and we've already passed over some divisions to the Iraqi military chain of command.

But it's not just security, it is, as I've said, the reconciliation process is going to have three or four major milestones. You can't know when you're going to find agreement with the Sunnis and the Kurds and the Shi'a on some of these complicated things. You can say, "Well, we'd like to try to do it in the first quarter, or the second quarter," and then you can, you know, work hard to try to achieve that, but you may or may not achieve that. This is -- the situation in Iraq is not going to be solved militarily, obviously. It's political, it's economic, and it's security, and all of those have to go forward. And therefore, it makes it that much -- it's multidimensional; it's that much more difficult to predict when any one of those pieces will, in fact, arrive at what today, sitting here in October of 2006, looks like would be desirable or possible.

And so this is something they're going to work through. And I wouldn't waste a lot of newsprint trying to find daylight between everybody on this, or try to find things that are wrong with it. I think -- the idea of saying, "We're here, we want to get there, here are some steps to get there. Let's go ahead and tell the world that we think those are the steps we want to get there, we've kind of agreed on them," and then see if we can't do it. And then, of course, you can point with alarm and say, "Oh my goodness, you didn't make it." And you can have a front-page article and everyone will have a good time. And we'll say, "That's right, you didn't make it." And then the ones that we make earlier than we thought, we'll never see it on the front page.

"Everyone will have a good time"? Mr. Rumsfeld, please stop trying to wear a crown of thorns; because you don't play the martyr well. You do have a shot at dinner theatre. So over-the-top. So hammy. William Shatner would cringe. It's not the Fourth Estate's problem you have no credibility. You did say you knew the weapons of mass destruction are "around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." Then you denied making that statement. Only to have it quoted back to you by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern. Rumsfeld also denied using the term "immediate threat" to describe Iraq's weapons program


Rumsfeld: You and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase immediate threat. I didn't, the president didn't. And it's become kind of folklore that that's what's happened.


Schieffer: You're saying that nobody in the administration said that?


Rumsfeld: I can't speak for everybody in the administration and say nobody said that.


Schieffer: The president didn't say that?


Rumsfeld: If you have any citations, I'd like to see them.


Friedman: Right here it says, some have argued ‑‑ this is you speaking, some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraqi is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons, I would not be so certain.


Rumsfeld: And ‑‑


Friedman: That's close to imminent.


Rumsfeld: Well, I've tried to be precise, and I've tried to be accurate.


Friedman: No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people, and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.




It's easy to see why Rumsfeld doesn't want to go on record about deadlines.

There is good reason to believe deadlines can not be met. The Iraq army does not have a be-all-you-can-be attitude.

"All the soldiers now, they don't care about the country. They care about the money," said Col. Alaa Kata al-Kafage. "After (soldiers) get paid and save a little bit of money, they leave." Iraqi enlisted men can leave whenever they want to. Even during combat operations. Iraq police and army men will flee or silently watch ethnic violence happen in front of them.

Corruption has run rampant in Iraq. $4.5 billion looted from state coffers. $1 billion stolen by the Iraqi defence ministry. And the kicker: Robert Stein admitted to stealing $2 billion from the Coalition Provisional Authority. Rumsfeld has been mum about all this corruption. He hasn't earned the right for anyone to "back off" him.

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