The Best Defense

Why is Larry Di Rita still defending Rumsfeld?

Remember those Japanese soldiers who used to be found in the jungles of Guam 25 or 30 years after the end of World War II? I think former Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita is becoming our modern equivalent, still holed up in a remote cave and defending Rumsfeld, his former leader.

Di Rita emerges from his jungle holdout in the National Review Online to respond to a piece in the same conservative publication by Tom Donnelly that evaluated George W. Bush as a commander-in-chief. Now, keep in mind that Donnelly is a PNAC-card carrying hawk who hangs his hat at AEI, neo-con central. (When I was over there last year for a talk by Douglas Feith I sat between Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. This is not a metaphor.) You can almost see the sweat on Donnelly's forehead as he strives to be kind to Bush, repeatedly noting his "commitment" and "courage." He takes note of what he calls Rumsfeld's "gross negligence" but even pins responsibility for that on Bush, because the president was in charge.

But is this very sympathetic take good enough for Larry Di Rita?

Of course not! Donnelly's gentle assessment, froths Di Rita, is "a compilation of nearsighted conventional wisdom." It is, he asserts, "one dimensional" because it focuses too much on Iraq. Larry also makes the claim that Bush as a candidate was visionary in seeing the challenges he would face. This is pretty amazing because 1. the administration came in focused on missile defense and China and 2. it is well documented that in its first summer in office the administration ignored blinking red lights about an al Qaeda attack on the United States.

I'm most embarrassed for Di Rita when he takes Donnelly to task for asserting that Rumsfeld wanted to cut the size of the Army. In fact, Di Rita admonishes, the Army grew. Yeah, Larry, but no thanks to Rumsfeld! Before 9/11, it is well-established, the defense secretary was looking to cut several divisions. I've actually spent hours talking to generals involved about this, and get into it in my next book, because the Army counterattack was spearheaded by then Brig. Gen. Raymond Odierno, now the U.S. commander in Iraq.   

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The Best Defense

America needs a Truth Commission for the Bush years

The Obama administration apparently is not going to turn over the rock to investigate the misdeeds and trespasses of the intelligence community in running amok after 9/11, especially with detainees. This is in keeping with Obama's non-confrontational "no drama" approach, but I think it is a mistake. First, it will look like the rest of the world like a cover-up. Second, I think we need to know what we've done, if only to avoid repeating some mistakes.

It's not what I want to see prosecutions of intelligence officers, especially the front-line guys. Rather, I'd like to see what their chain of command told them, or didn't tell them. So what I'd like to see is a truth and reconciliation commission, akin to the one initiated by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Of course, to give such a commission teeth, it would have to be able to extend an amnesty to all those testifying -- with the caveat that those who didn't come forward by a certain date would indeed be liable to prosecution.

What has my back up about this today in particular is a quote from CIA chief Michael Hayden in the Washington Post article: "He's looking forward, and that's very appropriate." I get suspicious when someone here uses the word "appropriate" -- it's Washington's way of telling you to move on, nothing for you little people to worry about.