April 30, 2006

ATTAC Report This Week

Donald Rumsfeld Under Fire

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President Bush’s Defense Secretary is coming under attack. He says he’s modernizing the military; others say he’s destroying it. Today, we take a closer look at Donald Rumsfeld.

Hello. I’m your host, Boruch Ellison, and this is “ATTAC Report This Week” for April 30, 2006.

The United States Secretary of Defense carries the unique responsibility of overseeing the world’s most powerful military force. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and nuclear forces all answer to the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Joint Chiefs, in turn, answer to the Defense Secretary.

That makes Donald Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary for the last five years, a powerful man. He can do much to build America’s military strength — or to undermine it.

In that light, it’s all the more startling that, just two weeks ago, at least five recently retired Army and Marine generals publicly called for Rumsfeld to resign his post. Saying they spoke for many of their fellow commanders, the officers complained mostly about Rumsfeld’s war policy in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But the generals also made the wider charge that Rumsfeld routinely ignores the expertise of leading officers, forcing them to cave in to policies that weaken the military. The generals didn’t name those policies specifically, but President Bush, in defending Rumsfeld from the attacks, identified “transformation” as the underlying issue.

“Transformation,” also referred to as “modernization,” has become one of the hottest political issues in recent years. According to the president and Rumsfeld, the U.S. military is functioning on badly outdated principles. The president and his advisors want to “update” the armed forces by restructuring them, changing their available weapons systems, and moving troops to new locations throughout the world. They justify the changes by citing new technologies and the supposed end of the Cold War.

Critics, on the other hand, see a different agenda. The Bush-Rumsfeld changes amount to sheer disarmament, say opponents, at a time when America is fighting two wars and badly needs a stronger military. “Modernization,” in the eyes of many, amounts less to to an upgrading of forces than to a downgrading.

It’s hard to argue with the criticisms. Rumsfeld has certainly continued the overall disarmament policies of the previous Clinton Administration, and he may even be breaking records for the most rapid dismantling of American defenses in decades.

Rumsfeld has repeatedly refused offers by Congress to increase the size of the military, while at the same time has been cutting back on the resources it already has. At his direct instigation, many dozens of badly-needed bases have been closed, including the Navy’s large bombing test range in Puerto Rico.

Weapons systems have fared no better. Instead of upgrading the military’s weapons, Rumsfeld has delayed, reduced, or cancelled virtually every improvement needed, even against pressure from a Congress willing to fund the needed upgrades. His targets have included the F/A-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike fighter planes, long overdue replacements for the aging F-15 and F-16 aircraft. The V-22 Osprey, a combination airplane and helicopter needed by the Marines, may also face the axe. The Navy’s new DD-21 combat ships are being blocked. The Army’s M-1 tanks are not only denied badly needed upgrades, but are gradually being phased out completely without any heavy tanks to replace them. And the Crusader artillery, a powerful, mobile, 40-ton howitzer cannon, has been cancelled, leaving the Army with outdated cannons inferior to those of Red China.

Consistently, the Bush Administration admits it prefers lighter, weaker weapon systems over heavier ones that would be effective against Soviet or Red Chinese armies.

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld is busy trying to move American troops out of Europe, where they defend against Soviet Russian invasion. He’s also beginning a pullback from South Korea, leaving that country vulnerable to attack by Communist North Korea.

Instead of listening to Pentagon officers, Rumsfeld has been firing the ones who don’t cooperate and replacing them with hand-selected allies.

What troubles so many observers is the impression that the Bush Administration doesn’t plan to win any wars.

Thank you for listening. From all of us at ATTAC Report, good-bye.

(“ATTAC Report This Week” is available at www.ATTACReport.com.)