An Incurious Rumsfeld-Bashing Media

April 17, 2006

Anti-Bush forces are trying to build a momentum approaching critical mass to oust Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld has been one of the main focal points of the left’s antipathy for a number of years. Nothing short of the president’s impeachment would satisfy their lust for revenge against President Bush like Rumsfeld’s removal.

These vultures have hovered over Rumsfeld’s stubbornly vibrant carcass for way too long, and they just can’t let him sprint out of yet another crisis: the call for his resignation by a half dozen retired generals.

Nothing inspires liberals in the press more than the opportunity to glorify liberals in uniform. Conservative military or ex-military types are just jingoistic hacks. But those critical of the military in general or of the Iraq War qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize or Time’s Man of the Year.

Just look at their endless exaltation of Congressman John Murtha once he demanded withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Every single story they ran contained the obligatory description of Murtha as a war hero and, more importantly, a longtime hawk.

They apparently believe that when military types speak out against the war it’s like finding a smoking gun. What can be more effective to undermine the political enemy than defectors from within their own ranks — like John Dean with Richard Nixon? What could give their long-suffering cause more credibility than a group of retired generals against the war?

It never occurs to the media to question the inappropriateness of retired military officers publicly criticizing the U.S. civilian leadership during war. But other retired generals — John Crosby, Thomas McInerney, Buron Moore and Paul Vallely, among others — have said it is highly inappropriate. It also doesn’t bother the media that the retired officers’ demand for Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation during wartime could undermine our war effort and troop morale. They can’t stand this war anyway.

So the last things the media will want to examine are the propriety and motives of these men who have savaged Mr. Rumsfeld. But someone should.

Do retired generals Paul Eaton, Gregory Newbold, Anthony Zinni, John Batiste, John Riggs and Charles Swannack hope to start a public avalanche of criticism against Rumsfeld — as if he hasn’t taken enough heat over the last four years? Do they want to start a public debate involving all 7,000 retired generals and flag officers in this country and put a big smile on Osama’s face?

Shouldn’t it make a difference whether some of these generals, like Zinni, have been longtime critics of Rumsfeld or opposed the war all along? Why is it news when he comes out with another in his long line of criticisms?

Would a curious, balanced press be interested in determining whether some of these six men have an axe to grind? Officer Riggs was demoted from three to two stars immediately before his retirement, and he might believe his public statement saying the army was stretched too thin had something to do with it.

Should the media be interested in earlier press reports that Gregory Newbold was publicly chastised by Secretary Rumsfeld for announcing that “the combat power of the Taliban has been eviscerated” and that when he requested early retirement in 2002 he said he had grown tired of Rumsfeld’s abrasive style? How about Newbold’s endorsement of the left’s line that the administration distorted intelligence in the lead up to the war and that it alienated our allies? In his administration-bashing piece for Time magazine Newbold even seems to adopt the liberals’ familiar “chicken hawk” argument: that the opinions of those who haven’t served don’t count. He wrote, “My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results.”

One of John Batiste’s criticisms of Rumsfeld, according to the Washington Post, is that there weren’t sufficient troops in Iraq. Should the media explore, then, why this same general, during a meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld and other top commanders in Tikrit, did not complain about insufficient troop levels when expressly invited to by Secretary Rumsfeld himself — according to an AP report dated Dec. 26, 2004?

Despite the inappropriateness of their comments, these retired generals have every “right” to criticize Rumsfeld and the administration to their hearts’ content. But an objective media less hungry for allies in their quest to undermine the administration and its efforts in Iraq might shed a little more light on the six generals’ motives and predispositions, both of which are important in evaluating their credibility.