Setting the Record Straight on Rumsfeld

Donald H. Rumsfeld resigned from his post as Secretary of Defense in 2006.  From 9-11 to the first stages of the Iraq war, Rumsfeld was a media darling.  But when the left tired of war, he became a whipping boy and a scapegoat for pundits and politicians alike.

And the problem with the majority of criticism leveled at Rumsfeld is that it is demonstrably false.

And so it is today. When we contrast the substance of recent accusations leveled at Rumsfeld with facts available to anyone possessing the energy to look them up, it’s the accusers rather than the accused that look foolish.

Take Robert Draper’s May 2009 GQ Magazine article blaming Rumsfeld for mishandling the troop deployment to New Orleans during hurricane Katrina as exhibit A. Whereas Draper quotes “unnamed” sources from within the former Bush administration who bravely (but anonymously) talked of how slow and inefficient Rumsfeld’s handling of the Katrina was, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul McHale openly “praised the military response to the catastrophic hurricane.”

McHale backed up his praise for Rumsfeld’s handling of the situation with facts and evidence: “Within 10 to 12 days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall…the military had deployed 72,000 forces, including 50,000 National Guard members, to the region…[and] 23 Navy ships and almost 300 helicopters were on the scene.”

Whether Draper and his “unnamed” sources missed McHale’s report or simply ignored it is not known. What is known is that the troop deployment in support of the victims of Katrina represented the fastest deployment of that number of troops for use within the United States in U.S. history.

On November 29, 2009, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) accused Rumsfeld of letting Osama Bin Laden get away while serving as Secretary of Defense. The crux of Kerry’s accusation was that Bin Laden escaped being captured or killed in Tora Bora due to Rumsfeld’s supposed refusal to send more troops to Afghanistan when the commanders there requested more troops.

Yet as with Draper’s tabloid quality reporting, Kerry’s claims are as false as the testimony Bill Clinton gave under oath during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The facts are as follows: Our military presence in Afghanistan consisted mostly of Special Forces in 2001. It grew to 13,000 troops in 2003, and then reached 22,000 in 2006 before Rumsfeld left office.

These figures represent troops Rumsfeld sent when commanders in Afghanistan requested them.

These facts notwithstanding, President Obama reworded (then repeated) Kerry’s accusation during his speech to the West Point Cadets on December 1, 2009. Said Obama: “Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive.” And lest we doubt these words were directed at Rumsfeld, keep in mind that Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs added, “I will let Secretary Rumsfeld explain … whether he thinks…the effort in Afghanistan was sufficiently resourced during his tenure as secretary of defense.”

I’m going to type this really slowly for Gibbs’ benefit: Rumsfeld doesn’t have to “explain” whether or not “the effort in Aghanistan was sufficiently resourced” because the historical record has already proven that it was. The facts are abundant and clear.

In other portions of his West Point speech, Obama insinuated that by starting “a second war in Iraq,” Rumsfeld “drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention [away from Afghanistan].”  This assertion makes it seem like Obama doesn’t understand that the U.S. Special Forces were assigned to CENTCOM rather than Iraq or Afghanistan. It was a CENTCOM Commander, like General Tommy Franks, who could (and would) dispatch the Special Forces to whichever country or region he thought they were needed.

And when terrorists focused their efforts on driving the U.S. out of Iraq, making Iraq ground zero in the War on Terror after 2003, what sense would it have made for CENTCOM Command to send our best trained anti-terror forces into Afghanistan where we had largely secured a quasi-peace that lasted from late 2001 into 2005?

Rumsfeld was already sending regular combat troops to Afghanistan every time they were requested.

It’s all really that simple folks. When the claims of Draper, Kerry, and Obama are contrasted with the facts and evidence of the historical record, they crumble and fall.  

We may one day live in the light of these facts and Rumsfeld shall receive the long overdue congratulations he deserves for everything from his deployment of troops following Katrina to his handling of the War in Afghanistan.

Until then, we at HUMAN EVENTS thought it best to set the record straight.


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