The Washington Times reports, “The three military service chiefs have been dropped in the Bush administration’s doomsday line of Pentagon succession, pushed beneath three civilian undersecretaries in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s inner circle.” The gist of the article is that by a little-noticed holiday week executive order from President Bush, the power structure in the Pentagon has been reorganized to place Stephen Cambone, Eric Edelman and Kenneth Krieg between Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and the Army chief who used to hold the third spot.
The Number 2 position belongs to the deputy secretary of defense, but this post is currently vacant while the Senate considers Bush’s nomination of Navy Secretary Gordon England for the post. The Number 3 spot will now go to Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Number 4 goes to Edelman, former Ambassador and undersecretary of defense for policy. Krieg, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, gets Number 5. The Army chief drops way down to Number 6.
This looks to me nothing other than another neocon coup. Cambone was a member of the Office of Special Plans formed in 2002 to build the case for war on Iraq, formed by Paul Wolfowitz, headed by William Luti and answering to Douglas Feith. He was one of those insisting to the end that maybe WMDs had been found in Iraq. He has justified torture in Congressional hearings. Seymour Hersh reported in January 2005 that “Rumsfeld and two of his key deputies, Stephen Cambone, the Under-secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, will be part of the chain of command for the new commando operations” planned for Iran and elsewhere. Such operations will have to be justified, and this new neocon Defense Department hierarchy can do that better than one more closely linked to the CIA and Pentagon intelligence. The latter were not as helpful as they could have been in faking intelligence during the build-up for the Iraq War and so were sidelined by the OSP -- which still, you notice, somehow escapes official investigation although Mother Jones had it down as “the Lie Factory” as of January 2004. The Senate subcommittee charged with investigating the “use and misuse of intelligence” before the Iraq War remains unable to actually do so, and it’s likely that some form of the Office is now making the case for attacks on Syria and Iran. How might the Pentagon feel about that?
According to the Washington Monthly, Rumsfeld and his protégé Cambone “were hated within the Pentagon [even] prior to September 11. Among other mistakes, Rumsfeld and Cambone foolishly excluded top civilian and military leaders when planning an overhaul of the military to meet new threats, thereby ensuring even greater bureaucratic resistance. According to the Washington Post, an Army general joked to a Hill staffer that ‘if he had one round left in his revolver, he would take out Steve Cambone.’ Cambone’s reputation in the building hasn’t improved much since Sept.11…”
And what of Eric Edelman? He used to work in the Vice President’s office as the principal deputy to “Scooter” Libby implicated in the forging of a case for the Iraq attack. Then from July 2003 to March 2005 he was ambassador to Turkey, where he annoyed everyone by pressuring Turkey to support the occupation of Iraq and further neocon plans. “A rude and crude diplomat,” one columnist called him, after he criticized the Turkish prime minister for making an official visit to Syria. He left after the Turkish media had called for his resignation, and back in Washington started working as a top aide for Rumsfeld. He received a recess appointment from President Bush, thereby avoiding Congressional scrutiny.
Kenneth Krieg? He deals with weapons purchases, mainly, and the corporate angle. So between the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff we have currently specialists on disinformation, coercing allies, and weapons production. According to Thomas Donnelly, described as “a defense analyst with the American Enterprise Institute,” the administration has taken these measures to assert more political control over the military, which it mistrusts. “It continues to devalue the services as institutions.”
How are the top brass going to feel about this devaluation? Recall how, when Gen. Eric Shinseki estimated in February 2003 that “several hundred thousand” troops would be necessary to secure Iraq, Rumsfeld deputy Paul Wolfowitz took the unusual step of publicly disparaging his comment. He suggested the figure would be under 100,000 troops and cost under $100 billion. Shinseki was sidelined, his successor appointed 14 months before his retirement in an effort to undercut his authority. You might call this “devaluating the service.” It must make some people angry.
Philip Giraldi reported in the American Conservative last July that Cheney had asked the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) “to draw up concrete, short term contingency plans for an attack on Iran, to involve ‘a large-scale air assault employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons’’” and to follow any new terror attack on the U.S., of whatever origin. “Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning,” he added, “are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing -- that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections …” But maybe some will start posing objections to appalling missions dreamed up by chickenhawks like Cheney, Cambone and Feith. Didn’t Gen. Tommy Franks call Feith “the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth”? Didn’t top military leaders speak through their long-time spokesman Rep. John Murtha in describing the army as of November 2005 “broken”? There’s no love lost between the neocon chickenhawk administration and the military forced to do its bidding, its impossible tasks.
Arch-neocon, chickenhawk and disinformation specialist Michael Ledeen told the American Enterprise Institute on March 27, 2003, when only about 60 U.S. troops had died in Iraq, “I think the level of casualties is secondary. I mean, it may sound like an odd thing to say, but all the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people and that we love war. … What we hate is not casualties but losing. And if the war goes well and if the American public has the conviction that we’re being well-led and that our people are fighting well and that we’re winning, I don’t think casualties are going to be the issue.” But for military officers, casualties tend to be a big issue, and the idea of losing more lives in more hopeless crusades designed to provoke the whole Muslim world may be uninspiring. “Bring ‘em on!” bellowed Bush in July 2003. Just the kind of thing the top brass likes to hear from the Commander-in-Chief. In response, since that cowboy taunt the Iraqi resistance has enthusiastically killed about 2000 more Americans.
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In the Hans Christian Anderson story, the princess is so sensitive and so accustomed to comfort that she feels the pea even though it’s buried below twenty mattresses. Perhaps had the queen piled on more mattresses she would have stopped feeling it. Maybe these new layers of bureaucracy will insulate Secretary Rumsfeld from military voices expressing doubts or objections, those voices he doesn’t want to heed. But hopefully those voices will speak, and be heard at the top, and even cost the warmongers some sleep.
Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, at Tufts University and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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