The axis of animus
In one of his hilarious short stories, P.G. Wodehouse, describing the mental capabilities of Archibald Mulliner, wrote: 'had his brain been constructed of silk, he would have been hard put to find sufficient material to make a canary a pair of cami—knickers.'
Here at the end of the presidential campaign season, their timing patently obvious, the hard—core opponents of our Iraq war policy and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are proving they haven't sufficient semantic calking to keep their dialectical dinghy afloat. It is an odd craft with a strange crew consisting of the Usual Suspects — Seething Axe—Grinders, Embittered Professionals, the Terminally Disgruntled and, lolling in the stern sheets, Anonymous Sources.
We've heard it all before. The latest iteration comes courtesy the New York Times, the Washington Post and PBS — call them the axis of animus — who have joined forces to deliver hit pieces and a documentary television program they hope will inject doubt and dismay into the electorate, thereby sinking President Bush's chances of re—election. Never mind if in the process they damage national interests, or even troop morale and the war effort.
Michael R. Gordon of the Times offers us his 3—part series 'Catastrophic Success,' which takes its title from President Bush's reference to the problematical aftermath of the swift completion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Of course, the underlying argument that there exists a mythical war plan which meets every foreseeable contingency, is bogus.
In writing that 'the sole mistake Bush has acknowledged in the war is in not foreseeing what he termed that 'catastrophic success,'' Gordon reveals one of the subtexts of this series, a persistent point for petulant critics: Bush should apologize to America, to the world, for going to war in Iraq. Gordon continues: 'Many military and civilian officials who served in Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003 say the administration's miscalculations cost the U.S. valuable momentum, and enabled an insurgency...in its early stages to intensify.'
So Iraq strategists are responsible not only for failing to devise the perfect plan and producing omniscient intelligence but also for the insurgency. Amazing concatenation of shoulda—woulda—coulda 20/20 hindsight by a mostly unidentified, unspecified 'many.'
As with other, similar articles, this author hopes to achieve with sheer word tonnage what he fails to deliver in credibility and relevance.
The Washington Post's Colum Lynch and Bradley Graham offer a regurgitation of the now—discredited story first published by the NYT about the alleged missing 380 tons of explosives. This twice—told tale is made even more specious by the fact that its source is the United Nations. We are told that 'UN and Iraqi officials indicated the explosives were lost while the country was under US occupation.' Big problem here, because the UN's own Hans Blix was heading up inspection teams in Iraq back in January 2003. Chemical teams visited Al Qaqaa several times. Nothing significant found. Probably because as far back as 1991, American and Western security forces believed that Iraq was transferring nuke—related materials such as those produced at Al Qaqaa to other Arab countries such as Algeria.
Or as the Duelfer Report proved, Iraq had been playing the WMD shell game for over a decade.
Along came NBC's Jim Miklaszewski, who was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Iraq Freedom. In April 2003, some of its men were posted to the Al Qaqaa weapons facility, where the missing munitions were supposed to have been stored. Guess what? As Miklaszewski reports, there were no stockpiles of HMX, RDX or other deadly, dangerous material, only conventional weapons.
Purveyors of this poppycock are left to solve the riddle: how can US forces be responsible for 380 tons of missing material that was never there?
This of course is another means of raising the 'No WMD' issue, that logical dead horse war critics are so fond of beating. For their part, Iraqis remain confused about the WMD debate in America, because for them, Saddam Hussein himself was a weapon of mass destruction.
In Rumsfeld's War, set to air October 26, PBS warns us at the outset that its documentary is the product of 'the remarkable journalistic skills of five Washington Post reporters, combined with Frontline's original reporting...'
The ponderous voice of Frontline's narrator is heard intoning 'The Army is on the verge of being broken and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is responsible.' Why? Because he had the almighty gall to execute President Bush's campaign promise to transform the military to meet 21st century challenges. Yes, there he was, crushing all dissent and ignoring all advice, according to the skewed views of those heard in this docu—melodrama, the evil Rummy twirling his moustache as he tied another outmoded idea to the railroad tracks. Is PBS aware that President Bush is commander—in—chief? That Rumsfeld works through and with a chain of command, not to mention Congress? Apparently not.
If that weren't bad enough, Rumsfeld demanded fresh thinking and better ideas from the Pentagon's bureaucracy. It is alleged that Rumsfeld demanded a new war plan for Afghanistan and pressed for special operations forces involvement. Anyone reading the book American Soldier by General Tommy Franks will know that it was his Central Command plan that was employed, one designed with input from his boss. Special Forces teams were an element of the Franks Plan from the get—go. They would be infiltrated as the campaign unfolded. That Rumsfeld wanted the infiltration to be accomplished ASAP is understandable, because he knew that those clandestine teams, calling in air strikes on the Taliban and Al Qaeda would help spell success. And they did.
And on the docu—melodrama goes, painting one of the best Defense Secretaries this country has ever had as a dangerous, if not evil, man.
In the face of elections in Afghanistan, continuing successes in the global war on terror and in Iraq, where a majority of citizens believe their country is on the right track, preferring democracy and looking forward to the upcoming elections, the Axis of Animus offers us this load of retrograde propoganda.
Meanwhile, the crew of the dialectical dinghy remains adrift in a sea of retrospective sophistry.
John B. Dwyer is a military historian