now that i’ve gotten that out of the way and there should be no doubt left about who you’re actually dealing with here…
Anatomy of a Revolt
What made a chorus of ex-generals call for the SecDef’s head? The war over the war—and how Rumsfeld is reacting.
By Evan Thomas and John Barry
April 24, 2006
Gen. Eric Shinseki, former chief of staff of the Army, says he is “at peace.” But reached last week, he didn’t sound all that peaceful. In the winter of 2003, alone among the top brass, Shinseki had warned Congress that occupying Iraq would require “several hundred thousand troops.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, had rewarded Shinseki for his honesty by publicly castigating and shunning him.
Last fall, Shinseki went to the 40th reunion of the class of ’65 at West Point. It has been reported that his classmates were wearing caps emblazoned RIC WAS RIGHT. Last week NEWSWEEK e-mailed Shinseki to ask about the reports. Shinseki called back to say he had heard “rumors” about the caps. But, NEWSWEEK asked, wasn’t he there? “Well,” he replied, “I saw a cap.”
Shinseki, who has retired to Hawaii, was clearly uncomfortable with the role of martyr. He had no desire to join the chorus of retired generals calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation. He was circumspect about criticizing Rumsfeld at all, but he seemed to be struggling to disguise his feelings. He pointedly said that the “person who should decide on the number of troops [to invade Iraq] is the combatant commander”—Gen. Tommy Franks, and not Rumsfeld.
Some critics have argued that Shinseki should have banged on the table, pushed harder to stop Rumsfeld from going into Iraq with too few troops. How does Shinseki respond? “Probably that’s fair. Not my style,” said the old soldier, who nearly lost a foot in combat in Vietnam. There was, he added cryptically, “a lot of turmoil” at the Pentagon in the lead-up to the war. Was that Rumsfeld’s fault? “Partly,” said Shinseki. Did Rumsfeld bully General Franks, the overall invasion commander? “You’ll have to ask Franks,” said Shinseki, who indicated that he had talked long enough. “I walked away from all this two and a half years ago,” he said.
The former four-star general appeared to be torn between his strong sense of duty and an uneasy conscience. The moral dilemma is as old as the republic. When does a military officer stand up to—and push back against—his civilian masters? And when does he just salute and say, “Can do, sir”?
It’s a question of enormous consequence for a democracy with the world’s most powerful military. The balance between the civilian and military is precarious. The model may be Lincoln, firing his commanders until he found one (Ulysses S. Grant) who would fight. But the modern reality is messier. It is generally forgotten that Franklin Roosevelt rejected the recommendation of his sainted Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall to invade Europe in 1942—which would have been a fiasco. Harry Truman was widely vilified for—wisely—recalling the great Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to widen the Korean War by attacking China. On the other hand, Lyndon Johnson overreached when he stayed up at night picking bombing targets during the Vietnam War. In 1997, Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assigned the top brass to read “Dereliction of Duty,” a classic study accusing Vietnam-era generals of failing to stand up to their civilian bosses.
Somehow, the lesson did not sink in. Before the Iraq invasion, the senior military did not force a discussion of what to do after the war was won. Rumsfeld was obsessed with the plan of attack, but not the aftermath. The consequences are by now a familiar litany: Rumsfeld demanded a swift, lean force that worked superbly to depose Saddam Hussein—but was woefully inadequate to take over the more onerous task of securing and rebuilding Iraq. Only now are the retired generals coming forth to complain of Rumsfeld’s bullying and demanding his resignation.
The Revolt of the Retired Generals has created considerable discomfort in the E-Ring of the Pentagon and at the White House. President George W. Bush felt compelled last week to issue a written statement expressing his “full support” for the SecDef. For now, Bush has no intention of firing Rumsfeld. “He likes him,” says a close friend of the president’s, who requested anonymity in discussing such a sensitive matter. “He’s not blind. He knows Rumsfeld sticks his foot in it.” Adds a senior Bush aide, who declined to be named discussing the president’s sentiments: “I haven’t seen any evidence that their personal rapport is at all diminishing. They see each other often and talk often.” Rumsfeld says he has twice offered his resignation to Bush, who has declined it.
