More from Bob Woodward’s State of Denial. Ohio’s Republican governor and Ohio’s Republican secretary of state have handed Bush the electoral college and Colin Powell has been discarded like an old handkerchief so full of Bush’s snot that it was no use anymore. And then—
At one point, Card spoke with Cheney about a possible change at the Pentagon. No, Cheney said, he was predisposed to recommend that the president keep Rumsfeld right where he was.
That was no surprise.
Bush and Cheney were talking in private. For Cheney, the hydraulic pressures in the Washington political system were well known. Rumsfeld’s departure, no matter how it might be spun, would only be seen as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war. It would give the war critics great heart and momentum, he confided to an aide, and soon they would be after him and then the president himself. He virtually insisted that Rumsfeld stay.
This unmanly evasion of responsibility at the top of the administration runs throughout Woodward’s book, most commonly where Rumsfeld is concerned. As soon as it became clear that the occupation of Iraq was a disaster, Rumsfeld blamed his tame generals. Poor little civilian him, those big nasty four-star bullies told him how many troops they needed, and goodness, look what happened!
And where was the State Department anyway, Rumsfeld whimpered? Golly, they’re supposed to be the nation-builders. Where was Condi’s NSC? Where was the CIA? Don was just a gruff, simple soldier. His job was done.To make this plain, he backed as proconsul one L. Paul Bremer III, a former State Department diplomat and Kisssinger flunky, then washed his hands of the man.
It seldom occurred to the press and the politicians that throughout human history the task of occupation has been an established and essential function of the military. Think Roman soldiers, nailing Jesus to the cross. Think British Raj. Think General MacArthur.
This time, though, it was Cheney rather than Rumsfeld who was ducking responsibility — by making sure that his former boss and life-long mentor remained in office to draw the lightning. Otherwise, the wily old spider in the shadows behind Bush might wind up taking the blame for the war the spider himself had invented.
And what a terrible injustice that would have been. Because for goodness’ sake, the whole thing would have been a cakewalk except for that fellow over at the Pentagon, whatever his name was.