Is Don Rumsfeld The Right Target?

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addresses the press following talks with German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung during the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy, in Munich 03 February 2006. AFP PHOTO JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images) AFP/Getty Images

This column was written by John Nichols.
When Democrats in my home state of Wisconsin voted at their state party convention last spring to call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, they added the name of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the list.

That still sounds like an appropriate roster for removal.

While there is much attention this week to the call from an ever-widening circle of former military commanders in the failed Iraq War and other recent U.S. misadventures — including a half dozen retired generals — who have called for Rumsfeld's firing, how much sense does make to get rid of the Secretary of Defense when his actions have been so clearly a reflection of goals and strategies developed by the president and vice president?

No doubt, Rumsfeld has mishandled the Iraq invasion and occupation.

But would another Secretary of Defense chosen by Bush and Cheney do any better?

Doesn't the current crisis have more to do with the administration's misguided project of regime change and nation building than with the approach that Rumsfeld has taken to it?

If the problem is with the project, then shouldn't the focus be on the serious task of removing Bush and Cheney, rather than the cosmetic change of names of the office of the Secretary of Defense?

While there is no question that Rumsfeld should go, there ought to be some question about whether extracting one rotten apple from the barrel will cure what ails this administration.

It is true that the forced removal of Rumsfeld could further weaken a president whose popularity is already in steep decline. But it could also create the false impression of a course correction even as Bush and Cheney — and Secretary of Defense Joe Lieberman — steer the U.S. further into quagmire.


John Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent, has covered progressive politics and activism in the United States and abroad for more than a decade.

By John Nichols
Reprinted with permission from The Nation

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