The old generals can be quite biting about Rumsfeld; retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni wrote an op-ed calling the secretary of Defense “incompetent strategically, operationally, and tactically.” But their criticisms are probably best understood as “the first salvos in the war over ‘Who Lost Iraq’,” says Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel whose book “Breaking the Phalanx” was influential in inspiring the military’s blitzkrieg assault on Baghdad. “Yes, Rumsfeld should go,” says Macgregor. “But a lot of the generals should be fired, too. They share the blame for the mess we are in.”
Rumsfeld is the chief villain of a very influential new book, “Cobra II,” by retired Marine Corps Gen. Bernard Trainor and New York Times reporter Michael Gordon. In their detailed, thorough accounting of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Rumsfeld is shown badgering the reluctant but mostly quiescent generals into attacking with as few troops as possible. Despite all the talk of the war’s being hatched by a neoconservative cabal, Rumsfeld himself appears indifferent to ideology; he was profoundly suspicious of the notion that America could bring democracy to Iraq. Rather, he focused on forcing a transformation of the hidebound, heavy-laden, slow-moving Army. Rumsfeld disdains “nation-building” and blithely counts on the Iraqis to rebuild their own country. But right after the invasion he signed off on orders by the American proconsul, Paul Bremer, to disband the Iraqi Army and fire most of the top civil servants—leaving the country vulnerable to chaos and a growing insurgency.
The publication of “Cobra II,” plus talk-show comments from Zinni, the former chief of CENTCOM who was promoting his own book, “The Battle for Peace,” appear to have encouraged retired generals to attack Rumsfeld in public. “There was a lot of pent-up agony,” says Trainor. “The dam broke.”
One of the most powerful indictments came from Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, who was chief of operations for the Joint Staff during the early planning of the Iraq invasion. Writing in Time magazine, Newbold declared, “I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat—Al Qaeda.” Actually, it was not the job of a uniformed officer, even a high-ranking one like Newbold, to challenge the president’s decision to invade Iraq. That’s a political judgment: it’s up to the president and Congress to decide whom to fight. The military’s job is to win the fight.
Still, Newbold has a point when he writes that the decision “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.” The real responsibility for Iraq, of course, lies with President Bush. Together with Vice President Dick Cheney (draft-deferred in Vietnam) and Rumsfeld (Navy jet pilot who did not see combat), Bush (Texas National Guard pilot) seemed determined to brush past or roll over the cautious national-security bureaucracy. Bush made little or no effort to prod his national-security staff to ask tough questions, such as how the Sunnis and Shiites would bury centuries of resentment when Saddam was gone. (Bush has said he listens to the generals, but it does not appear he heard any words of caution.) The get-tough trio essentially cut out Gen. Colin Powell, the secretary of State and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was regarded as too squishy, too much a creature of the go-slow bureaucracy.
Powell has come in for some criticism for not trying harder to slow the Bush juggernaut into Iraq. And the various generals have taken talk-show grief for not speaking out until their pensions were safely vested in retirement. But it is important to understand the military culture to appreciate why more soldiers do not cross their civilian bosses. It is true enough that “political generals” get ahead by never rocking the boat. And it is fair to say that Rumsfeld’s shabby treatment of Shinseki—the secretary did not bother to attend the retirement ceremony of the Army chief of staff, whose replacement was leaked 14 months before his term was up—had a chilling effect on other officers.
But it is unlikely that senior military officers go to sleep at night thinking that if only they kowtow a little more they will win that next star on their shoulder. They are far more likely to believe that their duty is to do the best they can with what they’ve got: the military culture breeds a “can do” attitude in its most successful officers. They are acutely conscious that squabbling at the top can be a morale-crusher for troops who must risk their lives in battle.
Rumsfeld’s persona and management style are grating to many buttoned-up, by-the-book officers. He constantly asks questions, often with sarcasm and in-your-face one-upmanship. Briefing the secretary can be an intimidating exercise. Rumsfeld has been known to get so hung up on a single slide, peppering some hapless colonel or general with antagonistic queries, that the briefer never gets a chance to finish his tidy, orderly presentation. Some soldiers like the macho give-and-take, or at least get used to it. “When you walk in to him, you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about,” says Marine Gen. Mike DeLong, deputy CENTCOM commander from 2000 to 2003. “If you don’t, you are summarily dismissed. But that’s the way it is, and he’s effective.”
