Rums­feld looks back as he bids farewell to Pen­tagon

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld, in a bit­ter­sweet farewell toPen­tagonwork­er­son­Dec.8,spoke of “mir­a­cles” his per­son­nel per­formed dur­ing his ten­ure, in­clud­ing lib­er­at­ing Iraq and Afghanistan, de­ploy­ingth­e­first­mis­silede­fense,cre­at­ing a new home­land de­fense com­mand and ex­pand­ing the num­ber of covert war­riors.

“The in­sti­tu­tion is im­por­tant well be­yond those who tem­po­rar­ily serve­here,”saidMr.Rums­feld,who first served as sec­re­tary dur­ing the ColdWaran­dleaves­the­build­ing­for a sec­ond time on Dec. 18. “Each of you here in this room [. . . ] have played a part in one or more of th­ese ac­com­plish­ments.”

“This is our last town hall meet­ing with our sec­re­tary,” is how Marine Gen.PeterPace,whomMr.Rums­feld picked as Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chair­man and then as chair­man, started the pro­ceed­ings.

Mr. Rums­feld’s stage was a Pen­tagon au­di­to­rium packed with mil­i­tary per­son­nel and civil­ians who greeted their leader with en­thu­si­as­tic ap­plause. The de­fense sec­re­tary, pil­lo­ried by crit­ics for what they con­sid­er­abotched­war­plan­inIraq, was­forced­tore­signNov.8.De­fense Sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Robert M. Gates was sworn in by Pres­i­dent Bush on Dec. 18.

OnDec.8,Mr.Rums­feld­baskedin the adu­la­tion and re­paid tributes.

“This is not a ques­tion,” said one Pen­tagon staffer dur­ing a ques­tio­nand-an­swer ses­sion. “It’s sim­ply a chance to say thank you.”

Here­called­thetime­his­daugh­ter’s dance troupe came to the Pen­tagon andMr.Rums­feld­took­time­out­totalk to the 30 young per­sons. Five ended up­join­ingth­emil­i­tary.“Youhadapro­found­ef­fec­ton­they­oung­mem­ber­sof that troupe and on our coun­try,” the ad­mi­ral said.

Mr.Rums­feld­toldtheau­di­ence:“I leave of­fice very proud to have served with your, in­spired by your ded­i­ca­tion, by your pa­tri­o­tism and by your sac­ri­fice, and we rec­og­nize that sac­ri­fice.”

Mr. Rums­feld will surely go down in­his­to­rya­so­ne­ofthe­coun­try’smost im­por­tant de­fense sec­re­taries. He came into of­fi­cer un­der or­ders from Mr. Bush to trans­form the armed forces­to­bet­ter­fight­newthreats—in­clud­ing ter­ror­ists. Lit­tle did he know at his Jan. 20, 2001, swear­ing in that the bat­tle would come in just eight month­swhenalQae­dater­ror­ists­flew air­lin­ers into the World Trade Cen­ter and the Pen­tagon.

A worka­holic, Mr. Rums­feld cre­at­edthe­firsthome­land­de­fensec­om­mand, re­or­ga­nized the Army into more agile com­bat brigade teams, em­pow­ered and in­creased spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces, can­celed ma­jor weapon sys­tems as out­dated and pushed the Pen­tagon deeper into the black-bag world of intelligence and coun­tert­er­ror­ism. He pressed com­man­der­stofight­lighterand­faster,re­ly­ing more on intelligence and pre­ci­sion bomb­ing.

Af­ter the Septem­ber 11, 2001, at­tack, his pop­u­lar­ity soared. Amer­ica saw a tough-talk­ing leader who said hewouldbe­morethanwill­ing­to­have histroop­skill­ter­ror­ists.But­the­mud­dled­war­inIraq,nowinits­fourthyear, sankhis­lik­a­bil­i­ty­inCon­gres­sandthe na­tion. Crit­ics said his style of fight­ing left too few troops in Iraq who were un­pre­pared for an in­sur­gency that has tossed that coun­try into the throes of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence.

On Dec. 8, he in­voked two events to il­lus­trate his roller-coaster ten­ure: thein­au­gu­ra­tionofAfghanistanPres­i­den­tHamidKarzai,af­terU.S.troops ousted the Tal­iban; and be­ing “stunned by the news” of detainee abus­es­byAmer­i­can­sol­dier­satIraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

“Clearly the worst day was Abu Ghraib,” he said. The scan­dal in­cited the­p­o­lit­i­calleft­to­cas­ti­gateAmer­i­can forces as well as Mr. Rums­feld, who was la­beled a tor­turer.

“I re­mem­ber the ir­re­spon­si­ble com­ments­bysome­whotried­to­sully theim­a­ge­ofthe­coura­geou­sandded­i­cated men and women in uni­form who­keeptheAmer­i­can­peo­ple­safe,” he said, feisty to the end.

He also ad­dressed the Amer­i­can peo­ple, whose sup­port for the Iraq warhas­dropped­sharplyas­the­count of U.S. dead ex­ceeds 2,900.

“Just take Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Mr. Rums­feld, 74, who served first as de­fense sec­re­tary from 1975 to 1977 un­der Pres­i­dent Ford. “The mil­i­tary can’t lose. They can’t lose a bat­tle let alone a war over there. But they also can’t win be­cause it is not a con­ven­tional con­flict. There isn’t an army, a navy or an air force to go de­feat.It­take­spo­lit­i­ca­lan­de­co­nom­i­cac­tiv­ity.[...]Andthat­takespa­tience­and we have to un­der­stand that as a so­ci­ety,as­apeo­ple­and­not­beim­pa­tient.”

He quoted a wounded sol­dier at Wal­terReedArmyMed­i­calCen­teras telling him, “If only the Amer­i­can peo­ple will give us the time, we can do this. We’re get­ting it done.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Un­bowed: De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld said the Pen­tagon “is im­por­tant well be­yond those who tem­po­rar­ily serve here.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.