Rummy Touted Change In Course Two Days Before He Was Sacked
On the Monday before the midterm elections, Rummy told the president in a classified memo that a change in course was necessary. Two days later, before word of such a recommendation could get out, Bush sacked him.
Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major course correction.
“In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”
Yet Rummy thought they were clueless to get it right.
Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.
“Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”
“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. Mr. Rumsfeld’s memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics.
And two days after he suggested a change in course, Bush sacked him.
What exactly did Rummy put forward as possible alternatives? Things that Democrats like John Murtha have been suggesting for months.
One option Mr. Rumsfeld offered calls for modest troop withdrawals “so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.”
Another option calls for redeploying American troops from “vulnerable positions” in Baghdad and other cities to safer areas in Iraq or Kuwait, where they would act as a “quick reaction force.” That idea is similar to a plan suggested by Representative John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, a plan that the White House has soundly rebuffed.
Still another option calls for consolidating the number of American bases in Iraq to 5 from 55 by July 2007, a considerable shrinking of the American footprint. At the same time, Mr. Rumsfeld all but dismisses the idea of setting a firm date for removing American forces from Iraq, listing it as one of the less palatable ideas.
And what did Rummy not favor? A regional conference that Baker/Hamilton will be recommending, and something that the White House and John McCain want:
The final page of the memo is a brief list of six “less attractive” options, which Mr. Rumsfeld describes as “below the line.” These include an “aggressive federalism plan,” an international conference modeled on the Dayton accords that produced an agreement on Bosnia and an idea that is currently being seriously discussed by senior administration officials: temporarily sending 20,000 additional American forces or more to Baghdad to try to improve security in the Iraqi capital and regain momentum.
Moving a large fraction of American forces to Baghdad to “attempt to control it,” Mr. Rumsfeld writes without further elaboration, would be “below the line.”
Why did it take Rummy until one day before a bloody midterm election to see the light? Or, did Rummy know he was about to be sacked and scapegoated for the failed policy, and decided to write a CYA memo for history?