Other officers, particularly those with less exposure, just find Rumsfeld to be an impatient meddler who jumps around, nosing into subjects he knows nothing about and should leave to the professionals. Rumsfeld himself seems impervious to criticism. Last week, at a Pentagon news conference, confronted by reporters quoting from embittered retired generals, he dismissively shot back, “There’s nothing wrong with people having opinions … you ought to expect that. It’s historic. It’s always been the case, and I see nothing really very new or surprising about it.”
But in fact, Rumsfeld is bothered by the furor. “He’s concerned about the impact on the institution,” says Lawrence DiRita, Rumsfeld’s counselor. The controversy, DiRita says, can “make generals clam up around civilians, and civilians wonder, ‘Is this the next general who is going to leak to The New York Times?’ ” Rumsfeld worries that the whole concept of civilian control is “turned on its head” by the revolt of the generals. “Conceptually, institutionally, that a handful of disgruntled generals could determine who will lead the Department of Defense—that’s not the way it’s supposed to work,” says DiRita.
As a practical matter, the rebellion may secure Rumsfeld’s job. “No president is going to be bullied by a bunch of retired general officers into firing a secretary of Defense,” says Thomas Donnelly, the editor of Armed Forces Journal. Of course, by defending Rumsfeld, the president has “moved into the target area,” notes General Trainor. “Now the Democrats can say, ‘Look, the president’s defending an incompetent’.”
Rumsfeld is not the sort to fall on his sword, at least willingly. He liked being teased as “Matinee Idol” by President Bush after he held forth so confidently (and, to many Americans, reassuringly) about “killing the enemy” in the traumatic months after 9/11. He has only retirement to look forward to, a boring prospect for a vigorous 73-year-old. His advisers do not expect him to quit any time soon. For many months, on a shelf behind DiRita’s desk in his old Pentagon office, stood a Rumsfeld doll that was sold in PXes on military bases after the war in Afghanistan. Pull a string on the backside and a mechanical version of Rumsfeld’s rich voice intones, “I don’t do diplomacy.” DiRita attached a slip of paper near the doll’s mouth with his boss’s mantra. It reads faster. DiRita’s not sure what happened to the doll. But his boss, he says, is still charging forward, trying to change an institution that sometimes resists change. In the weeks ahead, he is sure to meet more resistance from old soldiers who think he is not so much a change agent as a wrecking ball.
He is country rock’s biggest icon, and he is angry. Recorded in secret, his forthcoming album savages the war in Iraq. One track says it all: ‘Impeach the President’
By Andrew Buncombe
17 April 2006
It started as a rumour – gossip shared by fans on internet chat sites. Could it true, they asked? Could Neil Young, a cultural lodestone for a generation of country rock fans, really be turning his attention to President George Bush and the war in Iraq? Now Young himself has confirmed it. Not only has he recorded an entire album about the conflict, but in one of the songs he spells out who he thinks is to blame for the ongoing chaos and violence and what the consequences for that person should be. That track is called “Impeach the President”.
“I just finished a new record – a power trio with trumpet and 100 voices,” the 60-year-old says in a ticker-tape message posted at the bottom of his official website. “Metal folk protest? It’s called Living with the War.”
Further details about the album came from Jonathan Demme, the film maker who produced the recently released documentary Heart of Gold about the singer-songwriter. “Neil just finished writing and recording – with no warning – a new album called Living With War,” he told the music magazine Harp by e-mail. “It all happened in three days … It is a brilliant electric assault, accompanied by a 100-voice choir, on Bush and the war in Iraq … Truly mind blowing. Will be in stores soon.”
Those who have followed Young’s twisting career, stretching over more than four decades – from the psychedelia-tinged rock of the folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield in the Sixties, his joining up with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, his huge solo success in 1972 with Harvest, as well as the experimentation of the Eighties and finally his return to country rock – may be a little surprised by Young’s decision to launch such a blunt political assault against the Bush administration.
