A Time For Accounting
Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers, columnist for McClatchy Newspapers, and co-author of the national best-seller We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young. Readers may write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail: email@example.com.
Better late than never.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is gone, but there's little time for celebration, even for those of us who long ago began calling for his removal. The damage that men do lives after them, and it's time at last for an accounting. The nation’s voters have spoken, and it's reasonable to expect that the Congress finally will begin to exercise some oversight of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after five years of serving as rubber stamp and doormats.
Can you spell "subpoena?"
For the Democrats who will soon take charge of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate, too, here's a preliminary laundry list of some of the things that need doing:
A comprehensive investigation of the pre-war intelligence on Iraq and how it was perverted, how the mine was salted, and by whom.
A thorough investigation of what pre-war advice was offered by senior American military commanders on troop strength, equipment requirements and strategy and tactics. Did even one general ignore the bullying from on high and ask for more troops, and how did Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld respond?
Why did the Pentagon send American troops into battle without enough armored vests, armored vehicles, rifles, ammunition, food and water? Who's responsible for that debacle which cost so much in blood and money?
Where did our money go? Billions of dollars of taxpayer money disappeared down various rat holes in Iraq, forked over to contractors without even so much as a handwritten receipt. Who got the money? What did they do for it? This is a fertile field that can be drilled for years, with a steady stream of indictments, trials and prison sentences.
What about those no-bid Defense Department contracts that were parceled out to the Halliburtons and KBRs and Blackwaters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other more costly weapons and equipment contracts that went to big defense industry conglomerates accustomed to writing very generous checks to the Republicans?
Why did an administration that was hell-bent on going to war, with the inevitable and terrible human casualties among our troops, consistently underfund the Veterans Administration, which is charged with caring for our wounded and disabled?
What's been the effect of the grotesque politicization of the selection and promotion system for senior military commanders by the office of the Secretary of Defense? What failures have resulted from that ill-conceived action? What responsibility do those generals and admirals chosen by Donald H. Rumsfeld bear for the failure to prepare for and conduct effective action against an inevitable Iraqi insurgency?
Who at the top bears responsibility for the torture and mistreatment of prisoners and detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and the Guantanamo detention camp? A score of Pentagon investigations got to the bottom of the chain of command but declared that the top, in Rumsfeld’s office and the White House, was innocent.
Who's responsible for breaking our understrength Army and Marine Corps with endless combat duty tours in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who refused all suggestions that the force was too small for the mission, and that 50,000 or 100,000 more men and women were needed in uniform? Who stubbornly refused even to consider the inevitable consequences of an Army so tied down trying to man these wars that it no longer could react to an emergency anywhere else in a dangerous world?
Simply put, the jig is up. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld have come to the end of their free ride. No longer can they act without thought or ignore the boundaries of the Constitution, the law and common sense.
Did they really think they could get away with all of this without ever being called to answer to history and the American people?
They all deserve what's about to descend on their heads. They deserve every subpoena. They deserve every indictment. Most of all, they deserve a reserved place atop the ash heap of history.