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Rumseld to Troops in Iraq:
“Fight Naked...Life’s a Bitch and Then YOU Die”
by Paul Street
December 11, 2004

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Having been a mildly politically cognizant American since at least the late 1970s, I've seen no small number of despicable, dangerous know-it-all rich-boy politicians and policymakers. But I'm not sure I've ever seen a more loathsome such character than the openly Orwellian Donald Rumsfeld, the former Princeton wrestler who likes to quote his fellow Chicagoan Al Capone to the effect that "a smile with a gun" will get you further in life than "a smile alone."  The enormously wealthy and legendarily abrasive bully boy Rumsfeld is about as responsible as anyone for the criminal, racist, and failed occupation of Iraq, which he has insisted on executing in accordance with neoliberal principles that sacrifice US (among a much larger total number of) lives on the altar of corporate efficiency. 

How gratifying, then to see Donny Pentagon get humiliated by the mostly working-class National Guard and Reserve soldiers he was attempting to charge up for the war in Iraq. [See: "Rumsfeld Faces Tough Questions from Soldiers"]

All dressed up like the corporate CEO he used to be, Rummy went to Kuwait to give these troops a pep talk for his failed war. Instead he got a "talking to" from the grunts themselves.  

"Why," one soldier asked "Rummy," "do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmour our vehicles." As the flustered Pentagon chief stumbled for an answer, the solider elaborated: "we do not have proper armored vehicles to carry us north."  

I oppose the entire operation of course, but that strikes me as a decent question, one that I'd be glad to see posed if I were stuck over there in Bush's Godforsaken crusade. 

And here was the contemptuous answer from the vile War Master in the business suit: "you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want. You can have all the armour in the world on a tank and it can be blown up."  Funny, these troops thought they were in the greatest army in the world, one that certainly would offer them adequate protection on the imperial highways they were ordered to travel. 

So should the troops stop self-"uparmouring" since, well, any tank can be destroyed? Gee, Rumsfeld, why have armour at all? Might as well just fight naked...that would certainly save taxpayer dollars. What would Al Capone say? 

When a different troop asked about the Pentagon's backdoor draft "stop-loss" policy, which prevents troops from going home after their tour is up (Catch 22: "your tour is up but there's a catch...we say your tour isn't up"), Rumsfeld informed him that "stop-loss" was "basically a sound principle" and, get this, "a fact of life."  Kind of like slavery in the South before 1863/65.  

"Look, shit happens, you working-class guys are stuck out here in the fucking desert, eating shitty food and getting your legs blown off and losing your vision and miserable stuff like that. You end up living (if you make it out) with all kinds of post-traumatic stress disorders. Meanwhile war princes like Dick Cheney and me get to fly around in missile-proof, liquor-stocked jetliners and ride (even through the streets of the homeland) in well-armorued limousines. Your life's a bitch and then you die." 

"But we live in big mansions and enjoy lives of luxuriant opulence. We deserve it. Work hard and some day maybe you can to. If you can get your sorry little working-class butts out of here in one piece, that is. That's just the way it is. Good luck with that landfill search."  

Rich bastard.  

Of course there were other and deeper questions for troops to ask, like what moral and legal basis does this administration have to justify the death and destruction it is imposing on the Arab world? Why aren't rich people fighting in this imperial oil war? How's your battle readiness, Rummy? How would you like to join us in the field?  

Still, tough questions about armour and stop-loss are a good place to start questioning authority. 

I wonder if any of these insufficiently armored  troops (many of whom are surfing the web, sharing their experiences and reading critiques) had heard about what Rumsfeld and the White House are hearing from the CIA station chief in Baghdad: "the situationin Iraq is getting worse and may not rebound anytime soon."  This "basic conclusion" was "echoed by a senior CIA official who recently visited Iraq."  I am quoting the New York Times on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day.
American troops, resist this illegal and unjust occupation. 

Paul Street is a writer and researcher in Chicago, Illinois. His book Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 is now available from Paradigm Publishers. He can be reached at:

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