Rummy Backing off from Iraq?

This article from Sunday's Washington Post Magazine is the second major attempt I've seen in the last few months to separate Donald Rumsfeld from the Iraq war. (Here's the other.)rummy_who_me.jpgThe idea, basically, is that Rummy was more fixated on modernizing the military than invading any country. Iraq just happened to be the country that the President wanted to wack.

Rumsfeld portrayed the memo as a warning blast, an attempt to do "everything humanly possible to prepare" Bush for the awful responsibility that had settled onto his presidential shoulders -- and his shoulders alone. For there comes a point when even the secretary of defense must realize that "it's not your decision or even your recommendation," Rumsfeld reflected with Woodward. By which he meant the Iraq war wasn't Don Rumsfeld's decision or recommendation.As if to underline the point, Rumsfeld also told Woodward that he couldn't recall a moment, in all the months of planning for the war, when Bush asked whether his defense secretary favored the invasion. Nor did Rumsfeld ever volunteer his opinion. ("There's no question in anyone's mind but I agreed with the president's approach," he added.)
"After considerable time with the top-ranking civilian and military leaders of the Pentagon, a new picture of Donald Rumsfeld has emerged for me, and I now believe something that I would have thought preposterous before: There are no 'Rumsfeld wars,'" Thomas P.M. Barnett wrote in July's Esquire.
Of course, he's integral to how the Pentagon has conducted these operations, and he deserves all the credit and blame any defense secretary naturally receives as a result. But they're not his wars, and they never were. And in that, critics of the war might have something. The rationales behind the Iraq war belonged to the departing neocons Wolfowitz and Feith (who took pains in an interview to lecture me on the correct usage of the word neocon). And of course the president.
But if that's true, then what was Rummy doing in the White House on February 11, 1998? That's the day he and six other conservatives pleaded with then-National Security Advisor Sandy Berger to go after Iraq. Or a few days earlier, when he signed an open letter to President Clinton which said:
The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.
For that matter, what was the Secretary of Defense thinking on September 11, 2001?
"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," [Richard] Clarke said to [60 Minutes' Leslie] Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.'"
Rumsfeld may not like how this war is turning out. But he's been for it for a long time. And no amount of after-the-fact spin is going to change that.
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