Friday, March 26, 2004


There’s a bizarre disconnect between Donald Rumsfeld’s long-established goals for the U.S. military and what he told the commission investigating the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Rumsfeld, the Bush administration’s secretary of defense, boasted even before he was sworn into office that he intended to transform the military, in the words of The Washington Post, “from a heavy, industrial-age force designed in the Cold War to an agile, information-age force capable of defeating more elusive adversaries anywhere on the globe.” One reason that the United States went lighter on forces in Iraq than our generals wanted is that Rumsfeld wants more done with less and insists it be done faster and more efficiently. He told the military so early on, and has been consistent on the matter.

But earlier this week he testified to the commission that before 9/11 he resisted sending military forces into Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden because “it didn’t have a lot of targets ... Afghanistan was something like 8,000 miles from the United States ... You can pound the rubble in an Al Qaeda training camp 15 times and not do much damage; they can put tents right back up.”

This is exactly as Richard A. Clarke, the former antiterrorism expert for presidents Clinton and Bush, described Rumsfeld’s objections, and one would think it would be yet another topic on which a White House adviser would be evasive. But Rumsfeld walks right into the contradiction -- all credit to him for being honest.

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