portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

imperialism & war

Surreal Times At The Pentagon

The four "bunker buster" bombs were intended for Saddam Hussein, who wasn't there.

No matter. The bombs hit their co-ordinates so, mission accomplished.

The Pentagon even went to the trouble of hooking up two B-1 pilots by phone so they could enthuse about the incredible "adrenaline rush."

Friday, March 21, two days after President George W. Bush launched "shock-and-awe," Rumsfeld gave his first boffo performance of the war. He talked about the great "humanity" that goes into targeting bombs.

If only the public could see it, he said, in a scene straight out of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.
Dec. 28, 2003. 01:00 AM

Surreal times at the Pentagon

LINDA DIEBEL
STAFF REPORTER

We never learned the identity of the little boy killed by a 900-kilogram bomb on a Monday afternoon in Baghdad during the "shock-and-awe" stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

We knew only that Iraqi civilians scrabbled with bare hands to uncover his body in the devastation and that he was among 14 civilians killed in that particular attack, including a young woman who was carried out in pieces.

At the Pentagon briefing the next day, April 8, Maj.-Gen. Stanley McChrystal was upbeat about the "extraordinary" success of the attack. The four "bunker buster" bombs were intended for Saddam Hussein, who wasn't there.

No matter. The bombs hit their co-ordinates so, mission accomplished.

The Pentagon even went to the trouble of hooking up two B-1 pilots by phone so they could enthuse about the incredible "adrenaline rush."

Nobody even paid lip service that day to civilian casualties, "collateral damage," as if were. Maybe that's why this was the most bizarre briefing of those hyperactive spring days of war. It was certainly the most perverse moment at the pumped-up Pentagon, so far from the actual dying.

The whole atmosphere of war in Washington was bizarre. By day, there were briefings at the White House, Pentagon and, occasionally, State Department; by night, there was grainy, green-tinged TV footage from reporters "embedded" with U.S. troops, first in Kuwait, then on the march to Baghdad.

There was almost a carnival feel to the "embeds" at first. A lone, sombre voice from the U.S. media came from The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson, talking about scenes of civilian carnage on PBS with Charlie Rose.

It was surreal at the Pentagon. And always, from the top, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pushed America's new global strategy of pre-emptive strikes and regime change. He was/is, in his own inimitable way, the public face of America at War.

Friday, March 21, two days after President George W. Bush launched "shock-and-awe," Rumsfeld gave his first boffo performance of the war. He talked about the great "humanity" that goes into targeting bombs.

If only the public could see it, he said, in a scene straight out of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.

It's worth mentioning, too, that People magazine included Rumsfeld, 71, in its "Sexiest Men Alive" package last spring. Sex/war/sex.

"Rummy" holds Pentagon reporters in the palm of his hand joshing, playing, scolding and attacking. He is ever cocky, ever impressive, with the ultimate military/industrial complex CV: navy pilot, corporate director, biotech company chair, two-time defence secretary, insider and special envoy in U.S. administrations, from Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to two generations of George Bushes.

He has a fast brain. So fast that, observing him, you sense real time ticks by in slow motion for him. Gives him an edge, time to respond, to be calculating, even when he appears to be loosey-goosey and out-of-control.

"I am a very cautious, careful, conservative individual," he said at one Pentagon briefing.

On an afternoon in April, with Baghdad in chaos after the fall of Saddam looting, shooting and fires in the streets Rumsfeld told reporters: "Stuff happens."

And stuff continues to happen in Rummy's war. It's always described in the testosterone-jammed lingo of "We got him .. President Bush sends his regards ... Turn this baby around ... Let's roll" that by gosh! sound as if they were dreamed up in strategist Karl Rove's White House.

"They make it sound like Jimmy Cagney in White Heat," defence analyst John Stanton says from Washington.

Rumsfeld has been up; he's been seen to be down. But always, despite his so-called missteps and eruptions, he gets his message out.

"Isn't it clear? You don't understand English?" he snapped at foreign reporters during a period in which he was supposed to have lost ground to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice over the "reconstruction" team in Iraq.

But during his so-called fall from grace, he conveniently leaked a memo to USA Today, describing how winning in Iraq and Afghanistan would be a "long, hard slog."

Saved Bush from having to state the obvious.

Love him or hate him, Rumsfeld is still on his game.

"I don't do quagmires," he said, when asked if Iraq was turning into Vietnam.

"Oh, goodness, I really don't do tick-tock very well," he said last week at a Pentagon briefing, when asked about the time-frame of Saddam's capture.

It was merely a teaser question because, what with the holidays upon us and new security alerts (back up to high, orange, or was that elevated, yellow?), U.S. media questions about who really captured Saddam (the Kurds?) and when, have slipped off the radar screen.

"I'm not a psychiatrist, as I'm sure you've all noticed," Rumsfeld laughed at a briefing about techniques to make Saddam talk. Sing like a canary, see.

But is this the real problem? Making Saddam talk?

Analyst Stanton thinks shutting him up could be the key American concern. Stanton foresees a "kangaroo court" run by the United States, which refused to support or join the recently created International Criminal Court.

Why would the U.S. want Saddam answering questions?

What about Rumsfeld's trip to Baghdad to meet with him in December, 1983? How did he buy anthrax from the U.S.? What about other chemical and biological weapons?

Why does he think the U.S. refused to impose sanctions on Iraq, even after he used chemical and biological weapons?

What if Saddam talked about his July 25, 1990, meeting in Baghdad with April Glaspie, then U.S. ambassador to Iraq. What's the real story there? Did the U.S. green-light the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait?

"We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait," Glaspie told Saddam at that meeting. "Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America."

Answers seem unlikely. Just more casualties Iraqi civilians, U.N. officials, international aid workers, U.S. soldiers.

Last week, Time magazine named "the American soldier" person of the year.

"What I find interesting is that President Bush has not attended a single funeral for a single dead soldier," says Christopher Joyner, a Georgetown University foreign policy expert.

"It doesn't seem right to me. Arlington (Cemetery) is just across the way from the White House, so I don't understand it. It must be that Bush doesn't want the public image of dead American soldiers and the president together."

The phenomenon is "to rally 'round the flag," says Joyner. As long as that flag isn't draped over the coffin of a dead soldier arriving at a U.S. airbase in the dark of night, no press allowed.

homepage: homepage: http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1072567808748&call_pageid=97
address: address: The Toronto Star