Indeed, in the aftermath of the al-Qa’ida attacks on the US of 11 September 2001, it seemed that Young had taken the side with the President and supported the steps he was taking in the so-called “war on terror”. Having written a song, “Let’s Roll”, to honour the passengers on board United Airlines’ Flight 93 who apparently fought with the hijackers and forced the plane to crash-land in rural Pennsylvania rather than letting them use it to target the White House, he announced his support for the Patriot Act. The Act, which gave law-enforcement bodies a whole range of new powers, was condemned by many campaigners as an assault on civil liberties. Young said at the time he thought the legislation was necessary.
Speaking at an awards banquet in Hollywood where he had received the Spirit of Liberty award by the liberal campaign group People for the American Way, Young announced: “To protect our freedoms it seems we’re going to have to relinquish some of our freedoms for a short period of time.” But now it appears that for whatever reason, the Canadian-born singer’s support for President Bush has run it’s course and that his latest incarnation is as a protest singer. He has joined list of musicians such as the Dixie Chicks, Lou Reed, Dave Matthews, Steve Earle and REM who have used their platforms to speak out against the war or the administration in general. His song urging that Mr Bush be impeached reportedly accuses him of “lying” and features a rap with the President’s voice set against the choir singing “flip-flop” – an accusation Mr Bush and other Republicans aimed at John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, during the 2004 election campaign.
Meanwhile the lyrics to the new album’s title track include the words: “I’m living with war right now, And when the dawn breaks I see my fellow man, And on the flat screen we kill and we’re being killed again, And when the night falls I pray for peace, Try to remember peace.”
Whilst details of the 10-song recording are still incomplete – it is known that he is accompanied by Chad Cromwell on drums, Rick Rosas on bass and Tommy Bray on trumpet – a further insight into what to expect has come from the California-based musician Alicia Morgan, who was recruited to be part of the 100-strong choir. In an entry on her blog on Friday she wrote: “Have you, like me, been recalling the great protest songs of the Sixties, and wondered where the new protest songs are? Yesterday, I found out.” She said she and the other singers read off the lyrics as they flashed onto a giant screen, with cheers of approval coming up from the choir. With the main tracks having been previously recorded, Young himself directed the backing singers. “Turns out the whole thing is a classic beautiful protest record. The session was like being at a 12-hour peace rally,” she said.
“Every time new lyrics would come up on the screen, there were cheers, tears and applause. It was a spiritual experience … We finished the session by singing an a cappella version of “America the Beautiful” and there was not a dry eye in the house.” She added: “I’ve never been at a recording session that was more like being at church. Heck, I’ve never been to a church that was more like a church than that session.” Speaking from Sherman Oaks, California, yesterday Morgan told The Independent that many people liked Neil Young because he “pisses everybody off”.
She said: “I have always enjoyed his music and respected him. People have told me he used to be a Reagan supporter but I don’t think he is bound by any ideology other than his own. He writes and sings about whatever is going on in his life. Sometimes it’s political – sometimes it’s not.”
Asked if she thought Young had enjoyed the 12-hour session, at which they completed the 10 tracks, she added: “Very much so.” Young, who has served on the board of Farm Aid, fellow singer Willie Nelson’s project to help rural Americans, for more than 20 years, is not the first person to have suggested the impeachment of Mr Bush. With his approval ratings in the low 30s, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold has sought to have Congress pass a motion to censure the President, though the effort has received only limited support from Mr Feingold’s Democratic colleagues.
Meanwhile Mr Bush can apparently do nothing to shift his ratings, the worst for a president in second term since the days of Richard Nixon, for whom, incidentally, Young also wrote a song. Young, who has said he has previously voted for the Republicans, was apparently inspired to write the words for the song “Campaigner” – originally called “Requiem for a President” – after watching television news about Nixon’s wife suffering a stroke and seeing the broken president arrive at the hospital. In the song he wrote: “I am a lonely visitor, I came too late to cause a stir, Though I campaigned all my life towards that goal.”
