Wednesday, April 27, 2005


From a pinnacle of near-perfect ignorance: Dummies at war

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was at the Capitol today befuddling the Senators. He brought along General Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is his chief assistant befuddler.

Rumsfeld was there to urge the Senators to hurry up and give him more money before they go into recess on Friday. Otherwise he'll have to invoke the Feed and Forage Act, which is sort of a Defense Department charge card.

A draft?

But the Senators couldn't resist asking a few questions (pretty uppity, I thought), so Rumsfeld put them in their place. According to Paul Courson of CNN,

Sen. Daniel Inouye, the Democrat from Hawaii, said, "For the first time in many years the Army and Marine Corps are not meeting their recruiting targets. There are some who are already discussing the draft."

Rumsfeld leaned closer to the microphone and said, "I think the only people who could conceivably be talking about a draft are people who are speaking from pinnacles of near-perfect ignorance."

This suggests that Bush is thinking about a draft, since he is the only person in high government who can speak from a pinnacle of "near-perfect ignorance."

He added, "The last thing we need is a draft. We just don't."

You bet. Those docile college campuses could be transformed overnight into hotbeds of rad-lib orneriness.

He explained that recruitment and retention in the part-time forces have been affected by active duty troops who are staying longer in the regular military.

This is a fresh explanation. Many military personnel enlist in the reserves when they leave regular service. So Rumsfeld is saying that since they haven't been leaving the regular military (or more precisely, since he won't let them leave the regular military), they can't possibly join the reserves and that is why recruitment is down. I get it.

When is enough enough?

Then the Senators returned to an old theme. Had Rumsfeld sent enough troops to Iraq in the first place? To which he gave his stock answer—

"The fact of the matter is that the military experts on the ground from the beginning have said what they thought the number ought to be," Rumsfeld said.

"The more troops you have, the more targets you have, and the more people you might get killed. The more troops you have, the more of an occupying power you are, the heavier footprint, the more force protection you need, the more logistics you need and the more intrusive you are on the people of that country."

Rumsfeld was using the "footprint" metaphor back in 2003. For the 9/11 commemorations in 2003 Rumsfeld spoke at the National Press Club. Eric Schmitt of the NY Times, in an article with the comic title "More Troops Will Destabilize Iraq, Says Rumsfeld," quoted him as saying,

"Our goal is not to create a dependency in Iraq by flooding the zone with Americans. To the extent there's too heavy a footprint, you hurt them, not help them."

He should have let it go at that. But to the Senators he had to bring up the Soviets—

Rumsfeld noted the Soviet Union had 300,000 troops in Afghanistan during the war there in the 1980s and that "they lost." He said the United States used a fraction of that force and quickly toppled the Taliban in a matter of months following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Rumsfeld, of course, does not rely upon facts; he relies upon befuddlement. First, the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan easily enough and set up a puppet government. Here's one description of the 1979 Soviet invasion—

The Soviets brought in over one hundred thousand soldiers, secured Kabul quickly and installed Babrak Karmal as their puppet leader. However, they were met with fierce resistance when they ventured out of their strongholds into the countryside.

Does this have a familiar ring to it?

But I digress. Rumsfeld has always insisted that adequate numbers of troops were sent to Iraq and that if the generals wanted more, all they had to do is ask.

I was nodding in agreement when an article by Oliver Poole out of Baghdad caught my eye

US marines who suffered the highest casualty rate of any unit in Iraq have revealed that they were so short of soldiers that they used cardboard dummies to fool insurgents into believing that they faced more men.

Company E of the First Marine Division dressed the cutouts in camouflage shirts and placed them in observation posts to trick Iraqi rebels into thinking that they were manned.

More than one third of the unit's 185 troops were killed or wounded during its six-month tour last year in Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold west of Fallujah, during which it was targeted by 26 firefights, 90 mortar attacks and nearly 100 home-made bombs.

The deception was revealed yesterday when the marines broke the corp's code of silence to detail the shortages of equipment and manpower that they blame for many of their comrades' deaths.

The marines highlighted in particular the lack of armoured Humvees, the four-wheeled-drive vehicles favoured by the US military, which the company says meant they had little protection against roadside bombs.

When the unit arrived, none was fully armoured and the unit's commanders had to find scrap metal to line the sides and bottom of their vehicles.

It was also issued with maps that were several years out of date and showed urbanised areas still to be farmland.

Do you get the feeling that this is one hurting, pissed-off unit of Marines?

Knights of olde

Well, never mind about more men and armored trucks. Rumsfeld prefers high-tech—and the more expensive the better—

Rumsfeld also discussed a prototype version of fortified leggings the Army wants to try. At $9,400 a pair, they use air conditioning technology and weigh 38 pounds, according to one lawmaker, who asked whether they could protect a soldier from roadside bombs.

Rumsfeld did not address the cost or the effectiveness of the prototype, saying instead that the idea is to avoid having "vehicles operating without appropriate armor in areas outside of protected compounds."

So instead of armoring the vehicles, Rumsfeld proposes to armor the soldiers. It seems just a tad medieval, don't you think? Except for the air conditioning, of course.

Related posts
Quote of the Day (6/26/04)
Quote of the Day (7/4/04)
U.S. assumptions continue to be dashed on the I-rock of reality (12/23/04)

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