Rumsfeld aims at messenger, and ends up missing the point
Recently, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has taken a lot of heat from the press and on Tuesday he returned fire. While berating the media in general, Rumsfeld focused his wrath on Newsweek and CNN for what he characterized as "inexcusable" criticism of the military’s efforts in the war on terrorism.
In his address to the national convention of the American Legion, Rumsfeld’s rage boiled over as he complained that there were 10 times more references to soldiers’ misdeeds at Abu Ghraib than to the soldier who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. He also bristled at Amnesty International’s comparison of the U.S. detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay to the notorious Soviet forced labor camps of the 1950s.
According to Rumsfeld, every war suffers from "mistakes, setbacks and catastrophes" and every army has "occasional bad actors."
Unfortunately, the American transgressions at the Abu Ghraib prison camp involved more than a ‘few’ soldiers and it was their actions, not the media’s coverage, that stirred so much outrage at home and abroad.
Rumsfeld also implied the media’s criticism of the military’s war effort aids the enemy and plays into the hands of terrorists. In response to reports that the Bush administration underestimated the strength of the Iraqi resistance, Rumsfeld characterized the prolonged operation and the lengthening list of fatalities as "a bumpy path" on the way to independence.
While some, like Rumsfeld, would prefer to shoot the messenger, most citizens understand that graphic images of injustice and independent reporting of the troops’ progress, despite bureaucratic attempts at censorship, are essential to the democratic values that Rumsfeld and the Bush administration say they are trying to instill in Middle Eastern countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Instead of trying to whip the Legionnaires into a froth against the media, Rumsfeld’s time would have been better spent talking about how the administration plans to assimilate hundreds of wounded soldiers when they return to the U.S. and how it plans to support thousands of families trying to make ends meet while their fathers’ and mothers’ tours of duty are extended.
Rumsfeld had a captive audience of proven patriots at the Salt Palace on Tuesday but it is unlikely that his tantrum regarding the media impressed them as much as a candid assessment of the challenges faced by today’s veterans would have.
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