Songs of shame
By Geneviève Roberts
* ROLLING STONES
Despite being famously apolitical, the band launched an attack on George Bush in their latest album, A Bigger Bang. The track “Sweet Neo Con” contains the lyrics: “You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, Well I think you’re full of shit.”
Despite Jagger saying: “It’s not aimed personally at President Bush. It wouldn’t be called ‘Sweet Neo Con’ if it was,” Stones fans were not convinced, especially as Jagger had previously said of the tune: “It is direct. Keith said: ‘It is not really metaphorical. I think he’s a bit worried because he lives in the US. But I don’t.”
In 2004, rap artist Eminem urged fans to vote against George Bush in the US election by issuing a music video specifically to criticise the Iraq war. The lyrics for “Mosh”: “Let the President answer on high anarchy, strap him with an AK-47, let him go fight his own war,” accompanied a video depicting a US soldier arriving home from Baghdad, to be told he must return.
* DIXIE CHICKS
“Not Ready to Make Nice”, to be released in the US in May, is an attack on people who sent the Texan band death threats after they criticised Mr Bush. Singer Nathalie Maines, performing in London on the eve of the Iraq war, said: “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.” Many US radio stations dropped the band and their CDs were smashed.
* GEORGE MICHAEL
In 2002, he released the single “Shoot the Dog”, which featured a cartoon video of Tony Blair and Mr Bush’s poodle on the White House lawn. The backlash was so forceful – the New York Post called him a “past-his-prime pop pervert” – that Michael feared he would not be able to return to the US.
By TOM HAYS
NEW YORK – Along a gritty stretch of street in Brooklyn, police this month quietly launched an ambitious plan to combat street crime and terrorism. But instead of cops on the beat, wireless video cameras peer down from lamp posts about 30 feet above the sidewalk.
They were the first installment of a program to place 500 cameras throughout the city at a cost of $9 million. Hundreds of additional cameras could follow if the city receives $81.5 million in federal grants it has requested to safeguard Lower Manhattan and parts of midtown with a surveillance “ring of steel” modeled after security measures in London’s financial district.
Officials of the New York Police Department _ which considers itself at the forefront of counterterrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks _ claim the money would be well-spent, especially since the revelations that al-Qaida members once cased the New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions.
“We have every reason to believe New York remains in the cross-hairs, so we have to do what it takes to protect the city,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said last week at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
The city already has about 1,000 cameras in the subways, with 2,100 scheduled to be in place by 2008. An additional 3,100 cameras monitor city housing projects.
New York’s approach isn’t unique. Chicago spent roughly $5 million on a 2,000-camera system. Homeland Security officials in Washington plan to spend $9.8 million for surveillance cameras and sensors on a rail line near the Capitol. And Philadelphia has increasingly relied on video surveillance.
Privacy advocates say the NYPD’s camera plan needs more study and safeguards to preserve privacy and guard against abuses like racial profiling and voyeurism.
The department “is installing cameras first and asking questions later,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Police officials insist that law-abiding New Yorkers have nothing to fear because the cameras will be restricted to public areas. The police commissioner recently established a panel of four corporate defense lawyers to advise the department on surveillance policies.
“The police department must be flexible to meet an ever changing threat,” Kelly said. “We also have to ensure whatever measures we take are reasonable as the Constitution requires. That’s the only way to retain public support and preserve individual freedoms.”
Lieberman concedes cameras can help investigators identify suspects once a crime has been committed, but argues they can’t prevent crime. She cited a 2002 study which concluded that surveillance cameras used in 14 British cities had little or no impact on crime rates _ just as they didn’t keep terrorists from bombing the London subway system last year.
“The London experience shouldn’t be misconstrued that the ‘ring of steel’ prevents terrorism,” she said. “But that’s how it’s being pitched.”
Still, New York police were impressed that their British counterparts drew on 80,000 videotapes to identify and retrace the routes of the subway system suicide bombers and the suspects in a failed follow-up attack.
Timothy Horner, a specialist with the Kroll security firm and a former NYPD captain, said the measures make sense.
“It’s not a cure-all, and the department is not thinking that way,” he said. “But we really want law enforcement to use whatever tools they can to keep us safe.”