Woe is Rummy

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 13, 2004 4:56PM (EDT)

Donald Rumsfeld is keeping his options open. The war in Iraq will succeed, unless it fails, he told the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday. About nation-building in Iraq, he told the panel: "Will it happen right on time? I think so. I hope so. Will it be perfect? No.... Is it possible it won't work? Yes  I look at Iraq and all I can say is, I hope it comes out well, and I believe it will. And we're going to keep at it."

Perhaps Rumsfeld's trademark certainty about the administration's mission in Iraq was dampened by the senators who read despairing e-mails from U.S. soldiers in Iraq. There goes message control again. Troops are sending emails home to their congressmen, and they don't tell happy tales. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois read Rumsfeld an e-mail from a career officer in Iraq, saying troops were "appalled and ashamed" over Abu Ghraib. "Nobody wants to compare this to Vietnam," the email said. "But it's starting to feel that way on the ground. Everybody just wants to finish their year, get the hell out and forget they were ever here."

Rumsfeld's response: "I guess it's disturbing, but it's not surprising that an individual feels that way."

Rumsfeld seems prepared to blame his failure in Iraq on the media, who just refuse to tell the world that fabulous things are happening in Iraq. "I've kind of stopped reading the press, frankly," Rumsfeld said.

He'll be pleased to see that the Pentagon's own information service is trying to fill the good news void, writing this about Rumsfeld's appearance yesterday: "Schools and hospitals have been renovated and reopened since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, the secretary noted. Oil 'is pumping,' he observed, and Iraq has a new currency. New Iraqi government ministries have been established ahead of the June 30 turnover of sovereignty, he noted, while provincial and municipal governments have been set up across the country. In fact, 80 to 90 percent of Iraqis are 'being governed by local councils,' Rumsfeld reported. Yet, he lamented, 'all we hear about are the problems.'"

About those new Iraqi government ministries, the Wall Street Journal reported today that the U.S. is building institutions in Iraq for the post-handover period that will "give the U.S. powerful levers for influencing nearly every important decision the interim government will make."

"In a series of edicts issued earlier this spring, Mr. Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority created new commissions that effectively take away virtually all of the powers once held by several ministries. The CPA also established an important new security-adviser position, which will be in charge of training and organizing Iraq's new army and paramilitary forces, and put in place a pair of watchdog institutions that will serve as checks on individual ministries and allow for continued U.S. oversight. Meanwhile, the CPA reiterated that coalition advisers will remain in virtually all remaining ministries after the handover," the Journal reported.

Why won't the Wall Street Journal and everyone else in the media -- and we suppose, the majority of Americans who now say the Iraq war wasn't worth it, and the troops in Iraq who say they just want to "get the hell out," and the millions worldwide who have increasingly dim views of the U.S. -- just cooperate?

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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